U.S. President Barack Obama said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-election disavowal of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict makes it “hard to find a path” toward serious negotiations to resolve the issue.
In an interview with the Huffington Post that was conducted on Friday and published on Saturday, Obama described his Thursday phone call with Netanyahu, two days after the Israeli leader was re-elected.
“I did indicate to him that we continue to believe that a two-state solution is the only way for the long-term security of Israel, if it wants to stay both a Jewish state and democratic,” Obama said. “And I indicated to him that given his statements prior to the election, it is going to be hard to find a path where people are seriously believing that negotiations are possible.”
The worst crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations in decades was worsened by Netanyahu’s declaration just before Tuesday’s election that there would be no Palestinian state on his watch. Netanyahu sought on Thursday to backtrack from his comment.
“Well, we take him at his word when he said that it wouldn’t happen during his prime ministership, and so that’s why we’ve got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don’t see a chaotic situation in the region,” Obama said.
The White House had said after Obama’s call on Thursday that the president had told Netanyahu that Washington would “reassess” its options on U.S.-Israel relations and Middle East diplomacy following the Israeli leader’s comment on Palestinian statehood.
In the Huffington Post interview, Obama also expressed dismay over Netanyahu’s Election Day warning to his supporters about Arab Israeli voters going to the polls “in droves.”
“We indicated that that kind of rhetoric was contrary to what is the best of Israel’s traditions, that although Israel was founded based on the historic Jewish homeland and the need to have a Jewish homeland, Israeli democracy has been premised on everybody in the country being treated equally and fairly,” Obama said.
“And I think that that is what’s best about Israeli democracy. If that is lost, then I think that not only does it give ammunition to folks who don’t believe in a Jewish state, but it also I think starts to erode the name of democracy in the country,” Obama added.