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Obama Says US Must Re-Evaluate Mideast Stance After Netanyahu’s Comments

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Obama Says US Must Re-Evaluate Mideast Stance After Netanyahu’s Comments

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By Michael A. Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said Tuesday that preserving the nation’s credibility internationally requires re-evaluating the U.S. stance on Mideast peace talks and that recent comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have severely hurt chances for progress.

Obama said Netanyahu’s pledge on the eve of Israeli elections last week to oppose a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians made hopes for progress “very dim.” Netanyahu later backed off the comment, but Obama appeared to remain unconvinced that the prime minister is serious about negotiating with the Palestinians.

“What we can’t do is pretend that there’s a possibility of something that’s not there,” Obama said during a news conference. “We can’t continue to premise our public diplomacy based on something that everybody knows is not going to happen, at least in the next several years. … For the sake of our own credibility, we have to be able to be honest.”

The president’s comments were the latest indication of how Netanyahu’s recent behavior has exacerbated an already-frosty relationship between the two leaders and tested the traditional bond between the U.S. and Israel.

Obama and other officials have called out Netanyahu for his rejection of the two-state solution and a remark made about Israel’s Arab citizens that had racial overtones. Netanyahu has also emerged as a leading opponent to a possible deal on Iran’s nuclear program that is a major goal of the Obama administration.

Obama dismissed a focus on his personal relationship with Netanyahu as irrelevant to their policy differences.

“This can’t be reduced to a matter of somehow let’s all hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya,’ ” he said. “This is a matter of figuring out how do we get through a real knotty policy difference that has great consequences for both countries and for the region.”

But Obama left unanswered a question posed to him about what, if anything, Netanyahu could do to convince Obama that he could be relied on to work toward peace in the region.

Senior U.S. officials also alleged in a Wall Street Journal report published late Monday that the Israeli government was attempting to undermine the Iran talks through a coordinated effort that included spying on the confidential discussions and other briefings, then sharing what it found with U.S. lawmakers.

Obama did not address that report in his news conference but said his administration has regularly briefed lawmakers and Israeli officials on the status of talks.

If a deal is reached, the president pledged “significant transparency.”

“If, in fact, an agreement is arrived at that we feel confident will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, it’s going to be there for everybody to see,” he said. “People are going to be able to lift up the hood and see what’s in there.”

Leading lawmakers cast doubt on the spying claim, which comes as the talks between Iran and six major world powers including the United States near a potential pivotal stage this week and as the administration campaigns to prevent legislation that might give Congress a say on any deal.

House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters he was “baffled” by the report on Israeli intelligence-sharing. “I’m not aware of that,” he said.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he’s discussed the negotiations with Israeli officials and other foreign leaders, but denied he learned anything from them he had not gleaned elsewhere.

“I think you all understand what’s happening here. You understand who’s pushing this out,” Corker said, implying that the Obama administration was seeking to neutralize an Israeli lobbying campaign against a nuclear agreement.

Israeli officials flatly rejected the claims of unidentified U.S. officials in the report.

“Israel does not spy on the U.S. _ period, exclamation point,” Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said en route from Paris, where he met with French officials to convey Israel’s concerns about an emerging nuclear agreement with Iran.

Steinitz said the accusations were aimed at undermining Israel’s “excellent intelligence cooperation” with the United States. Israel will continue dialogue with the U.S. on Iran despite grave differences on an agreement he called “bad, full of holes and dangerous to Israel, the Middle East and the entire world.”

Throughout the nearly two years of talks over Iran’s nuclear program, the Obama administration has warned lawmakers against moving legislation that may jeopardize any agreement.

Corker has co-sponsored legislation that would create a process by which lawmakers could vote to approve or disapprove any final agreement. A separate bill would authorize new sanctions in the event a deal isn’t finalized or if Iran reneges on any commitments.

Both measures could come to a vote in April and have enough bipartisan support to reach the president’s desk. Obama has promised to veto them, but Corker and other Republican leaders are working to marshal support to overcome the veto.

Key Democrats including Sens. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Dianne Feinstein of California, the leading members of the Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees, respectively, also denied the substance of the new spying report.

(Special correspondent Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.)

(c)2015 Tribune Co., Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Photo: AFP Photo/Saul Loeb

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22 Comments

  1. FireBaron March 25, 2015

    “Israel does not spy on the U.S. _ period, exclamation point,” So, I guess Jonathan Pollard and company were agents for some other country? If so, why does Israel keep demanding they be released from prison?

    Reply
  2. Daniel Jones March 25, 2015

    Let’s be blunt, as I wont to do.
    ~~
    *Both* sides have talked one thing and done another for decades, but Bibi’s comments have made it clear he has NO intention on ever following through on any deal, so why fucking bother?

    Reply
  3. FT66 March 25, 2015

    Some few week ago, I watched a segment of how our brain works. It was shown that whatever we say and whatever we do, there must be a co-ordination between these two (our actions and the brain). If one decides to run, to stop, to say a horrible thing, there is a part of the brain which is there to stop or allow you to do so. Once it stops you and you still do it anyway/anyhow intentionally, be assured there are consequences to follow. Netanyahu is man who still have his full faculties. He knew what he was doing, he knew what he was saying, he knew consequence might follow afterwards. If that was the case, the President is quite right. Let Netanyahu face the Music. It might be a good lesson for others or for him next time he faces such a situation.

    Reply
  4. Eleanore Whitaker March 25, 2015

    The real problem with Israel isn’t just Netanyahu. It’s a culture that believes it can never be wrong. This is widespread in the Middle East in nearly all of the countries. This is why since the earliest history of the Egyptians, democracy as we understand it today was demonized.

    The sole purpose in the Middle Eastern countries is to allow theocratic autocrats to govern with an iron hand. In other words, power drunks whose adrenalin pumps whenever there’s a submissive crowd they can manipulate.

    Reply
    1. Frank KIng March 25, 2015

      If you are the “Chosen” people, you can never be wrong. It is “holy” writ or something to that affect. Israel claims it is a “Democracy” but that only applies to Israel. So what happens in Israel, stays in Israel. All others beware, especially those seeking some justice in the occupied area in Palestine.

      Reply
      1. Eleanore Whitaker March 25, 2015

        I have to confess I don’t put much into the interpretations of the Old Testament. The questions to always ask are:
        1. Who did this choosing and can you prove it in black and white?
        2. Who promised that land and can you prove it in black and white?

        The answer is always some religious ambiguity that shows they don’t have any proof other than their interpretation of what Biblical citations mean.

        Reply
        1. Frank KIng March 25, 2015

          I agree with your position but belief in the Old Testament and a Supernatural entity directing the affairs of mankind trumps common sense and rational thought in other areas of concern . As long as the right wing, fundamentalist, evangelical congress is in control of the government and our lives, and Israel is their major interest in the foreign policy of the region, then the misery will continue to escalate in the ME. I do believe we are still a secular nation but with some doubt. And with the apocalypse and the “rapture” upper most in the minds of the critters in power, it’s going to be a rough ride onto the future.

          Reply
          1. Eleanore Whitaker March 26, 2015

            The US is unlike any other nation of the world. We are THE most multi-cultured country on the planet. Virtually, any nationality that exists, can be found among our immigrants. It is the reason the right wing fundamentalists loathe the idea of such diversity. It is diversity they hate most. When you start with their drive toward endless wars, you see the hidden operative: regimentation of the masses to their way of thinking.

            Either they have never studied world history or their minds are so far gone they no longer process history through the prism of education, or they choose to override the commonality history teaches. Either way, they will never, ever take over the country in some bizarre militant force. We, the many, mow down, they the few.

            Reply
          2. Sand_Cat March 26, 2015

            Out of curiosity, how did you get rid of the default “picture” that people who don’t supply their own get?

            Reply
          3. Eleanore Whitaker March 27, 2015

            Not every human nature is a default. Look up that definition of the word, “default.” I don’t ever get rid of that which shows potential growth upon which the best for the greatest good is the basic premise.

            The point is that fanatics today are ready to “convert” us to their ideas of religion, demand we act and think as they do and then, allow THEM and only them to choose for us. Sorry…that’s how all revolts emerge in world history.

            If you hate diversity, you basically prove a need to control others. No matter how much denial you implement to neutralize your real back room agenda.

            Reply
          4. Sand_Cat March 27, 2015

            OK…
            Guess we’re speaking different languages :>)

            Reply
          5. angelsinca April 6, 2015

            Settings/Profile/Avatar.
            Select Choose a method.
            Select Upload from computer.
            Use any blank image with a while background

            Reply
          6. Sand_Cat April 7, 2015

            Thanks

            Reply
        2. idamag April 6, 2015

          There was a land of milk and honey where people were marrying, babies were being born. The cattle was fat and the crops were good. Along comes a tribe and they say God gave them all this land and they proceeded to kill the Canaanites, every one.

          Reply
    2. idamag April 6, 2015

      It is their belief that the holy book gives them all this land.

      Reply
  5. howa4x March 25, 2015

    Bibi first told the Palestinians that how could he negotiate without Hamas at the table. When Abbas brought in Hamas in a coalition government Netanyahu then said he wouldn’t negotiate with terrorists. This man has practiced subterfuge since he became prime minister. He has built more and more settlements in the west bank changing the line of where Israel was. The US has been committed to a 2 state solution no matter what party was in power and have been the only ones protecting Israel at the UN. Our payback was to have him come to this country uninvited by the president to bash our foreign policy, with Iran. We need a negotiated settlement with them on their nuclear program, and a war with them is not an option. Just like every other country the people will receive punishment for the reckless actions of their leader. The average Israeli will now feel the sanctions imposed by the rest of the world and then watch Netanyahu beg Obama for help

    Reply
  6. Dominick Vila March 26, 2015

    The only positive thing I can say about Netanyahu, when it comes to negotiating a fair settlement with the Palestinians, is that he has been consistent in his determination to ensure that never happens. His recent comments are consistent with what he said after the Annapolis talks, when President George W. Bush naively stated that a settlement was imminent, only to be ridiculed by Bibi’s retort: “that is not going to happen”. In fairness to Benjamin Netanyahu, his stand on the issue of a fair settlement is consistent with that of his predecessors. The impediment to a fair and humane settlement has absolutely nothing to do with “defense”, with past wrongs, or geo-political considerations. Israel is unwilling to accept a two-State solution that allows Palestinians the right to exist in a land of their own, because Israel needs land to accommodate the large influx of Jews from countries like Russia, the United States, and Western Europe. The simply cannot stop building settlements in the designated Palestinian territories, The biggest challenge to Bibi’s candidacy this time was housing shortages and skyrocketing house prices. Israel is a small country, it needs land to house its growing population, and it cannot afford to go back to the 1948 borders. With a military, an intelligence community, and a nuclear arsenal second only to those in the United States, Russia, China, France and the UK, and unconditional backing by the USA, Israel is not too concerned about what the rest of the world thinks about them…let alone what the Palestinians think or wish.

    Reply
  7. Sand_Cat March 26, 2015

    Want Netanyahoo to agree to any fair settlement? Like expecting Hitler to give the Jews a fair settlement.

    Reply
  8. Sand_Cat March 26, 2015

    Bibi or no, the best deal Israel has ever offered the Palestinians was an “independent” state completely Balkanized by Iraeli checkpoints and settlements of religious fanatics

    Reply
  9. Cade Yaeger March 27, 2015

    Each of us should also keep in mind that Obama’s criminal regime callously left four Americans to die in Benghazi.

    Reply
    1. Sand_Cat March 27, 2015

      Only those of “us” who are delusional morons.

      Reply
      1. idamag April 6, 2015

        He is one of the “What about Benghazi” bobble heads. He doesn’t know anything, does not want to know anything and will not study facts if they might make his hate blog notions look silly.

        Reply

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