U.S. ‘to reevaluate’ backing for Israel at U.N.
The White House raises the prospect of withdrawing crucial diplomatic cover for Israel
The Obama administration on Thursday raised the prospect of lifting vital diplomatic cover for Israel at the United Nations, following Benjamin Netanyahu's divisive election victory and his campaign promise that he would not allow a Palestinian independent state to be established.
“Steps that the United States has taken at the United Nations had been predicated on this idea that the two-state solution is the best outcome,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
“Now our ally in these talks has said that they are no longer committed to that solution. That means we need to reevaluate our position in this matter, and that is what we will do moving forward,” he added.
But Netanyahu appeared on Thursday to backtrack on his campaign promise, saying in a television interview that he remains committed to a Palestinian statehood - if conditions in the region improve -- and to the two-state vision first spelled out in a landmark 2009 speech at Israel's Bar Ilan University.
“I haven't changed my policy,” he said in a full interview with MSNBC's “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” excerpts of which will be shown on NBC's “Nightly News” later on. “I never retracted my speech.”
At the time, he said he would agree to a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes Israel as a Jewish state. The Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has recognized Israel as a state but refuses to recognize its Jewish character, and last year formed a unity government backed by the Hamas militant group.
In the interview, Netanyahu also pointed to the presence of hostile Islamic groups across the region and said that any captured territory handed over to Abbas would be taken over by militants. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and two years later Hamas seized control of the coastal territory, ousting forces loyal to Abbas.
“I don't want a one-state solution, I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that circumstances have to change,” Netanyahu said. “And every territory that is vacated in the Middle East is taken up by Islamist forces.”
“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,” Netanyahu said. “You have to have real negotiations with people who are committed to peace. We are. It's time that we saw the pressure on the Palestinians to show that they are committed too,” he said.
[With AFP and AP]
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