President Obama has warned it is becoming increasingly difficult for the United States to defend Israel at the United Nations while there is no progress toward peace with the Palestinians.
Speaking on an Israeli television show called Uvda (Fact) on Tuesday evening, Obama said the country risked losing credibility over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stance on Palestine and hinted the US may no longer use its veto power to block resolutions opposed by Israel at the UN while Netanyahu appeared pre-disposed to “see peace as naive.”
In the interview with Israeli journalist Ilana Dayon, the US president said he did not see any liklihood of a framework peace agreement while he was still in office. To get back on track would now take “hard work” from both sides and “more than just words,” he said.
Netanyahu’s position “has so many caveats, so many conditions that it is not realistic to think that those conditions would be met at any time in the near future,” the US President said, in an interview pre-recorded at the White House. “So the danger is that Israel as a whole loses credibility. Already, the international community does not believe that Israel is serious about a two-state solution.”
Clarifying previous remarks he had made about Netanyahu’s “divisive” election campaign having “consequences for US foreign policy,” Obama said that “up until this point” the US had “pushed away against European efforts” at the Security Council “because we’ve said, the only way this gets resolved is if the two parties work together.
“If, in fact, there’s no prospect of an actual peace process, if nobody believes there’s a peace process, then it becomes more difficult to argue with those who are concerned about settlement construction, those who are concerned about the current situation,” he warned.
It was time for the US to rethink “how we approach defending Israel on the international stage around the Palestinian issue,” said the president.
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Despite his critical tone on Netanyahu, the US President, who last month donned a kippah during a visit to a Washington synagogue, denied the rift between the leaders was personal and pledged that America would continue to support Israel on military and intelligence matters as “part of a solemn commitment” to ensuring the country’s security in the region.
Seizing the opportunity to directly address the Israeli public Obama also countered some of Netanyahu’s criticisms of the Iran nuclear negotiations, by explaining monitoring mechanisms and a proposed “snapback” system for reinstating sanctions if the deal is violated.
According to recent reports France has been courting the US to back a draft UN security resolution it is preparing in a bid to revive the stagnated peace process, after sensing a window of opportunity to avoid the usual American veto.
During the interview Obama also likened his experience as an African American to what the Jewish people had experienced, saying that he had “a special empathy and a special regard for those who are being mistreated because of the color of their skin or the nature of their faith.”
Speaking to Vice NEWS Yossi Mekelberg, an associate fellow with Chatham House, said Obama’s appearance was “partly about giving Nentanyahu a taste of his own medicine” but also a valuable opportunity to directly communicate his position to Israelis.
“He sees it’s pointless talking to Netanyahu and his new government, which is even more hawkish than the last,” said Mekelberg. “But he has the chance to tell people in Israel I’m not anti-Israel, I’m not anti-Jewish but am against blocking the peace process, and these are separate things.