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June 8, 2015

Foreign Policy Consequences for Israel – Maybe

During an interview with journalist Ilana Dayan that aired Tuesday night on Israeli TV, US President Barak Obama answered questions about the US-Israel relationship and what role the US might play in moving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process forward. Dayan told Obama Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu says he endorses a Palestinian state alongside Israel, despite contrary statements one day before the last Israeli elections. Then she asked, “Why not take [Netanyahu] at his word?” Obama responded, “I think that it is difficult to simply accept at face value the statement made after an election that would appear to look as if this is simply an effort to return to the previous status quo in which we talk about peace in the abstract, but it’s always tomorrow, it’s always later.”

In response to Dayan's question concerning which consequences Obama was refering to when, during an interview with The Atlantic, he said, “All that has foreign policy consequences.” Obama told Dayan, “[he] was referring to something very specific, and that is how we approach defending Israel on the international stage around the Palestinian issue. But the practical consequence that [he refers] to -- let’s be very specific -- if there are additional resolutions introduced in the United Nations, up until this point, [the US has] pushed away against European efforts, for example, or other efforts because [the US has] said, the only way this gets resolved is if the two parties work together.”

When asked if the US would attempt to resume peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians in the next 18 months, Obama said “we all have to find a way to have an answer that is more than just more of the same,” and “[he doesn’t] see a likelihood of a framework agreement.”

Following Obama’s interview, Knesset member Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the US, said Israel should freeze settlement building outside of blocs near the green line and “[Israel] must show we favor peace even in the absence of a Palestinian partner. [Israel] 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.”

Two days before Obama’s interview aired, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah told Lally Weymouth at The Washington Post that the Palestinians are hopeful peace negotiations will be resumed and spoke to the need for a new framework. According to Hamdallh, Palestinians want a UN resolution which sets a timeline for Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian territories and a date for the establishment of a Palestinian state. The French are currently working on a UNSC resolution that is reported to contain a timeframe for the creation of a Palestinian state.

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