Obama and Netanyahu.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Outgoing US President Barack Obama said Sunday the US-Israel relationship remains strong despite sharp disagreements between himself and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
During an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes, Obama admitted that Netanyahu had been repeatedly “fired up” during their conversations over the last eight years, especially “around the Iran deal and around our consistent objection to settlements,” but he said it was “nothing new.”
“We have defended [Israel] consistently in every imaginable way,” the president said.
Obama rejected the notion that the two democracies had suffered a “major rapture” in diplomatic relations following the passage of an anti-settlement resolution
approved in the UN Security Council in late December.
“Because of our investment in the region, and because we care so deeply about Israel, I think [the US] has a legitimate interest in saying to a friend, ‘This is a problem,’” Obama said. “It would have long-term consequences for peace and security in the region, and [in] the United States.”
Jerusalem was outraged when the United States failed to veto UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which passed 14-0 on December 23. Netanyahu later accused the Obama administration of going “behind the back” of Israel.
“We have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated its versions and insisted upon its passage,” said Netanyahu after the motion was approved.
Before December’s Security Council resolution, tensions between the two leaders were most visible in March 2015, when Netanyahu stood before the United States Congress to denounce the expected formalization of the Iran nuclear deal
between world powers and the Islamic Republic.
On July 14, 2015, one day after the agreement was announced, Netanyahu condemned the decision, arguing that it had undermined Israel’s security concerns.
“The world is a much more dangerous place today than it was yesterday,” the prime minister told reporters at the time.
Obama also warned that Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem had grown to such a degree that an “effective, contiguous Palestinian state” was in peril.
“But I also believe, both for our national interests and Israel’s national interests, that allowing an ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that could get worse and worse over time is a problem,” Obama said. “And that settlements contribute. They’re not the sole reason for it, but they’re a contributing factor to the inability to solve that problem.
“We’ve been saying it for eight years now. It’s just that nothing seemed to get a lot of attention,” he added.