In the course of a broad-ranging interview on foreign policy matters, U.S. President Barack Obama has shared his views of Israel and the Mideast with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.
When asked whether he was “worried about Israel,” Obama replied that “because Israel is so capable militarily, I don’t worry about Israel’s survival.
“… I think the question really is how does Israel survive. And how can you create a State of Israel that maintains its democratic and civic traditions … it has consistently been my belief that you have to find a way to live side by side in peace with Palestinians. … You have to recognize that they have legitimate claims, and this is their land and neighborhood as well.”
Asked whether he should be more vigorous in pressing Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to reach a two-state settlement, Obama echoed what many before have observed, that much depends on the internal politics.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s “poll numbers are a lot higher than mine” and “were greatly boosted by the war in Gaza,” Obama said. “And so if he doesn’t feel some internal pressure, then it’s hard to see him being able to make some very difficult compromises, including taking on the [communites in Yehuda and Shomron]. That’s a tough thing to do.”
Regarding Abbas, the president noted an imbalance of power that was an impediment to peace. ‘In some ways, Bibi is too strong [and] in some ways Abbas is too weak to bring them together and make the kinds of bold decisions that Sadat or Begin or Rabin were willing to make.”
Then Obama called on both to show far-sightedness, “to look beyond tomorrow. … And that’s the hardest thing for politicians to do is to take the long view on things.”