Obama, congratulating Netanyahu, stresses ‘importance’ of two states


WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Barack Obama in his message congratulating Benjamin Netanyahu on forming a new Israeli government emphasized the “importance” of a two-state solution.

“President Obama looks forward to working with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his new government,” the statement released Thursday said.

“As the president has emphasized, the United States places great importance on our close military, intelligence, and security cooperation with Israel, which reflects the deep and abiding partnership between both countries. We also look forward to continuing consultations on a range of regional issues, including international negotiations to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and the importance of pursuing a two-state solution.”

Immediately after the March 17 election, Obama administration officials said they were “reevaluating” how best to pursue peace and defend Israel in international forums because of Netanyahu’s apparent retreat on the eve of balloting from embracing the two-state solution.

Netanyahu subsequently said he meant that he did not believe that the region was ready for a two-state solution, adding that he continued to favor it.

The administration soon dropped claims it was “reevaluating” the relationship, although officials made clear that they were waiting to see whether the new government was ready to work within the formula of an outcome that included a Palestinian state existing alongside Israel.

The narrow coalition Netanyahu formed Wednesday night has a majority of just one in the Knesset and is considered to be the most right leaning in Israel’s history, with top figures in its makeup actively opposing a two-state solution.

The Obama and Netanyahu administrations have been at odds over the framework nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers, as well as Netanyahu’s speech to Congress in March two weeks before the Israeli elections. The White House had not been consulted about the address, which spelled out the Israeli leader’s objections to an Iran nuclear deal that had not yet been signed.

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