WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Palestinian-Israeli conflict as well as Arab anti-Semitism dog reconciliation between Arab nations and Israel, even in the face of a common threat from Iran, President Obama said.
“With respect to Israel, the interests of Israel in stability and security are actually very closely aligned with the interests of the Sunni states,” Obama said in an interview published in the New Yorker and referring to common cause between Israel and countries such as Saudi Arabia on Iran.
“What’s preventing them from entering into even an informal alliance with at least normalized diplomatic relations is not that their interests are profoundly in conflict but the Palestinian issue, as well as a long history of anti-Semitism that’s developed over the course of decades there, and anti-Arab sentiment that’s increased inside of Israel based on seeing buses being blown up,” Obama said. “If you can start unwinding some of that, that creates a new equilibrium.”
Obama said he believed new Iran sanctions under consideration in Congress would not come to fruition.
“I don’t think a new sanctions bill will reach my desk during this period, but, if it did, I would veto it and expect it to be sustained,” he said.
The Obama administration says the new sanctions could scuttle talks now underway between the major powers and Iran aimed at keeping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Backers of the sanctions say they will strengthen the West’s hands in the talks.
Separately, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his top Middle East negotiator, Martin Indyk, met Monday in Washington with Israeli negotiators Tzipi Livni and Itzik Molho to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace framework favored by Kerry.
A State Department statement said the meetings would continue on Tuesday and that Indyk would meet early next week with Palestinian negotiators.
Despite reluctance on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, Kerry wants a framework agreement to be completed by the spring.