Former US President Bill Clinton called Sunday upon the Israeli public during his speech at the Saban Forum in Jerusalem not to be negative towards the current American administration.
In an interview with journalist Nahum Barnea, Clinton said that he does not think Israelis need to feel so negatively towards US President Barack Obama, mentioning that Obama came into office at the end of Operation Cast Lead and did all he could to prevent the adoption of the Goldstone Report.
He said that all of America wishes Israel well and would like to see a resolution to the Middle East conflict. Clinton assured Israel that Washington is committed to its security. The US, however, must tell Israel what it thinks, but cannot force it to do anything it does not want to, he said. He also said that Israel must also want the US president to be accepted by non-extremist Muslims in the world.
When asked about Iran's nuclear program, Clinton clarified that he was speaking only on his own behalf, and not on his wife's. He said that he sees increased European support for the American position than there was in the past, saying that the Europeans have finally understood that the true problem is that if Iran has a bomb, all of its neighbors will also want one.
'Must keep all the options on the table'
According to Clinton, the Iranian regime is far less "crazy" than Israel thinks. He said that all options must be kept on the table and that Israel must work efficiently – no less and no more – and emphasized that the true threat is not in a nuclear Iran, but in nuclear proliferation throughout the region.
Clinton said that if Geneva talks are not successful, harsh sanctions must be imposed on the Islamic Republic. Clinton said that if one positive thing has come from the fact that the Iranian nuclear issue has not be resolved, it is that Arab states are showing increasing willingness to be open and friendly towards Israel.
In reference to freezing settlement building, Clinton said that the move is a landmark in the peace process because it is the first time an Israeli government has said it will not build new settlements, saying that this needs to be a significant enough move to reopen the door to peace talks.
Clinton mentioned that the Palestinians have always tended to believe that if the US wants something badly enough, it will be able to convince the Israeli government of their position. This is not true, according to Clinton. He said, however, that Israel should be comforted by the fact that 90% of the US Congress voted against the Goldstone Report.
Clinton admitted that it seemed as though the relationship between Netanyahu and Obama got off to a rough start, but that he believes this is behind them, noting that many people are able to do business together though they do not particularly like each other. He suggested that the two be painfully honest with each other in private talks and more diplomatic with one another in public so as to avoid over-complicating issues.
Clinton said that he would not be surprised if the current administration will be the one to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He called upon Israel not to be frustrated by the process. To this end, he noted that two things remain unchanged since slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin spoke on the White House lawn in 1993: geography and demographics.
He said that the Palestinians have more children than Israelis can have, adding that it is only a matter of time until Palestinian rockets have navigational systems, and they will be able to kill more people. Therefore, it is urgent that the Israelis and the Palestinians make peace, he said.