Who can say for sure why the sudden 180 on Israel. I won’t speculate. Ridiculous that it even had to come to this, but he did the right thing.
Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu hail ‘unbreakable’ bond of US and Israel
Barack Obama yesterday backed calls by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli premier, to resume direct peace talks with the Palestinians as both men hailed the “unbreakable” bond between the United States and Israel.
In a pointed display of togetherness, Mr Obama, the US president, also praised Israel for easing the Gaza embargo and allowing easier movement on consumer goods into the Palestinian area, though he did cite continuing “tensions” over the blockade.
White House officials had indicated beforehand that Mr Obama would push Mr Netanyahu to extend Israel’s freeze on settlement expansion. But Mr Obama declined to do this publicly, instead stating that there were “a range of confidence-building measures that can be taken by all sides” when asked about the settlement issue.
The effusive language and a warm handshake before the cameras that lasted several seconds was in striking contrast to the coolness of their last meeting when the Israeli leader and his aides were left alone in the West Wing as Mr Obama dined privately. .
That meeting, in which there was no photo opportunity or press conference, followed the humiliation of Vice President Joe Biden in Israel in March when the Jewish state announced plans to expand a Jewish settlement in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem, blindsiding their American guest.
After a tense dinner conversation between the two men, Mr Biden issued a strongly-worded statement denouncing the “substance and timing of the announcement” and describing it as “precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now”.
This time, Mr Obama lavished praise on Mr Netanyahu and said that the relationship between the US and Israel was “unbreakable’ and enduring. Mr Netanyahu denounced reports of a US-Israeli rift as “flat wrong”.
Mr Obama said: “It encompasses our national security interests, our strategic interests, but most importantly the bond of two democracies who share a common set of values and whose people have grown closer and closer as time goes on.”
The president said he was convinced that Mr Netanyahu “wants peace” in the Middle East and was “willing to take risks for peace”. The US would never ask Israel to “take any steps that would undermine its security interests,” he said.