NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – It was a stunning about face from Israel’s prime minister intended to repair relations with the United States.
Only it didn’t work.
One would have thought that Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempt to take back recent statements that ruled out a Palestinian state would be music to the ears of President Barack Obama.
Instead it struck a sour note, with the White House threatening to re-evaluate its policies and possibly take actions the Israelis won’t like, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported Thursday.
“I haven’t changed my policy,” Netanyahu said.
Two days after scoring a huge re-election victory by tacking hard right and disavowing the so-called two-state solution with the Palestinians, Netanyahu went on American television to say he didn’t mean it.
“I want a sustainable peaceful two-state solution, but for that circumstances have to change,” Netanyahu said.
The Israeli prime minister claimed he meant there couldn’t be negotiations for a Palestinian state unless Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas abandons his pact with the terror group Hamas.
Netanyahu was trying to heal the ugly rift with Obama, but the president was having none of it.
“The United States needs to rethink our approach,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Earnest admitted he knew of Netanyahu’s retraction, but he acted as if it didn’t happen, threatening an American “re-evaluation” of protecting Israel at the United Nations by vetoing resolutions recognizing Palestine as a nation state.
“Steps that the United States has taken at the United Nations have been predicated on this idea that the two-state solution is the best outcome,” Earnest said. “Now our ally in these talks has said they are no longer committed to that solution. That means that we need to re-evaluate our position.”
The White House is also furious at Netanyahu for attempting to mobilize his base by claiming the Arabs were going to the polls in droves.
“That cynical election day tactic was a pretty transparent effort to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens,” Earnest said. “That does erode at the values that are critical to the bond between our two countries.”
American Jewish leaders say it would be a mistake for the president to support Palestinian statehood at the UN.
“It would be very detrimental against America’s national interests, against Israel’s interests, against the interests of peace in the region. I hope that this is rhetoric now,” said Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents.
Many think that the White House was just saber-rattling on Thursday, wanting to make Netanyahu pay for a litany of slights, including his speech before Congress challenging White House efforts to forge a nuclear ban treaty with Iran, Kramer reported.