Former US Secretary of State James Baker speaks to J Street.
(photo credit: YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT)
James Baker, the former secretary of state who was known to have a contentious relationship with a Likud-led government during the presidency of George H.W. Bush, ripped into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday for taking "actions that don't match his rhetoric."
Baker appeared as a keynote speaker for the annual conference staged by the liberal lobby J Street in Washington.
The former top diplomat accused Netanyahu of “diplomatic missteps and political gamesmanship," a reference to the prime minister's alliance with Republicans in drumming up opposition to a nuclear deal with Iran as well as his policies toward the Palestinians.
“Frankly, I have been disappointed with the lack of progress regarding a lasting peace — and I have been for some time,” Baker said. “In the aftermath of Netanyahu’s recent election victory, the chance of a two-state solution seems even slimmer, given his reversal on the issue.”
Baker also took to task Republicans who argued that the tensions between Netanyahu and the Obama administration have undermined American support for Israel.
“No one around the entire world should ever doubt America’s commitment to Israel, Not now, or at any point in the future,” he said.
Baker also echoed the Obama administration's position that Netanyahu's recent reversal of his pre-election disavowal of a two-state solution was insincere.
“Although Netanyahu and his right-and-center coalition may oppose a two-state solution, a land-for-peace approach has long been supported by a substantial portion of the Israeli body politic, by every American [administration] since 1967 - Republican and Democratic alike - and a vast majority of nations around the world,” Baker said.
The former secretary also warned the Israeli leader that his standards for an acceptable nuclear deal with Iran were simply unrealistic.
“If the only agreement is one in which there is no enrichment, then there will be no agreement," Baker said.
Baker, who was recently named a foreign policy advisor to the nascent presidential campaign of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, said that there is no military solution to the Iranian nuclear question since an Israeli strike would not only be ineffective but it would also lack American support.
According to Baker, an American attack on Iran would only bolster domestic support for the clerical regime in Tehran.
Baker also urged Netanyahu and President Barack Obama to tone down the partisan nature of their disagreement.
"This is of course a delicate moment in the Middle East, and will require clear thinking from leaders,” Baker said. “That clear thinking should not be muddled by partisan politics.”
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