In order for Israel to maintain its democratic and civic traditions, it must find a way to live side by side in peace with Palestinians, said U.S. president Barack Obama, interviewed by Thomas Friedman for the New York Times, expressing doubt as to the ability of current leadership on both sides to move in such a direction.
"[B]ecause Israel is so capable militarily, I don’t worry about Israel’s survival… I think the question really is how does Israel survive," Obama told Friedman in a filmed interview, the complete version of which will be published later this weekend.
Asked about his role in pressing forward negotiations for a two-state solution, Obama said prospects for progress rest primarily on local leadership. Netanyahu’s “poll numbers are a lot higher than mine,” said Obama, and “were greatly boosted by the war in Gaza… And so if he doesn’t feel some internal pressure, then it’s hard to see him being able to make some very difficult compromises, including taking on the settler movement. That’s a tough thing to do. With respect to [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas], it’s a slightly different problem. In some ways, Bibi is too strong [and] in some ways [Abbas] is too weak to bring them together and make the kinds of bold decisions that Sadat or Begin or Rabin were willing to make. It’s going to require leadership among both the Palestinians and the Israelis to look beyond tomorrow. [...] And that’s the hardest thing for politicians to do is to take the long view on things," said Obama.
The interview covered a wide range of aspects of U.S. foreign policy, touching, among other things, on the conflict in Syria, China's role in the world economy, the rising tensions vis-a-vis Russia, and the American military's role abroad.
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