Obama cites “unbreakable” ties with Israel

The meeting between United States President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday was as much aimed at getting the peace process back on track as it was at putting a fresh public face on the relationship.

Months after Mr. Netanyahu’s chilly reception at the White House, where Mr. Obama left the Israel leader and his aides alone for hours to signal his displeasure of plans to build on East Jerusalem land claimed by the Palestinians, the two men sought to dismiss the notion a rift had opened between them.

“The bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable,” said Mr. Obama, who had faced domestic criticism for his tough stance on Israel’s March announcement of the East Jerusalem construction plans.

Mr. Obama sharply rejected an Israel reporter’s question suggesting he had given the “cold shoulder” to Mr. Netanyahu and that his administration’s criticism of the East Jerusalem plans resulted in the “bashing of Israel.” “The premise of your question was wrong, and I entirely disagree with it,” Mr. Obama said. “If you look at every public statement that I’ve made over the last year and a half, it has been a constant reaffirmation of the special relationship between the United States and Israel.” “In terms of my relationship with Prime Minister Mr. . Netanyahu, I know the press, both in Israel and stateside, enjoys, you know, seeing if there’s news there,” Mr. Obama added. “But the fact of the matter is, is that I’ve trusted Prime Minister Mr. Netanyahu since I met him before I was elected president and have said so both publicly and privately.” Unlike the March meeting, which many regarded as the low—point in US—Israeli relations, there were photographs taken Tuesday of the two men — as Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu met with reporters, shook hands and sat side by side in the Oval Office.

Mr. Netanyahu also downplayed the rift, saying the “reports about the demise of the special US—Israel relationship aren’t just premature, they’re just flat wrong.” “There’s a depth and richness of this relationship that is expressed every day. Our teams talk. We don’t make it public,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “The only thing that’s public is that you can have differences on occasion in the best of families and the closest of families. That comes out public and sometimes in a twisted way too.” Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu portrayed themselves as united in trying to get the peace process with the Palestinians on track, focusing on the need to start direct negotiations between the two sides after weeks of indirect talks mediated by Washington. Mr. Obama also praised Mr. Netanyahu for easing blockade on the Gaza Strip.

“We’ve seen real progress on the ground. I think it’s been acknowledged that it has moved more quickly and more effectively than many people anticipated,” Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Obama said he was confident Mr. . Netanyahu’s committed to the peace process.

“It’s high time to begin direct talks,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “With the help of President Mr. Obama, (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas and myself should engage in direct talks to reach a political settlement of peace, coupled with security and prosperity.” “Prime Minister Mr. Netanyahu wants peace,” Mr. Obama said. “He’s willing to take risks for peace. And during our conversation, he once again reaffirmed his willingness to engage in serious negotiations with the Palestinians.” It was also Mr. Netanyahu’s first visit to the White House since the May 31 deadly Israeli raid on a Turkish flotilla heading to Gaza. The incident increased pressure on Mr. Netanyahu to ease the blockade that has been in place since Hamas militants seized control of the Gaza Strip three years ago.

The two leaders also expressed a strong sense of unity on another issue: Iran. Mr. Netanyahu said he was satisfied with the U.S. sanctions enacted on Iran last week to punish the Islamic state for its nuclear activities, which he regards as the “greatest new threat on the horizon.”

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2022 4:56:44 PM |

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