Denis McDonough tells J Street US remains committed to Israel’s security, slams Netanyahu’s election comments
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told the J Street lobby group on Monday that Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank “that has lasted for more than 50 years must end.”
Despite his reassurance that America’s commitment to Israeli national security would “never waver”, the statement represented especially harsh wording for Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, whose ties with the Obama administration are notoriously weak.
The White House chief also reprimanded Netanyahu’s statements that he made during the recent election, which called into question his commitment to a two state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.
McDonough said that the US remains committed to the two-state solution and that the PM’s comments on the matter last week cannot be ignored.
“We cannot simply pretend that these comments were never made,” McDonough told the liberal Jewish American group, saying Netanyahu’s stance on the issue was “very troubling.”
“No matter who leads Israel, America’s commitment to Israeli national security will never waver,” he added.
“The best way to safeguard Israel’s long-term security is to bring about a comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” McDonough said. “That’s why the prime minister’s comments on the eve of the election [that] made very clear that a Palestinian state will not be established while he is prime minister were so very troubling.”
On the Monday before he was re-elected, Netanyahu was asked if it were true that there would be no Palestinian state were he to remain in office.
“Indeed,” he said, later adding that a two-state solution was now irrelevant because the “reality has changed.”
But by Thursday, he was emphatically denying having set himself in opposition to decades of US policy by going back on his commitment to Palestinian statehood.
“I said that the conditions for that, today, are not achievable,” Netanyahu said in a round of remarks to US media.
“I haven’t changed my policy. What has changed is the reality. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that circumstances have to change.”
McDonough said about the backtracking, “We cannot simply pretend that these comments were never made.”
He denied that the relations between Netanyahu and Obama were a result of a clash of personalities between the two leaders. He said that it stemmed from America’s commitment to a two state solution which is “fundamental to American foreign policy.”
“We will look to the next Israeli government to match words with action and to policies that demonstrates a commitment to a two state solution,” McDonough said.
“In the end, we know what a peace agreement should looks like,” he said. “The borders should be based on the 1967 lines, and robust provisions that safeguard Israel’s security.”