Diplomacy

President Obama Continues to Focus on Netanyahu Interview, Saying Palestinian State “Unlikely”

In answer to a question today about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, President Barack Obama suggested that progress was not likely to happen as long as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in office. Notably, the president failed to acknowledge that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has twice blocked his administration’s peace efforts.

The Times of Israel reports:

“Prime Minister Netanyahu in the election run-up stated that a Palestinian state would not occur while he was prime minister, and I took him at his word that that’s what he meant and I think that a lot of voters inside of Israel understood him to be saying that fairly unequivocally,” Obama said at a White House press conference Tuesday with Afghani President Ashraf Ghani.

“So even if you accepted the corrective of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s in subsequent days, there still does not appear to be a prospect of a meaningful framework established that would lead to a Palestinian state even if there were a whole range of conditions and security requirements that might be phased in over a long period of time, which was always the presumption,” Obama

Obama stressed that the two-state solution would be a long-term process that would address Israel’s security concerns.

“The issue has never been ‘do you create a Palestinian state overnight.’ The issue is ‘do you create a process and a framework that gives the Palestinians hope, the possibility that down the road they have a secure state of their own standing side by side with a secure and fully recognized Jewish state of Israel,’” he said.

Netanyahu had explained his comments about not expecting a Palestinian state to be created while he was prime minister to Andrea Mitchell last week:

I haven’t changed my policy. I never retracted my speech in Bar Illan University 6 years ago calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. What has changed is the reality. Abu Mazen the Palestinian leader refuses to recognize the Jewish state, has made a pact with Hamas, that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, and every territory that is vacated today in the Middle East is taken up by Islamist forces. We want that to change so can realize a vision of real sustained peace. I don’t want a one state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful, two state solution but for that circumstances have to change.

First of all that state would become a terror state. Iran has said that it would the arm the West Bank the way it armed Gaza. We withdrew from Gaza. We got, just a few months ago – not ancient history but a few months ago – thousands of rockets, Andrea, on our heads … we don’t want it to happen again.

And I think that the administration has said time and time again that the only way to achieve peace is a negotiated solution. You can’t impose peace. And in any case, if you want to get peace, you’ve got to get the Palestinian leadership to abandon their pact with Hamas and engage in genuine negotiations with Israel for an achievable peace.

Earlier in the day, an unnamed Israeli official told Avi Issacharoff:

“They come and accuse us of torpedoing negotiations even though they know that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas himself said no [to a deal], twice — once to then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton in 2011, and once to Secretary of State John Kerry last year.”

The official went on to refer to two “framework documents, designed to jump-start the process” that were accepted by Israel and rejected by the Palestinians, and accused the administration of devoting too much energy to the Palestinian issue, to the detriment of other, more pertinent regional challenges.

In the second case, the official was referring to an accusation made by Tzipi Livni to columnist Roger Cohen of The New  York Times that it was Abbas who last year torpedoed the peace process shepherded by Secretary of State John Kerry by refusing to accept a framework agreement that Netanyahu had accepted. Instead, Abbas chose to pursue unilateral actions against Israel and come to an agreement with the Gaza-based terrorist organization, Hamas.

In his remarks, Obama made no mention of Abbas’ efforts to undermine his own administration’s peace process.

Since the beginning of Obama’s term in office, Abbas has expressed no interest in negotiating with Israel, preferring instead to have the administration and international organizations exert pressure on Israel to make concessions.

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