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White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Tuesday defended Vice President Joe Biden’s harsh rebuke of the Netanyahu government’s policies during a speech at J Street’s annual gala in Washington, D.C., on Monday.
During his address to J Street, Biden expressed the administration’s feelings “overwhelming frustration” with the Israeli government’s policies on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “The actions that Israel’s government has taken over the past several years – the steady and systematic expansion of settlements, the legalization of outposts, land seizures – they are moving us, and more importantly, they are moving Israel in the wrong direction. They are moving us toward a one-state reality, and that reality is dangerous,” Biden said.
“I think the way that I would describe the situation is consistent with what the vice president said, which is that the nation of Israel is the strongest ally that the United States has in the Middle East and we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them when it comes to the national security interests of our two countries,” Earnest told reporters at the White House daily press briefing.
“The United States provides tremendous assistance to the nation of Israel to ensure their security. And our commitment to that level of cooperation and that level of assistance has not wavered at all, despite what have been some obvious policy differences between our two governments.”
Asked whether or not President Obama shares the vice president’s sentiments, Earnest admitted, “There is a source of significant frustration. There certainly is frustration with both sides that we have encountered.”
“The United States has long supported the idea of a two-state solution because it has a potential to resolve one of the most combustible flashpoints in an already volatile region of the world. But it also happens to be in the clear strategic interest of our closest ally in the Middle East, Israel,” he asserted. “So resolving this question is not just a wished-for legacy item of the administration. It is a position that we take and advocate for because of our sincere concern for the national security of our closest ally in the Middle East, Israel. That’s what we’re focused on. And the inability to make that progress is frustrating. And that’s what Vice President Biden was giving voice to yesterday.”
Earnest added that in light of that frustration, President Obama has already resigned that a two-state solution or peace between the Israelis and Palestinians will not happen under his administration. “The extent of the differences between the two sides are significant enough that it’s not something that’s going to get resolved in the next nine months,” he said.
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