Washington seeks ‘genuine’ Israeli commitment to 2 states

National Security Adviser Rice says US waiting to see how new Netanyahu coalition approaches peace process

US National Security Adviser Susan Rice (photo credit: Screen capture: YouTube/CNN)
US National Security Adviser Susan Rice (photo credit: Screen capture: YouTube/CNN)

The Obama administration expects a commitment to the two-state solution from the next Israeli government and from the Palestinian Authority, National Security Adviser Susan Rice said.

“President Obama has made clear that we need to take a hard look at our approach to the conflict, and that resolving it is in the national security interest of the United States,” Rice said Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Arab American Institute.

“We look to the next Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to demonstrate — through policies and actions — a genuine commitment to a two-state solution,” she said.

Obama administration officials have said they will “reevaluate” their approach to advancing peace in the wake of comments by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the eve of his reelection last month in which he appeared to count out a two-state solution.

The reevaluation included reconsidering the degree to which the United States shields Israel from a proposed United Nations resolution that would impose terms for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu said he had been misunderstood and had meant only that he counted out the two-state solution for the moment, contingent upon, among other things, a more accommodating Palestinian Authority.

Rice’s speech appeared to be a signal that the Obama administration is now in a wait-and-see mode and is willing to give Netanyahu time to form a new government to see whether he has recommitted to the two-state solution.

The administration’s perception that Netanyahu’s commitment to a two-state solution has wavered stemmed from an interview with the right-leaning NRG website the day before Israelis went to the polls. Asked if it was true that no Palestinian state would be established during his premiership if he were reelected, he answered: “Indeed.”

In the weeks after the elections, Netanyahu subsequently backtracked on his statement and specified that he remained supportive of a “sustainable, peaceful two-state solution,” but President Barack Obama and other US officials indicated that they were not convinced.

To applause, Rice went on to decry Israel’s settlement policies.

“Like every U.S. administration since 1967, we have opposed Israeli settlement activity and efforts to change facts on the ground,” she said. “It only makes it harder to negotiate peace in good faith.”

On Monday, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman made similar comments to a gathering of Reform Jewish leaders near Washington, DC.

“We will be watching very closely to see what happens after a new government is formed on this issue of working toward two states living side by side in peace and security,” Sherman said. “If the new Israeli government is seen as stepping back from its commitment to a two-state solution — something that all of you, and a vast majority of American Jews, support — that makes our jobs in the international arena a lot tougher.”

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