Obama to Netanyahu: U.S. Will Reassess Israeli-Palestinian Peace Policy

In phone call, U.S. president protests campaign remarks by Netanyahu against Palestinian statehood, Israel's Arab citizens.

Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke by phone with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday evening, and protested remarks made by the latter during his election campaign against the establishment of a Palestinian state and Israel's Arab citizens.

Obama did not accept the explanations Netanyahu provided during an interview with NBC, in which he backtracked on some of the statements he made during the final days of the election campaign. 

According to a senior White House official, Obama told Netanyahu that the U.S. will need to reassess its options regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in light of the prime minister's new position rejecting Palestinian statehood.

Netanyahu's remarks against Israel's Arab citizens were also brought up by Obama during the conversation, the official said. "The President made the same points in private that the Administration has been making in public," the official said.

On Election Day, Netanyahu made a number of statements in which he "warned" against the mass turnout of Arab citizens, who, he said, "are going to the polls in hordes."

The conversation between the two was unusually brief. An official statement to the media was released immediately after the call which said that Obama congratulated Netanyahu on his reelection.

The statement said that Obama "reaffirmed the United States’ long-standing commitment to a two-state solution that results in a secure Israel alongside a sovereign and viable Palestine."

Obama emphasized the importance the U.S. places on security, military and intelligence cooperation with Israel, the statement said. On Iran, the president said that the U.S. is focused on reaching a comprehensive deal that would prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and that would assure that its nuclear program is of a peaceful nature, it added.

Obama's use of the terminology "reassessment" in his Thursday conversation with Netanyahu is highly meaningful, bringing to mind the "reassessment" of American-Israeli relations that former U.S. President Gerald Ford spoke of in 1975 in light of Israel's refusal at the time to pursue American peace-making efforts in the Middle East. The Ford Administration delayed arms shipments to Israel for five months and removed its diplomatic protection of Israel at the United Nations.

On Thursday, the Obama White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, hinted at the practical implications of the current U.S.-Israel crises, making it clear that the U.S. will reassess the diplomatic support it gives to Israel. "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 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."