Netanyahu ‘Still Formulating Policy’
Israel’s new government, headed by Binyamin Netanyahu, said it was still reviewing its policies after United States President Barack Obama articulated Washington’s adherence to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The United States strongly supports the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security,” Obama said in a speech in the Turkish parliament.
“That is a goal that the parties agreed to in the Road Map and at Annapolis, and that is a goal that I will actively pursue as president.”
Obama’s comments appeared to be in response to remarks made last week by Israel’s new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, from the hawkish Yisrael Beiteinu party.
Lieberman said Israel was not committed to the Annapolis understandings, implying that he intended to set a new agenda at the Foreign Ministry.
The U.S.-sponsored conference in Annapolis in November 2007 outlined a two-state solution to the conflict.
Lieberman said the Annapolis conference had “no validity,” but stressed that Israel was still committed to the 2003 Road Map for peace, which also outlined a two-state solution.
In response to Obama’s comments on Monday, Netanyahu’s office issued a statement to say it appreciated Obama’s commitment to Israel’s security and the pursuit of peace.
“The Government of Israel is committed to both of these goals and will formulate its policies in the near future so as to work closely with the United States towards achieving these common objectives,” the statement said.
Obama is expected to visit Israel and the West Bank in June, en route to France, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.
Analysts say a visit to the region so soon after the U.S. president takes office is a rare event and will serve to underline Obama’s dedication to realizing the two-state solution.
Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, is visiting the region next week to push forward the peace process.
Netanyahu is also facing challenges in Ramallah, which is apparently refusing to talk with the new Israeli government unless it demonstrates a willingness to make concessions.
“Senior Palestinian sources” told the Israeli daily Ma’ariv that any talks would be conditioned on Israel suspending construction of Jewish communities in post-1967 Israel, accepting previously signed agreements and agreeing to a two-state solution.
A meeting between Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud ‘Abbas will also not take place until these conditions are fulfilled, the sources said.
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