Netanyahu: Obama’s deal on Syria ‘ray of light in dark region’


(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorsed President Obama’s policy on Syria and said his government had no partner in Ramallah.

Netanyahu’s endorsement of Obama’s policy on Syria came in an interview he gave last week to the Bloomberg news agency which was published Friday, in which Netanyahu called the Obama administration’s deal with Russia and Syria for the removal of chemical weapons “the only ray of light in a very dark region.”

Obama had said that the use of chemical weapons was a “red line” for the United States and has faced criticism for not acting more forcefully to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad for his use of chemical weapons against rebels. The United States has reached a Russian-brokered deal earlier this year for the gradual removal of Syria’s chemical weapons reserves.

“It’s not complete yet,” Netanyahu said of the removal. “We are concerned that they may not have declared all of their capacity. But what has been removed has been removed. We’re talking about 90 percent. We appreciate the effort that has been made and the results that have been achieved.”

On the comatose peace talks with the Palestinians, Netanyahu said that “six prime ministers since Oslo failed in their pursuit of a negotiated settlement,” adding that: “We don’t have a Palestinian leadership that is willing to do that.”

Netanyahu added that “the minimal set of conditions that any Israeli government would need cannot be met by the Palestinians. No matter what the spin is about blaming Israel, do we actually expect [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas, who seems to be embracing Hamas, to give a negotiated deal? In all likelihood, no. I hope he does, but I’m not sure he’s going to.”

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed last month after Israel declined to hand over some prisoners whose release Israel said had not been agreed upon but that the Palestinians were demanding. Abbas then submitted applications to 15 international treaties and signed a deal that facilitated a power-sharing agreement with Hamas, moves that Israeli officials said precluded reaching a negotiated settlement.

Asked why he would not freeze construction is West Bank settlements beyond the 1967 borders to facilitate the resumption of talks, Netanyahu said: “Having tried once, I saw that it doesn’t work.”

On Iran, Netanyahu reiterated his objection to the terms of a deal being negotiated among six world powers including the United States and Iran on that country’s nuclear program. Netanyahu has opposed any deal that leaves Iran in possession of infrastructure that may be used for the production of a nuclear bomb. The terms of the deal proposed by the six powers include relief of sanctions in exchange for Iran’s commitment to limit its enrichment of uranium, but leaves it in possession of centrifuges.

“I think this is a setup for the same mistake that was done with North Korea,” Netanyahu said.

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