President Barack Obama said at a news conference on Tuesday that the U.S. is considering the possibility of supporting the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state through the United Nations as part of his administration’s ongoing re-evaluation of relations with Israel.
Late last year, the U.S. voted against a Palestinian-initiated resolution in the U.N. Security Council that called for a Palestinian state with borders based on the pre-1967 lines. The measure garnered eight affirmative votes among the 15-member Security Council, falling just one short of the nine votes it needed to pass.
Obama on Tuesday continued his recent criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the aftermath of the latter’s re-election, saying, “Netanyahu, in the election run-up, stated that a Palestinian state would not occur while he was prime minister. And I took him at his word that that’s what he meant.” Obama made similar comments in an interview with The Huffington Post that was published last weekend, despite the fact that Netanyahu has reaffirmed his support for a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes a Jewish state.
“Afterwards, he (Netanyahu) pointed out that he didn’t say ‘never,’ but that there would be a series of conditions in which a Palestinian state could potentially be created,” Obama said Tuesday. “But, of course, the conditions were such that they would be impossible to meet any time soon.”
Obama said that after Netanyahu’s comments, the “possibility seems very dim” for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The president also said his disagreements with Netanyahu should not be considered a personal matter, instead describing his relationship with the prime minister as “businesslike.”
“This can’t be reduced to a matter of somehow let’s all, you know, hold hands and sing ‘Kumbayah,’” Obama said. “This is a matter of figuring out how do we get through a real knotty policy difference that has great consequences for both countries and for the region.”
Obama said he would resume consultations with Israel once Netanyahu has his new government in place. Asked specifically about whether he would back recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations, the president said he would not count it out.
“We’re going to do that evaluation — we’re going to partly wait for an actual Israeli government to form,” he said.
Obama stressed that he was not “reassessing” relations with Israel, as some reporting has characterized the shift.
“When I said that we have to now do an evaluation of where we are, it’s not in reference to our commitment to Israel’s military edge in the region, Israel’s security, our intelligence cooperation, our military cooperation,” he said. “That continues unabated.”