WASHINGTON, D.C.: The US vowed on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) to continue to push for a Palestinian state, but admitted a hardline campaign stand by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has forced a re-evaluation of its strategy.
Netanyahu’s election victory was met coolly by the White House, which left Secretary of State John Kerry the job of phoning the Israeli leader to congratulate him—taking a break from talks on a controversial Iran nuclear deal to do so.
US President Barack Obama will call “in the coming days,” the White House said.
“It was a brief phone call,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki added, refusing to characterize it as a “warm” conversation amid frosty relations between Netanyahu and the Obama administration.
US officials stressed Washington would not be swayed from its official policy that any Israeli-Palestinian peace deal should result in two states living side-by-side.
In the final days of his campaign, Netanyahu managed to deepen the discord with the Obama administration by pledging there would be no Palestinian state on his watch, and promising to build thousands more settlements in east Jerusalem.
“It continues to be the view of the president that a two-state solution is the best way to address” tensions with the Palestinians, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said
He also castigated Netanyahu’s Likud party for sharp rhetoric “that seeks to marginalize Arab-Israeli citizens” after the prime minister urged supporters to the polls warning “Arab voters are coming out in droves.”
Psaki added that “only a two-state solution that results in a secure Israel alongside a sovereign and independent Palestine can bring lasting peace and stability to both peoples.”
“A two-state solution is the only way for the next Israeli government to secure Israel as a Jewish and democratic state,” she insisted, highlighting the demographic trend which points to a growing Arab population.
But she acknowledged that, given Netanyahu’s campaign pledges, the administration “will be evaluating our approach with regard to how best to achieve a two-state solution.”
Although Psaki refused “to prejudge at this point what that means,” speculation is swirling about whether the US may, for example, lift the diplomatic cover it has long given Israel at the United Nations Security Council, amid unilateral Palestinian moves to seek statehood.
Relations between Israel and its traditionally staunch US ally are at an all-time low, and Netanyahu has a notoriously frosty relationship with Obama.
The Israeli leader’s dramatic appearance earlier this month before the US Congress to denounce the emerging nuclear deal with Iran only served to widened the chasm.