Obama Chief Of Staff: Israel’s 50-Year ‘Occupation’ Must End

“An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end,” White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told the annual J Street conference. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Domenico Montanaro, NPR, March 23, 2015

Through his chief of staff, President Obama is strongly countering rhetoric from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a two-state, Israeli-Palestinian solution.

“An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end, and the Palestinian people must have the right to live in and govern themselves in their own sovereign state,” Denis McDonough, President Obama’s chief of staff, said Monday at the annual conference of J Street, a left-leaning pro-Israel group.

He added, “President Obama still firmly believes what he said in Jerusalem two years ago—that peace is necessary, just, and possible. Peace is necessary because it is the only way to ensure that a secure State of Israel is both Jewish and democratic. Israel cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely. That’s the truth.”

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Obama: Netanyahu statements leave little room for serious peace talks

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seen March 20, 2013, spoke via telephone on Thursday. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

“We take him at his word when he said that it wouldn’t happen during his prime ministership”

Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post, March 21, 2015

President Obama said that he takes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “at his word” that he cannot support a separate Palestinian state alongside of Israel, dismissing the idea that Netanyahu has softened his stance since winning reelection Tuesday.

Just days before Israelis went to the polls Netanyahu told voters he opposes a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has served as the cornerstone to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East for two decades. On Thursday the prime minister walked back those comments, telling American broadcasters he would still be open to the creation of a Palestinian state but that “circumstances have to change” before that would be possible.

But in an interview with the Huffington Post released Saturday, Obama made it clear the United States was still reassessing its relationship with its longtime ally based on Netanyahu’s preelection vow.

“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, adding that he made his position clear during a congratulatory phone call to Netanyahu on Thursday. “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.”

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Netanyahu Reopens Door to Palestinian State

JODI RUDOREN, New York Times, MARCH 19, 2015

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Thursday walked back his pre-election declaration that no Palestinian state would be established on his watch, and said he had not been trying to suppress the votes of Arab citizens when he posted a video on Election Day warning that they were heading to polling stations in large numbers.

Mr. Netanyahu said in an interview on MSNBC that he still wanted “a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that he had not intended to reverse the position he took endorsing that in a 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University. But he said the Palestinian leadership’s refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and its pact with the militant Islamist Hamas movement, made that impossible right now.

“I haven’t changed my policy,” Mr. Netanyahu said in the interview, his first since his resounding victory on Tuesday, which handed him a fourth term. “What has changed is the reality.”

“I don’t want a one-state solution; I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that, circumstances have to change,” he added. “I was talking about what is achievable and what is not achievable. To make it achievable, then you have to have real negotiations with people who are committed to peace.”

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White House Threatens To Withdraw UN Support For Israel

NetanyahuPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on during a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Defence Minister Ehud Barak. (Photo : Getty Images)

Says Netanyahu Worked To ‘Marginalize’ Arab Voters

Taylor Tyler, Headlines & Global News, Mar 19, 2015

The White House issued a number of harsh criticisms towards newly reelected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week, accusing the leader of seeking to "marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens" and even suggesting that the U.S. could reevaluate its support for Israel at the United Nations due to Netanyahu's change of course on Palestinian statehood.

Shortly before Tuesday’s vote in Israel, in an apparent move to appease conservative voters, Netanyahu abandoned a prior commitment and ruled out the creation of an independent Palestinian state, much to the White House’s dismay.

“The positions taken by the prime minister in the last days of the campaign have raised very significant substantive concerns that go far beyond just optics,” said a senior administration official, adding that “we’re going to have to broaden the spectrum of options we persue going forward,” reported Politico.

The official said it was too soon to discuss an official policy response from Washington, but wouldn’t rule out the possibility for a change in stance at the United Nations, where the U.S. has historically used its veto power to fight off any anti-Israel resolutions or attempts to give Palestinians statehood. The official said the administration is first waiting to see if Netanyahu reverses course.

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Palestinian Leaders See Validation of Their Statehood Effort

A Palestinian family tending their vineyard in the West Bank. After Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election as Israel’s leader, Palestinians may curtail security coordination with Israel. Credit:Tomas Munita

DIAA HADID, New York Times, MARCH 18, 2015

JERUSALEM — Under most circumstances, an Israeli leader’s frank admission that he would never agree to a Palestinian state would be a disaster for the Palestinian leadership. But when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said precisely that in the heat of the recent election campaign, it seemed to have the opposite effect, validating the unilateral approach the Palestinians have decided to follow.

“We will continue a diplomatic intifada. We have no other choice,” said Assad Abdul Rahman, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s central council and executive committee, its top decision-making body.

With Mr. Netanyahu having dropped, for now at least, the pretense of seeking a two-state solution, the Palestinians can argue to Europe and the United States that they no longer have a negotiating partner, strengthening their case for full statehood and recognition in the United Nations, as well as membership in important international bodies. They are already members of the International Criminal Court and Unesco.

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