Former US Secretary Of State Laments Lack Of Progress In Lasting Peace For Palestine

It’s not just Democrats and White House officials who’ve got problems with Benjamin Netanyahu.

Blasting “diplomatic missteps and political gamesmanship,” former Secretary of State James Baker laid in hard to the Israeli prime minister on Monday evening, criticizing him for an insufficient commitment to peace and an absolutist opposition to the Iran nuclear talks.

Baker told the gala dinner for the left-leaning Israeli advocacy group J Street that he supported efforts to get a deal with Tehran — but he called for President Barack Obama to bring any agreement before Congress, even though he may not legally be required to do so.

Baker, who was the chief diplomat for President George H.W. Bush and is now advising Jeb Bush on his presidential campaign, cited mounting frustrations with Netanyahu over the past six years — but particularly with comments he made in the closing days of last week’s election disavowing his support for a two-state solution and support for settlements strategically placed to attempt to change the borders between Israel and the West Bank.

“Frankly, I have been disappointed with the lack of progress regarding a lasting peace — and I have been for some time,” Baker said. And “in the aftermath of Netanyahu’s recent election victory, the chance of a two-state solution seems even slimmer, given his reversal on the issue.”

Baker said while Netanyahu has said he’s for peace, “his actions have not matched his rhetoric.”

Some Republicans in Congress have claimed Obama has eroded American support of Israel.

That’s wrong, too, Baker said.

“No one around the entire world should ever doubt America’s commitment to Israel, Not now, or at any point in the future,” he said.

Earlier in the day at the conference, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough reiterated Obama’s frustration with Netanyahu, saying that the administration is holding the prime minister to his comments ruling out a two-state solution — even though Netanyahu immediately began to walk those comments back the day after his Likud Party won a resounding number of seats in the Israeli Knesset.

Baker said he’s also holding to Netanyahu’s pre-election comments — and pointed out how out of sync he believes the Israeli leader is with his own country, and with Washington.

“Although Netanyahu and his right-and-center coalition may oppose a two-state solution, a land-for-peace approach has long been supported by a substantial portion of the Israeli body politic, by every American [administration] since 1967 — Republican and Democratic alike — and a vast majority of nations around the world,” Baker said.

As to Netanyahu’s opposition on Iran, Baker warned against seeking only a perfect deal.

“If the only agreement is one in which there is no enrichment, then there will be no agreement,” Baker said.

After all, Baker said, no military solution could work in his assessment: an American strike would only generate more support among Iranians for the fundamentalist government, and an Israeli strike would neither be as effective nor carry American support.

This isn’t the only tough moment in U.S.-Israeli relations, Baker said, recounting some of his own head-butting in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In those days, the administration was dealing with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, a hard-liner who referred to Netanyahu as “too soft,” according to Baker.

The danger now, Baker said, is the personalization and politicization of the disputes between the governments in Washington and Jerusalem.

“This is of course a delicate moment in the Middle East, and will require clear thinking from leaders,” Baker said. “That clear thinking should not be muddled by partisan politics.”



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