White House: PM reaffirmed strength of US-Israel ties

Following Netanyahu's speech to US Congress, Obama aide says peace process contingent on Israel receiving credible answer from Palestinians about the role Hamas will play in new government.

PM Netanyahu with US President Obama at White House 311 (photo credit: Avi Ohayon / GPO)
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.”
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.”
RELATED:PA on Congress speech: PM's policies won't bring peaceAnalysis: Preaching, eloquently, to the choirRhodes 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 said.
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 Palestinians."
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 AIPAC speech 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 negotiation."