President Barack Obama suggested in a groundbreaking new interview that Benjamin Netanyahu may lack the political courage to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians.
Interviewed by Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, Obama said Israel doesn’t face questions about its survival but rather about how it can maintain its democratic and civic traditions, while living side by side in peace with Palestinians.
“[B]ecause Israel is so capable militarily, I don’t worry about Israel’s survival… I think the question really is how does Israel survive,” Obama told Friedman in a filmed interview, the complete version of which will be published later this weekend.
Asked about his role in pressing forward negotiations for a two-state solution, Obama said prospects for progress rest primarily on the leadership of Israel and the Palestinians.
Obama noted that Netanyahu’s popularity in the wake of the war in Gaza may be a mixed blessing.
“And so if he doesn’t feel some internal pressure, then it’s hard to see him being able to make some very difficult compromises, including taking on the settler movement,” Obama said. “That’s a tough thing to do.”
He said Palestinian premier Mahmoud Abbas may lack the political power to make needed compromises.
“With respect to [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas], it’s a slightly different problem. In some ways, Bibi is too strong [and] in some ways [Abbas] is too weak to bring them together and make the kinds of bold decisions that Sadat or Begin or Rabin were willing to make. It’s going to require leadership among both the Palestinians and the Israelis to look beyond tomorrow. […] And that’s the hardest thing for politicians to do is to take the long view on things,” said Obama.