Knesset members call for policy, diplomatic shifts in wake of Obama interview


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli lawmakers have called for policy and diplomatic changes following a warning by President Barack Obama that Israel could lose international backing unless it supports a two-state solution.

Michael Oren, a lawmaker with the center-right Kulanu party and Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, said a day after Obama’s remarks on Israeli television — that Israel should freeze settlement building outside settlement blocs near the West Bank border. He also called on Israel to more actively demonstrate its desire for peace.

“The ball is in our court,” Oren, whose party is part of Israel’s governing coalition, said at a meeting Wednesday of the Knesset Caucus for Israel-U.S. Relations. “We must show we favor peace even in the absence of a Palestinian partner. We must show that we’re at the table even when the opposite seat is empty, and that we’ll work actively toward a permanent agreement.”

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, chairman of the Zionist Union, told Israel’s Army Radio that a friendlier posture toward the United States would also help Israel combat Iran’s nuclear program.

“The Iranian issue is a major national challenge, but in order to fight it, to ensure Israel’s standing among the nations … we need to speak with the administration and conduct intimate dialogue. Not humiliate it,” Herzog said Wednesday, according to the Times of Israel.

Obama in an interview that aired Tuesday night said doubts regarding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s support for a Palestinian state could lead to the United States lessening its support for Israel in international forums.

“If in fact there’s no prospect of an actual peace process, if nobody believes there’s a peace process, then it becomes more difficult to argue with those who are concerned about settlement construction, those who are concerned about the current situation,” Obama said on the Channel 2 program “Uvda.” “It’s more difficult for me to say to them, ‘Be patient, wait, because we have a process here.'”

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