WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama told Orthodox Jewish leaders on Tuesday that PA President Mahmoud Abbas
and the Palestinian Authority may be too politically weak to deliver a peace agreement and that he fears that the window of opportunity for a deal is closing.
Nevertheless, Obama said he intends to continue to promote the two-state solution. In a meeting with Orthodox Union
leaders at the White House Obama said that he had been consistent in his support for Israel
throughout his first term as president.
Obama said that differences with Israel were in part due to the quirk of history of a centrist US government and a right-wing Israeli government coexisting. He noted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
wanted to act without restraints, but that most leaders wanted the same. Netanyahu does not want to be seen as bowing to the US administration and being perceived as weak, he said.
Nevertheless, he stressed that he and Netanyahu got along well. He noted that his statement on settlement construction freeze was based on the position of the four previous administrations.
Asked about lessons learned from efforts to promote the peace process, he replied that Egypt and Syria were examples for the burning need to resolve the Palestinian issue. He said he had learned that the process was truly a tough one and that there were many opportunities for misunderstandings.
Obama noted that both Israel and the Palestinians felt the US pressure to reach a compromise which created tensions. He stressed that although Israel felt it was the only one being pressed, Washington did the same with the Palestinians. Obama added that the fact that the US was more responsive toward Israel created a problem with the Palestinians.
The US president stated that the fact that the White House declared that Israel's needs were the most important in the two-state solution proved it was pro-Israeli. He expressed hope that the parties would go forward with the peace process but admitted it was possible that the Palestinians were not interested in an agreement.
He noted that their position regarding the peace process had suffered a setback.
Obama stressed that his commitment to Israel could not be questioned but that he could not be expected to agree with Israel on all matters.
The meeting was also attended by Obama's Jewish chief of staff Jack Lew, Orthodox Union President Dr. Simcha Katz, OU Public Policy Director Nathan Diament and other Jewish leaders.