Washington: US President Barack Obama has said that he continues to be “significantly worried” about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the status quo is unsustainable, and dangerous for the people in the region as well as for America’s national security.
“I continue to be significantly worried about the Israeli-Palestinian issue. And I’m worried about it both because I think the status quo is unsustainable, that it is dangerous for Israel, that it is bad for Palestinians, it is bad for the region, and it’s bad for America’s national security,” Obama told mediapersons yesterday in his final press conference as the US President.
He said when he came to office wanting to do everything he could to encourage serious peace talks between Israel and Palestine and that his administration invested a lot of energy, time and effort in these eight years.
“Ultimately, what has always been clear is that we cannot force the parties to arrive at peace. What we can do is facilitate, provide a platform, encourage. But we can’t force them to do it,” he said.
“But in light of shifts in Israeli politics and Palestinian politics, a rightward drift in Israeli politics; a weakening of President Abbas’ ability to move and take risks on behalf of peace in the Palestinian Territories, in light of all the dangers that have emerged in the region and the understandable fears that Israelis may have about the chaos and rise of groups like ISIL (ISIS) and the deterioration of Syria,” Obama said.
“In light of all those things, what we at least wanted to do, understanding that the two parties wouldn’t actually arrive at a final status agreement, is to preserve the possibility of a two-state solution,” he said.
Stressing that there is no alternative to a two-State solution, the outgoing US President said that he has said this to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I’ve said it inside of Israel. I’ve said it to Palestinians, as well,” he added.
“I don’t see how this issues gets resolved in a way that maintains Israel as both Jewish and a democracy, because if you do not have two states, then in some form or fashion you are extending an occupation, functionally you end up having one state in which millions of people are disenfranchised and operate as second-class residents. You can’t even call them citizens, necessarily,” Obama said.
“And so the goal of the resolution was to simply say that the growth of the settlements are creating a reality on the ground that increasingly will make a two-state solution impossible,” he asserted.
Talking about Donald Trump’s stand on the issue, Obama said, “so the President-elect will have his own policy. The ambassador, or the candidate for the ambassadorship obviously has very different views than I do. That is their prerogative”.
“That’s part of what happens after elections. And I think my views are clear. We’ll see how their approach plays itself out,” he said while responding to a question on the Israeli policy of the incoming Trump Administration.
In an apparent reference to Trump’s plan to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Obama said that sudden unilateral moves could be explosive.
“I don’t want to project today what could end up happening, but obviously it’s a volatile environment. What we’ve seen in the past is, when sudden, unilateral moves are made that speak to some of the core issues and sensitivities of either side, that can be explosive,” he said.
Noting that the United States is the biggest kid on the block, Obama said it is right and appropriate for a new President to test old assumptions and reexamine the old ways of doing things.
“But if you’re going to make big shifts in policy, just make sure you’ve thought it through and understand that there are going to be consequences, and actions typically create reactions, and so you want to be intentional about it,” he said.
“You don’t want to do things off the cuff when it comes to an issue this volatile,” Obama said.