WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Barack Obama said he told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “evaluating” U.S. options in the wake of Netanyahu’s claim that a Palestinian state would not be created while he was prime minister.
“We take him at his word when he said that it wouldn’t happen during his prime ministership,” Obama told Huffington Post in an interview posted Saturday on the news site. “That’s why we’ve got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don’t see a chaotic situation in the region.”
He did not elaborate, but a number of media outlets have reported that the United States is considering no longer vetoing Israel-critical actions in international forums, including the U.N. Security Council.
Netanyahu, on the eve of the March 17 election, said the time was not right for two states because of Palestinian intransigence and Islamist-fomented turmoil. Asked by the NRG website whether that meant there would be no Palestinian state while he was prime minister, he replied, “indeed.”
On Thursday, the day he received Obama’s call — ostensibly made to congratulate Netanyahu for being reelected — Netanyahu told U.S. media outlets that he meant only that the time was not right for two states, not that he opposed the outcome. Obama administration officials say Netanyahu’s explanation is not adequate.
Obama said the security relationship between the United States and Israel would not be affected.
“We’re going to make sure that regardless of disagreements we have on policy that our military and intelligence cooperation to keep the Israeli people safe continues,” he said. “And that cooperation also helps the American people to stay safe.”
Obama also said that he chided Netanyahu for his Election Day video posted to Facebook in which he urged Likud backers to vote to counter “droves” of Arab voters he said were being bused to the polls by foreign-backed organizations.
“We indicated that that kind of rhetoric was contrary to what is the nest of Israel’s traditions,” Obama said.
“Israeli democracy had been premised on everybody in the country being treated equally and fairly; I think that is what it best about Israeli democracy,” he said. “If that is lost, then I think that not only does it give ammunition to folks who don’t believe in a Jewish state.”