White House chief of staff Denis McDonough continued to voice the Obama administration’s insistence that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s pre-election remarks negating a Palestinian state could not be ignored.
Brushing aside Netanyahu’s attempt to back away from the remarks since the election, McDonough said that “we cannot simply pretend that these comments were never made,” he told a gathering of the anti-Netanyahu J Street lobby in Washington.
“After the election, the Prime Minister said that he had not changed his position, but for many in Israel and in the international community, such contradictory comments call into question his commitment to a two-state solution, as did his suggestion that the construction of settlements has a strategic purpose of dividing Palestinian communities and his claim that conditions in the larger Middle East must be more stable before a Palestinian state can be established.”
McDonough reiterated that the Obama administration will “re-evaluate our approach to the peace process and how we pursue the cause of peace,” adding that “We will look to the next Israeli government to match words with actions and policies that demonstrate a genuine commitment to a two-state solution.”
The chief of staff also rejected the suggestion that “our reaction to this issue is a matter of personal pique. Nothing could be further from the truth. America’s commitment to a two-state solution is fundamental to U.S. foreign policy … That is why President Obama has said that we need to re-evaluate our approach to the peace process…”
Republican Senator from Arizona John McCain had chided Obama on Sunday to “get over the temper tantrum” about Netanyahu’s remarks.
McDonough received a standing ovation when he declared that “an occupation that has lasted more than 50 years must end,” referring to the Israeli presence in Yehudah and Shomron.
He further warned that the continuation of such policies would contribute to Israel’s “total isolation” from the international community.