PM praised, chided after Obama meet

Likud MKs say Netanyahu set new agenda for peace talks; Hasson: Joint press conference "worrisome."

erdan gilad aj 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
erdan gilad aj 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A day after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's meeting with US President Barack Obama, the Israeli political arena was split, with left-wing MKs blasting Netanyahu's insistence on refusing to utter the phrase, "two-state solution," and warning that Israel's relations with Washington were headed for an impasse. The prime minister's colleagues on the Right, however, were pleased that Netanyahu hadn't "capitulated" and expressed optimism regarding bilateral relations with the US. MK Ophir Akunis (Likud) spoke of a relaxed atmosphere in the meeting and said that the focus of the talks with the Palestinians would change, allowing Israel to insist on ensuring its own interests before discussing Palestinian statehood. "The forebodings of a tense meeting were refuted," Akunis was quoted by Army Radio as saying. "The government is committed to a peace process with the Palestinians; not, however, on the basis of two states for two peoples, but first and foremost on the basis of a Palestinian recognition of the Jewish people." Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said the meeting proved that there were "clear understandings and cooperation" between Netanyahu and Obama. Kadima parliamentarians and Labor "rebels," however, were less optimistic, calling the meeting a missed opportunity and warning that it did not bode well for the relationship between the US administration and the Israeli government in the coming years. Kadima MK Yoel Hasson called the exchange of compliments between the two leaders a show of "empty etiquette," saying that the "essence" apparent at the press conference and the preceding meeting "looks very worrisome." Netanyahu, Hasson said, "has missed out on a real opportunity to work with a strong president like Obama." "Netanyahu is insisting on ignoring the unequivocal policy led by US President Barack Obama, which considers the principle of two states for two peoples key to the stability of the Middle East," Labor MK Yuli Tamir said. "Thus Netanyahu trips up Israel and harms its vital interests. Today it is clear that the Netanyahu government's diplomatic tone is being dictated by [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman." On the other side of the political spectrum, Danny Dayan, the head of the Yesha Council for Judea and Samaria, said that Netanyahu should have corrected Obama in a diplomatic manner when the president called to "stop" the settlements. "An Israeli obligation to freeze building in the settlements is unfounded, even when based on the road map," Dayan told Army Radio. National Union MK Arye Eldad said that Obama's statements on Iran after the meeting were "cause for real concern." The president's insistence on open-ended nuclear talks with Teheran, Eldad said, "in effect means that the United States is willing to live with a nuclear Iran, which leaves Israel to face Iran alone. Israel will have no choice but to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities by itself. All the means are at its disposable, no matter the price."