WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama plans to act firmly and decisively in order to reach durable peace, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said Sunday night in a closed forum attended by 300 of the biggest donors of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The event was held as part of the pro-Israel's lobby annual conference in Washington.
He reiterated that the ability to confront Iran depended on the ability to make progress on the Palestinian front. Solving the conflict will make it possible to advance the handling of the main threat posed by Iran, he said.
On the eve of President Shimon Peres' meeting with Obama at the White House, and two weeks before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's first meeting with the US president at the Oval Office, Emanuel left no room for doubts in regards to the American stance.
This president is going to act firmly and decisively to achieve durable peace, he said, adding that this was the moment of truth in the process. This is Israel's moment of truth and the Palestinians' moment of truth and the moment of truth of all the region's nations, he said.
The White House chief of staff clarified that the foundation for an agreement between the two sides must be security for Israel and a sovereign state for the Palestinians. The US is committed to the two-state process, he said, adding that this was the only solutions.
All sides must meet their commitments, as difficult as they may be, he noted.
Strategic alliesEmanuel reiterated America's deep commitment to Israel, saying that Israel and the US were strategic allies, regardless of the identity of the governments serving in each country. The US is Israel's ally and will guarantee its security under all circumstances, he promised.
The son of an Israeli who is a former Irgun (National Military Organization) fighter, Rahm Emanuel is today one of the strongest men in the White House after President Obama.
Emanuel explained Obama's determination to pressure the sides to reach a peace agreement by the fact that when there was no progress in the process there was an intifada, an escalation in Lebanon and an escalation in the Gaza Strip. When there is no peace, he said, it benefits those who are against Israel. If Israel fails to make peace with its neighbors there will be those who will favor violence, he stated.
Emanuel went on to speak of the problems on the Israeli side – the settlement and outpost issue – without elaborating on what Israel was required to do. He also clarified that Arab countries would have to move forward towards Israel. Each side will have to meet its commitments, he said.
Despite reports on an alleged "softening" in the American administration's approach towards Hamas, the White House chief of staff clarified that nothing has changed on this matter compared to the Bush administration's policy.
According to Emanuel, the US expects Hamas to accept the international Quartet's principles – recognizing Israel and past agreements and renouncing terror. If Hamas fails to do so, he said, it will have no seat beside the negotiating table.