Speaking before J Street conference attendees in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough amplified President Obama’s policy rift with Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.
Responding to Netanyahu’s pre-election rejection of Palestinian statehood and subsequent attempts to walk back said rejection, McDonough had this to say:
“We cannot simply pretend that those comments were never made,” McDonough told the J Street conference in Washington, whose left-leaning audience received his remarks enthusiastically.
“Israel cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely,” he said. “An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end.”
The comments, notable among other things for the Obama administration’s explicit use of “occupation,” come on the heels of reports that the White House may abandon Israel at the U.N. as a way to save the two-state ideal.
Indeed, President Obama hinted that administration officials are considering such an option in an interview with The Huffington Post on Friday, which clearly informed McDonough’s comments today in Washington:
President Barack Obama is operating under the assumption that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not support the creation of a Palestinian state, despite the Israeli leader’s post-election efforts to recast himself as amenable to a two-state solution.
“We take him at his word when he said that it wouldn’t happen during his prime ministership, and so that’s why we’ve got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don’t see a chaotic situation in the region.”
Washington’s support for Israel’s foreign policy is clearly eroding in the wake of Netanyahu’s election victory. How far the Obama administration will go toward pressuring Israel to change course remains to be seen.
As an American Jew, I fully support the Obama administration using any peaceful policy necessary to force Israel to end it’s decades-old occupation, remove its settlements and seek a real, viable peace.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.