Minister Gilad Erdan
Minister Gilad Erdan Israel News Photo: Flash 90

Likud leaders responded Monday to a statement from United States President Barack Obama, who said he “strongly supports” the creation of an Arab state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza and will “actively pursue” that goal. A formal response from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was overshadowed by a more fiery response from Minister Gilad Erdan, who said, “Israel does not take orders from Obama.”

Erdan termed Obama “a friend of Israel” and the U.S. “an important ally,” but said Israel ultimately makes its own decisions. “In voting for Netanyahu, the Israeli public has decided not to become the 51st U.S. state,” he said.

Erdan made his statements during a Knesset discussion on controversial statements made last week by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the head of the Yisrael Beiteinu party. Lieberman argued that while Israel is committed to the Road Map plan for dialogue with the Palestinian Authority, it is not committed to follow the more recent Annapolis conference understandings, which were never officially ratified by the Israeli government.

The U.S.-sponsored Annapolis conference plan called for the creation of a PA-led Arab state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza by the end of 2008. The Road Map plan links the creation of a PA state to the PA's willingness to fight terrorism within its territories.

Netanyahu's response to Obama's speech, issued by his office, thanked Obama for his “commitment to Israel's security and to the pursuit of peace.”

MK Nachman Shai of Kadima slammed Erdan's statement, saying, “On the eve of Prime Minister Netanyahu's trip to the U.S., the government is once again tossing a grenade into Obama's court.”

"It's time for the government to understand that the international community, led by the United States, sees the creation of two states for two peoples as the only solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict,” he added.