Obama tells Israel: make peace or face fallout alone
President Barack Obama has urged Benjamin Netan- yahu to seize the fading chance for peace with the Palestinians, warning that the US may not be able to shield Israel from the "international fallout" if no deal was reached.
Breaking a months-long silence on the US-brokered peace talks, Mr Obama yesterday made clear that he believed it was up to Israel to make the next move and break the stalemate.
The president borrowed an ancient Jewish proverb as he challenged Mr Netanyahu to take on the historic risks and opportunities of a deal: "If not now, when? And if not you, Mr Prime Minister, then who?" Speaking before the two leaders met at the White House, Mr Netanyahu insisted that it was the Palestinians, not him, who were preventing a deal from being reached.
"The tango in the Middle East needs at least three," he said as he landed in Washington.
"For years there have been two – Israel and the US. Now it needs to be seen if the Palestinians are also present."
In an interview with Bloomberg, Mr Obama said he believed that a peace agreement could still be reached but that "it gets harder by the day".
He said the growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the surging Palestinian population living within Israel, or under Israeli occupation, would eventually undercut chances for an agreement.
The US has traditionally used its power at the UN, including its Security Council veto, to protect Israel, but Mr Obama hinted that such a position could become unsustainable in the face of global pressure.
"If Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited," he said.
President Obama also said that he believed Mr Netanyahu had "the credibility" and political strength to make a deal while still holding together his fractious coalition government. "For him to seize this moment is perhaps the greatest gift he could give to future generations of Israelis," Mr Obama said.
Mr Netanyahu has forcefully denounced the White House's willingness to negotiate with Iran, calling the interim nuclear agreement signed in Geneva last year "a historic mistake".
Mr Obama defended the talks, insisting that Iran was "not North Korea" and would respond rationally to pressures and incentives from the negotiating bloc of the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany. (© Daily Telegraph, London)