U.S. Rejects Netanyahu's Backtracking on Palestinian Statehood

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Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington March 19, 2015.Credit: Reuters

The results of the Knesset election this week have done nothing to diminish the crisis between Jerusalem and Washington.

On Thursday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's clarification regarding comments he had made about a Palestinian state and Israel's Arab community during the campaign.

President Obama will relate to the prime minister's clarifications, made in an interview with NBC television channel earlier on Thursday, during the next conversation between the two, Earnest said. Obama and Netanyahu could talk as early as Thursday night.

"The statements about Israel's Arab citizens corrode relations between Israel and the United States," Earnest said. "They were cynical election day tactics."

Earlier on Thursday in an interview with NBC Netanyahu reiterated his belief in a two-state solution with the Palestinians. "I don’t want a one-state solution," Netanyahu said. "I want a sustainable and peaceful two-state solution, but circumstances have to change for that to happen." He added that he had "never retracted my speech in Bar Ilan [University] six years ago. What has changed is the reality."

Despite Netanyahu's clarifications, the U.S. still intends to review its approach to the Israel-Palestinian peace process following the prime minister's rejection of a Palestinian state a few days before the election.

"Netanyahu backed out of a years-long policy supporting a Palestinian state," Earnest said. He added that the U.S. will follow Netanyahu's actions and statements closely in the coming days.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki also rejected Netanyahu's clarifications to NBC. "Netanyahu was prime minister when he made the statements three days ago as well," Psaki said. "We can't forget about those comments and we believe he changed his position."

A senior White House official on Thursday told the New York Times that 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. 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.

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