After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party won elections in March, the Obama administration said it was withholding congratulations — offered quickly by other countries — until Bibi formed a coalition government.
He has formed that coalition, retained his title, and the White House spoke this morning in a statement from press secretary Josh Earnest.
“The president congratulates the Israeli people, Prime Minister Netanyahu and the new governing coalition on the formation of Israel’s new government. President Obama looks forward to working with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his new government,” Earnest said.
“As the president has emphasized, the United States places great importance on our close military, intelligence, and security cooperation with Israel, which reflects the deep and abiding partnership between both countries,” he added. “We also look forward to continuing consultations on a range of regional issues, including international negotiations to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and the importance of pursuing a two-state solution.”
It’s the two-state solution where the White House has indicated it may throw Netanyahu under the bus.
Earnest said soon after the vote 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.
“We want that to change, so we can realize a vision of real, sustained real peace,” Netanyahu told NBC after his win. “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.”