US President Barack Obama has said that recent remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have dimmed the hope for a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Obama said on Tuesday that the Israeli prime minister has not properly explained pre-election statements rejecting the creation of a Palestinian state.
Netanyahu has since backtracked on his campaign statements, but the White House has reacted with skepticism.
We can’t continue to premise our public diplomacy on something that everybody knows is not going to happen, at least in the next several years
The US president said that he was evaluating US policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But he said that in light of Netanyahu’s comments, the “possibility seems very dim” for the Israelis and the Palestinians to agree to live side-by-side in peace and security.
“We can’t continue to premise our public diplomacy on something that everybody knows is not going to happen, at least in the next several years,” the president said.
Obama said no one has envisioned the creation of a Palestinian state “overnight.” But he said the goal is to give Palestinians hope for a secure state adjoining Israel.
The friction over the two-state solution issue comes on the heels of bitter disagreements over the US role in international negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme.
Obama has said the deal would only be finalised if it increases security for the US, Israel and the region.
Netanyahu has decried the talks, saying they are leading to a deal that would place Israel at risk.
Obama also said his disagreements with Netanyahu over Iran and the Palestinians shouldn’t be framed as a personal issue. He said he has a “businesslike relationship” with Netanyahu and has met with him more than any other world leader.
“So the issue is not a matter of relations between leaders. The issue is a very clear substantive challenge,” Obama said. “This can’t be reduced to a matter of somehow let’s hold hands and sing kumbaya.”
The US president’s comments at the White House did little to repair rocky US-Israeli relations, which were aggravated by a Wall Street Journal report on Tuesday alleging Israel spied on sensitive negotiations about Iran’s nuclear programme.
The report said Israel acquired information from confidential US briefings and other means and shared it with members of Congress to build a case against making a deal with Iran.