Top White House official calls for end to ’50-year occupation’ | The Times of Israel
WASHINGTON — White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough called for the end of Israel’s “50-year occupation” and doubled down on the Obama administration’s critique of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a warmly received speech to the lobbying group J Street in Washington Monday.
Speaking to to the dovish group’s national conference, McDonough became the latest in a series of Washington officials to highlight the administration’s displeasure with Netanyahu, while also talking up the permanence of US-Israel ties, repeating Washington’s commitment to continued military, security and intelligence cooperation.
“No matter who leads Israel, America’s commitment to Israel’s security will never waiver,” McDonough said.
At the same time, McDonough said later, “an occupation that has lasted for more than 50 years must end,” referring to Israel’s 48-year hold on the West Bank.
The statement represented an unusually harsh repudiation of Israel’s control over the Palestinian territories, using a term the administration has historically avoided.
The longtime confidant to US President Barack Obama said that the administration believes that “the best way to safeguard Israel’s longterm security is to bring about a comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Washington, he said, “has long advocated direct negotiations” toward a two-state solution – a position he noted that Netanyahu embraced in his 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University.
“That’s why the prime minister’s comments on the eve of the election [that] made very clear that a Palestinian state will not be established while he is prime minister were so very troubling,” McDonough said, referring to comments made by Netanyahu in a pre-election interview with the NRG website in which he seemed to take a Palestinian state off the table.
McDonough rejected Netanyahu’s claims that he had not changed his position, as well as Netanyahu’s explanation that conditions in the Middle East must be more stable for a Palestinian state to be established.
“We cannot simply pretend that these comments were never made,” McDonough proclaimed, receiving a standing ovation from the 3,000-person audience.
McDonough did not, however, address the first pre-condition that Netanyahu stipulated earlier this week for Palestinian statehood – that the Palestinian Authority renounce its nearly year-old alliance with Hamas.
McDonough denied that the basis of the current low in US-Israel relations was based upon bad personal chemistry between Obama and Netanyahu.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said, arguing instead that it stems from the fact that “America’s commitment to a two state solution is fundamental to American foreign policy.”
“We will look to the next Israeli government to match words with action and to policies that demonstrates a commitment to a two state solution,” McDonough said.
McDonough said that “in the end, we know what a peace agreement should look like,” including borders based on the 1967 lines that are “secure and recognized” and that guarantee Israel’s security.
“In the end we know what a peace agreement should look like – the borders should be based on the 1967 lines, and robust provisions that safeguard Israel’s security.”