Sources close to Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that the Prime Minister would remain solid in his policies, especially regarding Israel’s determination not to return to the 1948 armistice lines, despite the comments President Barack H. Obama reputedly made. The comments, published Tuesday by The Atlantic magazine, have Obama slamming Israeli decisions to build in Judea and Samaria. “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are,” Obama is quoted as saying by author Jeff Goldberg. “With each new settlement announcement, in Obama’s view, Netanyahu is moving his country down a path toward near-total isolation,” Goldberg writes.
According to Goldberg, Obama “has become convinced that Netanyahu is so captive to the settler lobby, and so uninterested in making anything more than the slightest conciliatory gesture toward Palestinian moderates, that an investment of presidential interest in the peace process wouldn’t be a wise use of his time.”
“For Israel,” Goldberg predicts, “the short-term consequences of Obama’s frustration are limited. The U.S. won’t cut off its aid to Israel, and Obama’s effort to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions will continue whether or not he’s fed up with Netanyahu. “But it is in terms of American diplomatic protection – among the Europeans and especially at the UN – that Israel may one day soon notice a significant shift.”
But a report in Ha’aretz Tuesday quoted officials close to the Prime Minister as having Netanyahu dismiss the President’s comments. “Netanyahu will continue to stand up to international pressure, as he has for the past four years,” the officials said. “He will continue to look out for Israel’s interests and he will not undertake any compromises that could endanger the security of Israel.” He will certainly not agree to return to the 1948 armistice lines, the officials said, “and he will ensure that Jerusalem remains united.”
Likud campaign chief Gideon Sa’ar responded to the implicit attacks on his party’s leader, defending the PM while assuring the Israeli public that Netanyahu, who is slated to be elected prime minister for another term, will be able to balance the tricky relationship the two countries enjoy.
“Netanyahu will know how to work with Obama very well while at the same time safeguarding Israel’s interests,” Sa’ar said. “Netanyahu has the edge over all the other candidates in the diplomatic arena too, not just the security and economic spheres,” he added.
Likud officials would not comment on Obama’s apparent attempt to intervene in Israel’s elections, with the comments coming just a week before Israelis go out to vote.