Even as reports circulated that the Obama administration is looking at other ways to push a two-state solution before the president leaves office, one administration official went on the record today as saying they won’t be trying to undermine Israel at the United Nations.
“And Palestinian statehood, there have been reports last night that in order for President Obama to continue his temper tantrum toward Prime Minister Netanyahu, what we will be doing in the United Nations is push in the shadows for a vote on Palestinian statehood in order to pressure Israel to be at the negotiation table with the Palestinians,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) asked Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken at this morning’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. “Is that true?”
“No,” Blinken replied. “There are — the administration’s support for Israel is absolutely unshakable. We have done more –”
“Oh, that support is very clear,” Ros-Lehtinen interjected sarcastically.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said today that the policy adjustments of the administration would be contingent on “what sort of policy and priorities the prime minister chooses.”
Netanyahu made news in the final days of his campaign by saying there would not be a two-state solution — but has since clarified to what his position has always been, that he cannot negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas or make any concessions that will jeopardize Israel’s security. Netanyahu has also consistently said that Jerusalem will not be divided, and Palestinians want half or all of Jerusalem in a two-state solution.
“Retweet in support of an undivided Jerusalem!” Netanyahu tweeted after his Tuesday victory, garnering 8,000 retweets and 4,000 favorites.
“I haven’t changed my policy. I never changed my speech in Bar Ilan University six years ago calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state,” Netanyahu told NBC today. “What has changed is the reality. Abu Mazen, the Palestinian leader, refuses to recognize the Jewish state, has made a pact with Hamas that calls for destruction of Jewish state. And every territory that is vacated in the Middle East is taken up by Islamist forces.”
“We want that to change, so we can realize a vision of real, sustained real peace. And I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that circumstances have to change.”
Earnest said the administration is “certainly… in a position to evaluate our approach to these issues, given that the prime minister essentially backed away from commitments that Israel had previously made to this effort.”
“In terms of making decisions at the United Nations and other multilateral fora, the United States has repeatedly intervened in some of those debates at the U.N. and in other places by saying we should — the best way for us to solve this problem is to get the two parties to sit down at the negotiating table, resolve their differences so that this two-state solution can be realized,” he said.
“…But now the prime minister of Israel says earlier this week days before an election that this is a principle that he no longer subscribes to and that his nation no longer subscribes to. That means the United States needs to rethink our approach, that this — that steps that — that this principle has been the foundation of a number of policy decisions that have been made here and now that that foundation has been eroded, it means that our policy decisions need to be reconsidered. And that’s what we will do.”
Earnest then denied he was suggesting that Israel could no longer expect U.S. backing at the UN on controversial anti-Israel measures, such as the Palestinian Authority’s demand for statehood recognition.
“What I’ve tried to say is that it understandably has prompted us to re-evaluate the strategy that we will put in place to make those decisions. And that will be something that we will do moving forward,” he said. “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. Now our ally in these talks has said that they are no longer committed to that solution.”