US President Barack Obama said in an interview broadcast Sunday that his decision not to veto a UN resolution against Israeli settlements did not rupture US-Israel relations and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu getting “fired up” over it was nothing new.
“I don’t think it caused a major rupture in relations between the United States and Israel,” Obama told CBS’s 60 Minutes. “If you’re saying that Prime Minister Netanyahu got fired up, he’s been fired up repeatedly during the course of my presidency, around the Iran deal and around our consistent objection to settlements.”
“So that part of it wasn’t new,” Obama said, noting that military and intelligence cooperation continues unabated. “We have defended them consistently in every imaginable way.”
The US abstention at the Security Council on December 23 allowed Resolution 2334 to pass, with a vote of 14-0. Netanyahu led a furious response that included summoning ambassadors of countries that backed the resolution for a dressing down on Christmas Day, and a one-to-one with US Ambassador Dan Shapiro.
“We have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated its versions and insisted upon its passage,” Netanyahu said, charges Obama has denied.
Ties between Netanyahu and Obama have been tense through their years in power, especially over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the settlement enterprise, and the nuclear deal that Obama and other P5+1 countries reached in 2015 with Iran.
But Obama said it was for Israel’s benefit that he let the resolution pass, highlighting what he said was the role of Israeli settlements in hampering progress toward peace.
“But I also believe that both for our national interests and Israel’s national interests that allowing an ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that could get worse and worse over time is a problem,” Obama said. “And that settlements contribute. They’re not the sole reason for it, but they’re a contributing factor to the inability to solve that problem.”
“The United States, because of our investment in the region, and because we care so deeply about Israel, I think has a legitimate interest in saying to a friend, ‘This is a problem.,” he said in the interview with Steve Kroft.
“We’ve been saying it for eight years now. It’s just that nothing seemed to get a lot of attention,” he said.