Obama warns Netanyahu: Time is running out
Ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visit to Washington on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama directed a message to him that time was running out for Israeli-Palestinian peace Al Arabiya reported.
In an interview on Thursday in the Oval Office with Bloomberg View's Jeffrey Goldberg, Obama said that he would warn Netanyahu that his country could face a bleak future if he refuses to support a U.S.-drafted framework agreement for peace with the Palestinians.
He said his message to Netanyahu will be this: "If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who?"
He then said that if Netanyahu "does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach." He added, "It's hard to come up with one that's plausible."
Obama said: "There comes a point where you can't manage this anymore, and then you start having to make very difficult choices, do you resign yourself to what amounts to a permanent occupation of the West Bank? Is that the character of Israel as a state for a long period of time? Do you perpetuate, over the course of a decade or two decades, more and more restrictive policies in terms of Palestinian movement? Do you place restrictions on Arab-Israelis in ways that run counter to Israel's traditions?"
On the subject of Middle East peace, Obama told Goldberg that the U.S.'s friendship with Israel is undying, but he also issued what the interviewer took to be a "veiled threat."
The president said: "If you see no peace deal and continued aggressive settlement construction -- and we have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple years than we've seen in a very long time," Obama said. "If Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited."
Boarding his flight to the U.S. capital, Netanyahu, who has had a strained relationship with Obama, said that Israel knew how to resist pressure and that he intended to stand firm on what he termed his country's "vital interests."
Secretary of State John Kerry has been trying to persuade Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to agree to a framework deal that would enable troubled land-for-peace negotiations to continue beyond an April target date for a final accord. Abbas is due at the White House on March 17.