Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Sunday that his nation’s bond with the United States and President Obama remains strong, but he declined to counter harsh criticism of Obama’s Middle East policy by Republican presidential candidates.
Speaking as the United Nations’ Security Council prepares to debate an application to create a Palestinian state—a move Obama has pledged the United States will block—Netanyahu said he stands ready to sit down and negotiate a peace deal. But he said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ request for UN intervention was undermining peace efforts.
“I think the Palestinians are trying to get away without negotiating,” Netanyahu said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “They’re trying to basically detour around peace negotiations by going to the United Nations and having the automatic majority in the United Nations General Assembly give them a state.”
Netanyahu’s comments followed Abbas’s return to the West Bank over the weekend, where he was greeted with a hero’s welcome after making the statehood application to the UN in the face of tremendous pressure from the United States to drop the bid.
Abbas suggested to reporters that he would likely reject a new blueprint for talks advanced by international mediators because he believed it did not adequately address Palestinian conditions for talks.
Netanyahu said he stood ready to meet Abbas at any time, insisting he would have met at the UN building in New York City, which both men visited last week to address the statehood issue.
But he said he would not end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank without a negotiated deal that offered Israel security guarantees. He rejected suggestions that Israel’s position has caused the country to become more isolated as Muslim nations have rebelled against dictators who had been less hostile to the Jewish state during the so-called Arab Spring.
“I’m not going to head recklessly to feed more territory to the insatiable crocodile of militant Islam, as I call it,” Netanyahu said during the “Meet the Press” interview. “I want to first erect a wall against this military that takes over every territory that we vacate. I want to make sure that it doesn’t snap its gaping jaws, as I said, and devour us for dinner. That’s peace.”
Israel’s position remains viable, Netanyahu said, because of its strong friendship with the United States, which he said crosses party lines and has been represented by each occupant of the White House, including President Obama.
But asked if he disagreed with comments from Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who last week referred to Obama’s policy toward Israel as “naive, arrogant, misguided and dangerous,” Netanyahu demurred.
“David,” he replied to “Meet the Press” host David Gregory, “you’re trying to throw me under the bus of America politics. Well, guess what. I’m not going to be thrown.
“I think the important thing to understand is this, and this is the truth about American politics. Israel enjoys tremendous bipartisan support,” Netanyahu said.