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Obama Not Buying Netanyahu's Two-State Avowal

  • VOA News

FILE - President Barack Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Oct. 1, 2014.

FILE - President Barack Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Oct. 1, 2014.

President Barack Obama is taking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his word when the Israeli leader said on the eve of Israeli elections last week that he did not support Palestinian statehood.

Netanyahu has since declared that he is in favor of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian dilemma, but only under very stringent conditions.

In an interview with The Huffington Post news website that took place on Friday and was published Saturday, Obama indicated that he was not convinced by the later statement.

"We take him at his word when he said that it wouldn't happen during his prime ministership, and so that's why we've got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don't see a chaotic situation in the region," the president said.

The two leaders spoke on the telephone Thursday, two days after Netanyahu's election victory. Obama said he told the prime minister that "it is going to be hard to find a path where people are seriously believing that negotiations are possible."

The Huffington Post said Obama declined to say whether the U.S. would continue to block Palestinian statehood in the United Nations.

Obama disparaged Netanyahu's election day warning that a heavy turnout of Arab Israeli voters would tip the election to his opponent.

The president said that kind of talk was "contrary to what is the best of Israel's traditions." He said that although Israel was founded to be a Jewish homeland, it was also a democracy "premised on everybody in the country being treated equally and fairly."

Obama continued, "And I think that that is what's best about Israeli democracy. If that is lost, then I think that not only does it give ammunition to folks who don't believe in a Jewish state, but it also, I think, starts to erode the name of democracy in the country."

The statements in the interview were Obama's first public comments on the subject since the Tuesday election in Israel.

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