U.S. Could Back UN Resolution on Palestine, White House Official Says

Move to come in response to Netanyahu's two-state reversal, official tells NYT. Obama to pass responsibility for Israel ties to Kerry; 'President doesn’t want to waste his time,' says U.S. official.

Obama pauses while speaking to the City Club of Cleveland about middle class economics in Ohio, March 18, 2015.Reuters

The Obama administration might be open to lending its support to the UN Security Council's resolution that would define the principle for a two-state solution as based on Israel's 1967 borders, a senior White House official told The New York Times. The move would come in response to Netanyahu's withdrawal of his support for the establishing of a Palestinian state as expressed in his Bar Ilan speech in 2009.

The U.S. has previously refused to endorse the resolution, which allows for mutually agreed swaps of territory between Israel and the future Palestinian state. Israel vehemently opposes it. 

"The premise of our position internationally has been to support direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” the official told the Times. “We are now in a reality where the Israeli government no longer supports direct negotiations. Therefore we clearly have to factor that into our decisions going forward."

Two weeks ago, after Netanyahu's speech before the U.S. Congress, White House officials told Haaretz that Obama was interested in making another attempt at advancing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process during his last two years in office. They made it clear that the decision on how and when to move forward would be made only after the Israeli elections.

In the article published on Thursday morning in the Times, the senior official said that due to the results of the Israeli elections, and against the backdrop of his tense relationship with Netanyahu, Obama means to transfer responsibilities for dealing with Jerusalem to Secretary of State John Kerry. The U.S.-Israel security ties would be passed to senior officials in the U.S. Department of Defense.

“The president is a pretty pragmatic person and if he felt it would be useful, he will certainly engage,” the senior administration official told the Times. “But he’s not going to waste his time.”

He asked not to be identified while discussing Obama’s opinions of Netanyahu.

On Wednesday, while adressing the results of the Israeli election, White House Press Secretary Josh Ernest voiced harsh criticism of Netanyahu's conduct during the last days of his campaign .

"The Obama administration is deeply concerned by the use of divisive rhetoric in Israel that sought to marginalize Arab Israeli citizens," said Ernest, alluding to a series of statements issued by Netanyahu via social media, in which he urged his supporters to go and vote, and warned that "the right-wing's rule is in danger" because "the Arab are voting in droves."

The White House has been closely following the Israeli elections over the past days, and was dismayed by the demonization of Israeli Arab voters employed in Netanyahu's reelection campaign. The White House declined to issue any public statement regarding the matter over the past days in order to not play into Neyanyahu's hands – choosing to do so only after the results were in.

"This rhetoric undermines the values and Democratic ideals that have been important to our democracy and an important part of what binds the United States and Israel together,” Ernest said in his daily briefing for reporters, and added that the administration intended to communicate these views "directly to the Israelis."

Ernest also referred to Netanyahu's backing off of his Bar Ilan speech and his support for a Palestinian state as expressed in it. Ernest stated that for the past 20 years, the U.S. has held to the policy that a two-state solution is "the goal of resolving the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

He added that the U.S. continue to believe a two-state solution is the “best way to diffuse tensions” in the region.

“Based on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments, the United States will reevaluate our position and the path forward in this situation,” he said.

On Wednesday, Kerry called Netanyahu and congratulated him for his victory. The conversation was short, and did not deal with affairs of state. Ernest said Obama would call Netanyahu in the near days and noted that as in the past two election cycles, Obama would wait until the president officially tasks Netanyahu with forming a coalition, or until such a coalition is formed, before doing so.