Noting that President Obama has “a few other pressing matters” on his plate, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed at the White House today that Israel had taken “unprecedented steps” to advance the peace process in the past two decades.
The two sat down before the White House pool before heading into afternoon talks, which come after Obama warned Israel of “fallout” from not acquiescing to the peace process in an interview with Bloomberg.
“I mean, we vacated cities in Judea and Samaria. We left entirely Gaza. We’ve not only frozen settlements, we’ve uprooted entire settlements. We’ve released hundreds of terrorist prisoners, including dozens in recent months,” Netanyahu said. “And when you look at what we got in return, it’s been scores of suicide bombings, thousands of rockets on our cities fired from the areas we vacated, and just incessant Palestinian incitement against Israel. So Israel has been doing its part, and I regret to say that the Palestinians haven’t.”
Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been pushing an agreement as a legacy issue, and Vice President Joe Biden were both present at the remarks.
“Now, I know this flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but it’s the truth,” Netanyahu continued. “And the people of Israel know that it’s the truth because they’ve been living it. What they want is peace. What we all want fervently is peace. Not a piece a paper –- although that, too — but a real peace; a peace that is anchored in mutual recognition of two nation states that recognize and respect one another, and solid security arrangements on the ground.”
“…The Palestinians expect us to recognize a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people, a nation state for the Palestinian people. I think it’s about time they recognize a nation state for the Jewish people. We’ve only been there for 4,000 years.”
The Palestinians have already said that recognition of the Jewish state is a non-starter, yet the administration keeps pushing Israel to accept a framework.
“As you know and I think everybody does, in the Middle East, which is definitely the most turbulent and violent part of the Earth, the only peace that will endure is a peace that we can defend. And we’ve learned from our history — Jewish history, but I think from general history — that the best way to guarantee peace is to be strong. And that’s what the people of Israel expect me to do –- to stand strong against criticism, against pressure, stand strong to secure the future of the one and only Jewish state,” Netanyahu said. “And I think there is a partnership there, a partnership between Israel and America, that I think is important for this end.”
Before Netanyahu spoke, Obama gushed that “we do not have a closer friend or ally than Israel and the bond between our two countries and our two peoples is unbreakable.”
He said the two leaders would spend time talking about a range of issues including Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iran.
“And we’ll spend time talking about the prospects of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I want to commend publicly the efforts that Prime Minister Netanyahu had made in very lengthy and painstaking negotiations with my Secretary of State, John Kerry, Abu Mazen,” Obama said. “They are tough negotiations. The issues are profound. Obviously if they were easy they would have been resolved many years ago. But I think that Prime Minister Netanyahu has approached these negotiations with a level of seriousness and commitment that reflects his leadership and the desire for the Israeli people for peace.”
“…The timeframe that we have set up for completing these negotiations is coming near and some tough decisions are going to have to be made. But I know that, regardless of the outcome, the prime minister will make those decisions based on his absolute commitment to Israel’s security and his recognition that ultimately Israel’s security will be enhanced by peace with his neighbors.”
Netanyahu will address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington on Tuesday morning.