Will second-term Obama get back at Netanyahu? Not a chance, says US ambassador

President is a strategic, not emotional thinker, says Dan Shapiro; calls Palestinian UN bid ‘a mistake’

US Ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, at a conference in Jerusalem, September 6, 2011 (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
US Ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, at a conference in Jerusalem, September 6, 2011 (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro ruled out the possibility that President Barack Obama will harbor ill will towards Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the latter’s perceived support for Republican nominee Mitt Romney in the US presidential campaign.

Shapiro spoke at a panel held at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University Wednesday morning, shortly after preliminary results published in the US indicated Obama’s victory.

“Anyone who knows the president understands that this is not how he thinks,” Shapiro said, adding that talk of revenge against Israel for Netanyahu’s political preferences was “ridiculous.”

“The president is a strategic thinker; his policies are not governed by emotion,” he said.

Shapiro was responding to comments by co-panelist Sallai Meridor, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States, who claimed that Netanyahu’s reported antipathy towards Obama would inevitably affect Israel-US relations.

“Obama will be less restrained by political considerations [in his second term],” Meridor told the audience, adding that the tenuous relations between the Israeli and American administrations during Netanyahu’s tenure “will not evaporate.”

Addressing matters closer to home, Shapiro said the Palestinians’ bid to gain non-member status at the United Nations is a mistake.

“It will be a mistake to approach the UN at this stage,” Shapiro said. “The way forward is to hold negotiations between the two sides and not through unilateral acts.”

Shapiro said that all sides want to resolve the conflict but since Israel is currently preoccupied with its own national elections, now is not the time for the change.

“In another few months it will be on the agenda for all sides,” he said. “A failure of negotiations will hurt both the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

The Palestinians are determined to make a bid in November to upgrade from observer to non-member status at the UN, a position that will give them non-binding international recognition as a sovereign state.

As a non-member state Palestine could take part in UN General Assembly meetings, and possibly join a variety of international bodies such as the International Criminal Court, opening the path to the lodging of complaints against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

The Palestinians failed to obtain full membership at the UN in 2011 due to a lack of support in the Security Council. The plan is to appeal instead to the General Assembly that decides non-member status.

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