Obama warns against Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria

In one of his last interviews as president, Obama defended his policies on Israel, which many view as hostile toward the Jewish state. 

President Barack Obama warned in an interview broadcast Tuesday that “unfettered support” for Israel’s policies regarding its presence in Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem would lead to a “worsening situation” over time between Israel and the Palestinians.

The interview with Israeli TV program “Uvda” comes 10 days before Obama, who has been an outspoken critic of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria, hands power over to President-elect Donald Trump. Trump is expected to pursue a starkly different approach to the issue.

“If the notion is that unfettered support for Israel or more specifically support for the Netanyahu government’s policies — no matter what they are, no matter how inimical they may be to the prospects for peace — if that’s what qualifies as a good friend, then I think that we will see a worsening situation over time,” Obama said during the interview, which was filmed in Washington last week.

Obama insisted that Israel had a friend in the White House when he was in office, whether or not Netanyahu viewed it that way.

Netanyahu “had a good friend the last eight years” in the White House, but “Bibi didn’t always recognize it,” insisted Obama.

Netanyahu has accused the Obama administration of colluding with the Palestinians when it abstained last month from voting on a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution condemning Israel. On Tuesday, Netanyahu reiterated that claim, saying Israel had “solid information” that proved the Obama administration was behind the drafting of the resolution.

The White House has denied the allegations, and Israel is holding back on making the evidence public, saying it will provide the proof to the Trump administration and let Trump decide whether to publicize the evidence.

Obama said that Israel’s accusations “may work well with deflecting attention from the problem of settlements, they may play well with Bibi’s political base, as well as the Republican base here in the United States, but they don’t match up with the facts.”

Obama defended his decision to have the US abstain rather than veto the anti-Israel resolution, claiming “I believe it was the best move for peace.”

Obama did not address Israeli security concerns in his responses. Israeli leaders across the political spectrum consider a return to the ’67 borders to be risky, with the dovish Labor Party Foreign Minister Abba Eban having declared at the UN, “We have openly said that the map will never again be the same as on June 4, 1967. For us, this is a matter of security and of principles. The June map is for us equivalent to insecurity and danger. I do not exaggerate when I say that it has for us something of a memory of Auschwitz.”

Nearly 600,000 Israelis now live in Judea and Samaria and east Jerusalem, territories the Palestinians claim as part of a future state.

Netanyahu routinely dismisses international criticism of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria,  saying the conflict predates them and that a demand to remove Israelis from the region is tantamount to ethnic cleansing.

While Trump has indicated a willingness to help broker peace, his election platform did not mention a Palestinian state and he has taken steps that show he plans to side with Israel when it comes to Israel’s borders and security. He has appointed an ambassador to Israel with deep ties to Judea and Samaria and he has pledged to relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem, a move the Palestinian leadership demanded he refrain from making.

Most recently, Trump has appointed his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as a senior adviser expected to focus on Middle East issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Kushner’s family’s foundation has supported Israeli causes.

By: AP and World Israel News Staff