President Barack Obama does not have faith in the new Israeli government’s commitment to a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. At a press conference after the GCC Summit in Camp David, Obama said: “I continue to believe that a two-state solution is absolutely vital for not only peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but for the long-term security of Israel as a democratic and Jewish state.
“And I know that a government has been formed that contains some folks who don’t necessarily believe in that premise. But that continues to be my premise. And since we’re up here at Camp David, I think it’s important to remind ourselves of the degree to which a very hard peace deal that required incredible vision and courage and tough choices resulted in what’s now been a lasting peace between countries that used to be sworn enemies. And Israel is better off for it. I think the same would be true if we get a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.
“That prospect seems distant now. But I think it’s always important for us to keep in mind what’s right and what’s possible.”
In an interview with Al-Arabiya published on Friday, Obama called the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “a very difficult challenge.”
Obama said his administration had “worked very hard” to achieve a peace deal, but “the politics inside of Israel and the politics among the Palestinians, as well, made it very difficult for each side to trust each other enough to make that leap.
“And what I think at this point, realistically, we can do is to try to rebuild trust — not through a big overarching deal, which I don’t think is probably possible in the next year, given the makeup of the Netanyahu government, given the challenges I think that exist for President Abbas — but if we can start building some trust around, for example, relieving the humanitarian suffering inside of Gaza and helping the ordinary people in Gaza to recover from the devastation that happened last year; if we can do more to create business opportunities and jobs inside the territories, if we can slowly rebuild that kind of trust, then I continue to believe that the logic of a two-state solution will reassert itself.”
Obama called himself “a deep and strong supporter of Israel.”
“The connection between the United States and Israel is obviously powerful,” Obama said. “And Israel has legitimate security concerns. There’s no doubt about it. And what is also true is I’m deeply committed to a Palestinian state.”
Obama said he had told the Israelis “you cannot remain a state that is both a democracy and Jewish if you continue to have this problem unresolved. And with respect to the Palestinians, I’ve said that you cannot expect to have a state of your own and the full dignity and respect that is inherent for all human beings if you also don’t recognize Israel, because Israel is not going anywhere.
“And I think that people of good will on both sides understand that. Unfortunately, the politics of fear has been stronger than the politics of hope over recent years, partly because of the chaotic situation in the region overall. And it’s going to take some time to rebuild it.
“But as I said yesterday at Camp David, nobody would have imagined that Israel and Egypt would remain at peace for decades until finally leadership seized the day. And the United States wants to be a strong partner in this. We can’t do it for the Palestinians or the Israelis. But we can continue to push for what we believe is the truth and what we believe is right.”