JERUSALEM (AP) — President Barack Obama said in remarks broadcast Tuesday that Israel's prime minister had reinforced a belief by the international community that Israel is not committed to peace when he said there would be no Palestinian state on his watch.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has walked back those comments, made in the frantic days before a March election, asserting that he is committed to a Palestinian state under certain conditions. But Obama said the initial comments were "fairly unequivocal."
"Already, the international community does not believe that Israel is serious about a two-state solution. The statement the prime minister made compounded that belief that there's not a commitment there," Obama told Israeli Channel 2 TV's investigative program "Uvda."
Netanyahu had made a last-ditch attempt to rally voters by reversing a previous commitment to a Palestinian state. He also warned his nationalist supporters that Arab-Israelis were heading to the polls "in droves." He has since apologized.
After Netanyahu's remarks about his commitment to a Palestinian state, Obama said he would reassess U.S. policy toward Israel.
In the interview broadcast Tuesday, Obama voiced concerns over Israel having a "politics that's motivated only by fear," which he said could stand in the way of peace with the Palestinians.
"I think Prime Minister Netanyahu is somebody who's predisposed to think of security first; to think perhaps that peace is naïve; to see the worst possibilities as opposed to the best possibilities in Arab partners or Palestinian partners. And so I do think that, right now, those politics and those fears are driving the government's response," he said.
Obama and Netanyahu have had a tense relationship and are split on how to address Iran's nuclear program.
Obama's administration has worked with world powers to try to reach a comprehensive agreement with Iran that would scale back the program in exchange for sanctions relief. Netanyahu is adamantly opposed to the emerging agreement, saying it would fail to prevent Tehran from getting a nuclear weapon.
In Tuesday's interview, Obama appealed to Israelis, saying that only diplomacy, not a military option, can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.