PM Netanyahu with US President Obama at White House 311.
(photo credit: Avi Ohayon / GPO)
The White House on Tuesday offered a muted response to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech in Congress on Tuesday, saying the Israeli leader had “reaffirmed the strength of the US-Israeli relationship” and had “pointed to the importance of peace.”
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Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser accompanying Obama on a trip to London, said “What we’ll continue to do is reaffirm our shared goal, which the prime minister referenced today, that a two-state solution is in the interest of all the parties and that we have to redouble our efforts to pursue that.”
Rhodes added that Washington shares Netanyahu's concerns about Iran which the prime minister expressed during his address to Congress, emphasizing that the US had "taken additional action in the last couple of days around our sanctions effort" against Tehran.
The US official stated that Netanyahu's message to Congress was "very similar" to the discussions he had with Obama during his stay in Washington.
he Obama aide agreed with Netanyahu's assessment that Hamas was a
terrorist organization that could not be a "credible partner for peace
until it ceases its use of terrorism and recognizes Israel’s right to
exist." Rhodes would not go as far as to agree with the prime minister's
claim that Hamas was the Palestinian equivalent of al-Qaida.
"Those are Prime Minister Netanyahu’s words. The comparison that’s fair
is that Hamas has in the past indiscriminately targeted innocent women
and children and men through the firing of rockets or through bombs on
buses. So we certainly - they certainly share the characteristics of a
terrorist organization that has indiscriminately taken civilian life,"
Rhodes reiterated Obama's view that Palestinian statehood cannot be
achieved through the United Nations. "Any kind of unilateral effort to
pursue statehood is not going to succeed because ultimately these issues
have to be negotiated and agreed upon between Israelis and
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He added, however, that their had to be a credible alternative to the unilateral statehood bid.
"That alternative needs to be negotiations between the parties. And
what the President was doing on Thursday
and then reiterating in his
over the weekend is that we believe that there can be a
more successful foundation for those negotiations if we begin with
discussions on the basis of - on security and territory, on the basis
of 1967 lines with mutually agreed upon swaps for territory, and the
assurances that are necessary around Israeli security; that by starting
there - around a set of ideas, by the way, that have been discussed at
length over the course of the last decade or more among the parties -
you can show that there’s a foundation for progress that didn’t
previously exist in the public realm, and that that, again, is a
credible alternative to efforts that we don’t think can and will
succeed," Rhodes stated.
Rhodes said that Obama would be discussing the prospects of renewed
negotiations with his European counterparts in the coming days during
his tour of the continent. He added that the US would continue to reject
a unilateral Palestinian statehood bid even if the diplomatic process
had not shown progress by September.
"I think one of the things that's important, though, around a peace
process is, first of all, you have to make sure you have a credible
partner on both sides. And I think our European allies have, of course,
similar questions about the best way to get the process going. And we
believe that getting the process going is going to require a credible
answer from the Palestinians about the role that Hamas is going to play
in the new government, and whether a Palestinian partner and
interlocutor can credibly say it recognizes Israel’s right to exist and
is not committed to engaging in terrorism. So in the first instance,
there is some - again, some step that needs to be taken on the
Palestinian side, again, to give Israel that confidence coming into the
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