The international community does not believe that Israel is serious about a two state solution, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has placed so many conditions to its establishment that it is unrealistic to think it could come into existence in the near future, US President Barack Obama said on Tuesday.
Obama, in an interview with Channel 2 'Uvda', said that Netanyahu was “fairly unequivocal” in his statement the day before the election that a Palestinian state would not emerge on his watch. Since then, Obama said, Netanyahu has made comments indicating that there is a possibility of a Palestinian state, but added so many caveats that it is not realistic anyone would agree to those conditions.
The prime minister has reiterated in recent days that any Palestinian state would have to recognize Israel as the Jewish national homeland, and that under any agreement there would need to be an Israeli security presence throughout the West Bank.
Obama said it was “difficult to simply accept at face value” Netanyahu’s comments about accepting a Palestinian state, and that these statements “appear to look as if this is simply an effort to return to the previous status quo – that we talk about peace in the abstract, but it is always tomorrow.”
Obama, who said that the security, intelligence and military assistance Washington gives to Israel is not conditional on any particular Israeli policy, did say that if there is no prospect for peace, it becomes more difficult for Washington to come to Israel’s defense on the world stage.
Obama defends his policy on Iran in Israeli TV 'Uvda' interview
“If in fact there is no prospect of a peace process, if no one believes there is a peace process, it becomes more difficult to argue with those who are concerned about settlement construction, more difficult for me to say, ‘Be patient, we have a process here.’” Obama said he does not at this point believe there is a likelihood for any kind of framework agreement between the sides to emerge, but that he hopes to work with them to find a way to move from what appears to be a hopeless situation, back to one where these is some hope.
“That will require more than just words, but also actions,” he said.
“That is going to be hard work, because right now there is not a lot of confidence in the process.”
Obama said that he understands – given the realities of the region and the nature of Israel’s enemies – why Israelis are so concerned about security.
But, he said, his argument to Netanyahu has been that “what might seem wise and prudent in the short term, might end up being unwise over the long term, and it is not simply the fear of immediate terrorism that should concern Israel.”
Israel, he said, must be concerned that over time it will have to make a choice about the nature of the state and its character.
“And if it loses its essential values enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, I think that is something that has to be guarded against,” he said.
Turning to Iran, Obama said that he believes Netanyahu cares deeply about the security of the Israeli people.
“I care very much about the people of Israel as well, and in my mind it is very much in Israel’s interest to make sure that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon, and I think that I can demonstrate, not based on any hope, but on facts, evidence and analysis, that the best way to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon is a verifiable tough agreement. A military resolution will not fix it, even if the United States participates, it would temporarily slow down an Iranian nuclear program, but not eliminate it.”
The US president, who said that he understands Israel’s concerns and fears about Iran, asserted that the worst scenario is the path Iran is currently on, “in which there is no nuclear resolution and ultimately we have no way to verify whether they have a weapon or not.”
Sanctions won’t stop Iran, he said, and a military solution is only temporary. “The deal we are negotiating potentially takes a nuclear weapon off the table for 20 years.”
While Netanyahu’s office did not issue any response to the interview, the prime minister seemed to have preempted Obama’s comments a few hours earlier, slamming the pending deal and saying Israel must “first and foremost” rely on itself.
Netanyahu, speaking at the IDF Home Command headquarters in the midst of a nationwide drill simulating conflict on multiple fronts, said the challenges facing Israel, including the threat of rocket and missile fire, are “piling up.”
Most of the missiles and rockets aimed at Israel have been supplied by Iran, he said. “When speaking of Israel’s security I rely first and foremost on ourselves, and proof of this is the agreement emerging between the world powers and Iran.”
Not only will that deal “pave the way for Iran to atom bombs,” it will also give it an injection of billions of dollars, he said.
“With that money it can continue to arm our enemies with high trajectory weapons and other arms, and also arm its war and terror machine, which is acting against us and the Middle East, and which is much more dangerous than Islamic State’s terror machine, which is also dangerous,” Netanyahu said.Videos: Uvda, Keshet TV