In order for peace to ever occur between Israel and the Palestinians, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needs to be weakened, United States President Barack Obama asserted.
In an interview with the New York Times’ Thomas L. Friedman, the president said that Netanyahu was “too strong” and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas [Abu Mazen] was “too weak.”
According to Obama, in order for Netanyhau to come to the negotiating table and make concessions, the prime minister needs to feel more pressure from his cabinet and Israelis.
The president pointed to the fact that Netanyahu’s “poll numbers are a lot higher than mine,” which “were greatly boosted by the war in Gaza.”
Obama argued that “if he [Netanyahu] 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.”
The president expressed his frustration over Abbas’s lack of popular support by the Palestinian people, unlike Netanyahu who, during this time of crisis and conflict, is strongly supported by most Israelis.
“With respect to Abu Mazen, it’s a slightly different problem. In some ways, Bibi is too strong and in some ways Abu Mazen is too weak to bring them together and make the kind of bold decisions that Sadat or Begin or Rabin were willing to make,” he added.
Obama urged Israel’s leaders to find a way to create a lasting two-state solution, thereby recognizing the “legitimate claims” of the Palestinians.
“It has consistently been my belief that you have to find a way to live side by side in peace with Palestinians…You have to recognize that they have legitimate claims, and this is their land and neighborhood as well,” he stated.
However, Obama made clear that he does not “worry about Israel’s survival…I think the question really is how does Israel survive.”
Asked whether he was hopeful that peace could be achieved, Obama responded, “It’s going to require leadership among both the Palestinians and Israelis to look beyond tomorrow…And that’s the hardest thing for politicians to do is to take the long view of things.”
As tensions run high between Washington and Jerusalem, US led efforts to broker a lasting ceasefire between Israel and Hamas have ended up in complete failure.
US Secretary of State John Kerry came under attack by Israel for turning to Qatar and Turkey as mediators, both known for being strong allies of Hamas. Israel’s Security Cabinet unanimously rejected the ceasefire proposal put forth by Kerry, which was seen as capitulating to Hamas’s demands while not recognizing Israel’s main security concerns.
Last week, both sides agreed to a 72-hour Egyptian brokered ceasefire, only to have Hamas end up firing rockets upon Israel hours before its completion. Hamas and other Palestinian leaders announced they would not agree to a ceasefire with Israel unless Israel gives in to the terror group’s demands.
Israeli and American officials have tried to downplay the growing rift between Washington and Jerusalem. Netanyahu has said repeatedly that US support during Operation Protective Edge has being “terrific.”