USA - ISRAEL

US ‘to reevaluate’ backing Israel at UN

Jack Guez, AFP file picture | Campaign posters of Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of the March 17 elections in Israel

The White House on Thursday raised the prospect of withdrawing crucial diplomatic cover for Israel at the United Nations following Benjamin Netanyahu's divisive election victory.

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Angered by Netanyahu's shock campaign pledge to block the creation of a Palestinian state, the White House warned the foundation of its policy for backing Israel had been undermined.

The United States – a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council – has frequently opposed moves at the UN to recognise a Palestinian state.

"Steps that the United States has taken at the United Nations had been predicated on this idea that the two-state solution is the best outcome," said spokesman Josh Earnest.

"Now our ally in these talks has said that they are no longer committed to that solution. That means we need to reevaluate our position in this matter, and that is what we will do moving forward."

The White House said that no policy decisions had yet been made but sharply noted that US decisions in the past had "protected Israel from isolation in the international community".

Meanwhile, Netanyahu on Thursday tried to play down his pre-election statement, telling US broadcaster NBC in an interview that he does indeed seek a two-state solution but that the time may not be right for one just now.

“I don’t want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution. But for that, circumstances have to change,” Netanyahu said, affirming also that “America has no greater ally than Israel and Israel has no greater ally than the United States”.

The NBC interview will be broadcast in full on Thursday.

‘Thousands of new settler homes’

In one of a series of interviews ahead of Netanyahu's victory on Tuesday, the incumbent Israeli leader was asked by the rightwing Israeli NRG website whether or not it was true that there would be no Palestinian state established if he was reelected as prime minister.

"Indeed," he answered, with the remark immediately making headlines worldwide.

Later the same day, Netanyahu pledged to build thousands of new homes for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem.

Despite Netanyahu's post-election efforts to walk back on his comment of ruling out the establishment of a Palestinian state, the White House seemed unimpressed.

"What is apparent is that in the context of the campaign, and while he was the sitting prime minister of Israel, he walked back from commitments that Israel had previously made to a two-state solution," Earnest said.

Obama waited with congratulatory call

US President Barack Obama, who has had notoriously frosty relations with his Israeli counterpart, waited two days before calling Netanyahu Thursday to congratulate him on the election win.

According to the White House, Obama emphasised during the call the importance the US places “on our close military, intelligence, and security cooperation with Israel, which reflects the deep and abiding partnership between both countries".

But the US president also "reaffirmed the United States' longstanding commitment to a two-state solution that results in a secure Israel alongside a sovereign and viable Palestine".

Washington has been frustrated by Netanyahu's support for settlement building and a speech to the US Congress aimed at killing a nascent nuclear deal with Iran, which Obama supports.

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas also reacted to Netanyahu’s pre-election remarks, saying Wednesday that: "Netanyahu's statements against a two-state solution and against a Palestinian state... are proof, if correct, that there is no seriousness in the [future] Israeli government about a political solution that will lead to the establishment of two states."

In the wake of the Israeli election, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP that they would "speed up, pursue and intensify" diplomatic efforts aimed at winning international recognition.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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