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Obama: Bibi Too Strong in Polls to Compromise

'If he doesn’t feel some internal pressure, then it’s hard to see him... taking on the settler movement,' Obama tells NYT.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 8/9/2014, 8:59 PM

Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Flash 90

U.S. President Barack Obama opined in a New York Times interview that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is too popular at the moment to make territorial compromises with the Palestinian Authority.

Asked whether he should be more vigorous in pressing Netanyahu, and the Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, to reach a land-for-peace deal, Obama said that this has to start with them. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s “poll numbers are a lot higher than mine” and “were greatly boosted by the war in Gaza,” Obama said. “And so if he doesn’t feel some internal pressure, then it’s hard to see him being able to make some very difficult compromises, including taking on the settler movement. That’s a tough thing to do. 

With respect to Abu Mazen, it’s a slightly different problem. In some ways, Bibi is too strong [and] in some ways Abu Mazen is too weak to bring them together and make the kinds of bold decisions that Sadat or Begin or Rabin were willing to make. It’s going to require leadership among both the Palestinians and the Israelis to look beyond tomorrow. ... And that’s the hardest thing for politicians to do is to take the long view on things.”

Asked if he is worried about Israel's “long term survivability,” Obama said: “It is amazing to see what Israel has become over the last several decades... Think about the dream of the early Zionists and to have scratched out of rock this incredibly vibrant, incredibly successful, wealthy and powerful country is a testament to the ingenuity, energy and vision of the Jewish people.

“And because Israel is so capable militarily, I don’t worry about Israel’s survival. ... I think the question really is how does Israel survive. And how can you create a State of Israel that maintains its democratic and civic traditions. How can you preserve a Jewish state that is also reflective of the best values of those who founded Israel. And, in order to do that, it has consistently been my belief that you have to find a way to live side by side in peace with Palestinians. ... You have to recognize that they have legitimate claims, and this is their land and neighborhood as well.”