The U.S. drive to cut a deal over Iran's nuclear program and not the Palestinian issue is the real source of enduring tensions between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Officials close to the newly re-elected premier believe that Obama may be using the Palestinian issue to attack Netanyahu because of Israel's strenuous opposition to an agreement that leaves the Islamic Republic with the capacity to build nuclear weapons
, The New York Times
Yuval Steinitz, a senior cabinet minister
close to Netanyahu, told Israel Radio on Sunday that "strong disagreement we have with the United States over the Iran issue" was the root of tensions between Washington and Jerusalem.
"We cannot accept the idea that the whole world — the Iranians, the Europeans, the Americans — are talking about the nuclear agreement with Iran and we have to sit quietly on the side," he said.
Another Netanyahu confidant, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold, said recent campaign statements by Netanyahu on the Palestinian issue are unlikely to be the real reason for the administration's cold shoulder toward Israel.
"It must extend to the fact that they're about to cut a deal with Tehran and they know that Israel has serious reservations about the substance of that agreement." Gold said. The "cool winds blowing" from Washington were tied to the "paramount" Iran issue, he told the Times.
Administration officials complained that Netanyahu's campaign statements against a Palestinian state alongside Israel appeared to be a retraction of his 2009 partial endorsement of the two-state solution. They also criticized an Election Day comment in which he told supporters to get out and vote because Arab citizens of Israel were heading to the polling stations "in droves" with the aim of unseating him, the Times reported.
United States Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told Israel Radio on Sunday that Netanyahu's campaign comments and his insistence that they were being taken out of context created "a confusing situation that leads to doubt about what Israel's true policy is."
Shapiro said, "We have to reassess our outlook on what our standing is regarding the goal of how to progress in the direction of a solution of two states for two peoples; if negotiations are impossible, what other steps are correct," according to the Times.
Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer told NBC's "Meet the Press"
"didn't say what the president and others seem to suggest that he's saying."
Israel's position is unchanged, Dermer said. Jerusalem would accept a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognized Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. He added, "What has changed is the circumstances over the last few years," referring to the Arab Spring upheaval and the coalition government between Hamas
and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
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