In an interview with the Atlantic magazine, President Barack Obama reiterated on Thursday that when Netanyahu asserted “a Palestinian state would not happen under his watch, or [when] there [was] discussion in which it appeared that Arab-Israeli citizens were somehow portrayed as an invading force that might vote, and that this should be guarded against — this is contrary to the very language of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, which explicitly states that all people regardless of race or religion are full participants in the democracy.
“When something like that happens, that has foreign-policy consequences, and precisely because we’re so close to Israel, for us to simply stand there and say nothing would have meant that this office, the Oval Office, lost credibility when it came to speaking out on these issues.”
The interviewer, journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, characterized it as “warning to Israel: If it proves unwilling to live up to its values — in this case, he made specific mention of Netanyahu’s seemingly flawed understanding of the role Israel’s Arab citizens play in its democratic order — the consequences could be profound.”
Obama rejected the idea that one cannot be pro-Israel and at the same time be critical of Israel: “There has been a very concerted effort on the part of some political forces to equate being pro-Israel, and hence being supportive of the Jewish people, with a rubber stamp on a particular set of policies coming out of the Israeli government,” Obama said.
The president stressed the depth of his support for Israel’s security, and explained that it is rooted in the African-American experience:
“There’s a direct line between supporting the right of the Jewish people to have a homeland and to feel safe and free of discrimination and persecution, and the right of African Americans to vote and have equal protection under the law,” he said. “These things are indivisible in my mind.”
Obama acknowledged the anti-Semitism of the Iranian regime, but argued that it didn’t preclude rational decision-making in foreign policy regarding their nuclear program and the survival of their economy.
Obama also discussed his personal stake in the long-term success of an Iran deal.
“Look, 20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, G-d willing. If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this. I think it’s fair to say that, in addition to our profound national-security interests, I have a personal interest in locking this down.”