White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told an audience at the annual conference of the leftist pro-Israel group, J Street, that President Barack Obama is not impressed by the efforts of newly re-elected Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempts to back away from campaign statements that apparently dismissed a two-state solution to the perennial Israel-Palestine conflict. Said McDonough, “We cannot simply pretend that these comments were never made.”
The White House has also been critical of Netanyahu’s statements that he had approved Jewish settlements in contested areas of Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish state. That this approval came as an effort to change borders, said the official, is “so very troubling.” Speaking on March 23, McDonough also referred to J Street as “our partner.” J Street has long been critical of Netanyahu. “After the election, the prime minister said that he had not changed his position, but for many in Israel and in the international community, such contradictory comments call into question his commitment to a two-state solution,” McDonough told J Street conferees.
"An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end, and the Palestinian people must have the right to live in and govern themselves in their own sovereign state," said McDonough. He added, "President Obama still firmly believes what he said in Jerusalem two years ago — that peace is necessary, just and possible. Peace is necessary because it is the only way to ensure that a secure state of Israel is both Jewish and democratic. Israel cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely. That's the truth." He echoed statements made by Obama himself while visiting Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at Ramallah, Palestine, on March 21. "The Palestinian people deserve an end to occupation and the daily indignities that come with it,"
In a statement, the Rabbinical Council of America – which represents thousands of Jewish religious leaders, has called upon the Obama administration to “desist from statements that are perceived as threats to the only democracy in the Middle East. Support of Israel is built on the rock solid foundation of our shared values of democracy and freedom. Israel is the only country in the region that preserves these values.” Moreover, the statement called upon Americans to renew their historic commitment to Israel. “American support of Israel is predicated on our shared visions, a support that rises above occasional differences.”
The Council said that in “the heat of a hard fought campaign,” Prime Minister Netanyahu made comments without context or explanation. “Excessive criticism,” said the statement, “of Mr. Netanyahu for these comments from Jewish groups is sorely misplaced.”
The statement echoed Netanyahu, who has called upon Palestinian authorities to negotiate in good faith. Currently, Palestinian areas such as the Gaza Strip are largely under the sway of the Iran-backed Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist organizations. The Council’s statement said, “Israelis will beat a quick path to the negotiating table when there is a partner with whom to negotiate, rather than a terrorist government in Gaza, and a weak, corrupt one in the Palestinian Authority whose imams call for the annihilation of all Jews.”
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