JERUSALEM – President Barack Obama on Monday denied betraying Israel by not using the U.S. veto against an anti-settlement resolution at the United Nations Security Council last month.
Obama said it was his duty as president “to do what I think is right,” according to an interview he gave on Israeli television.
“I did believe it was important to send a signal and to lift up the facts that so often get buried under other news in terms of what is happening with settlements in the West Bank,” he said. “The fact of the matter is that I’m president until January 20, and I have an obligation to do what I think is right.”
Channel 2’s interviewer, Ilana Dayan, asked the president what his reaction was to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration that the measure was “shameful” and that Obama had initiated the resolution himself. Did he understand Israel’s “sense of betrayal?”
“No,” Obama replied. “I’ll be honest with you: That kind of hyperbole, those kinds of statements, don’t have a basis in fact.”
“They may work well with respect to deflecting attention from the problem of settlements,” the president continued. “They may play well with Bibi’s political base, as well as the Republican base here in the United States, but they don’t match up with the facts.”
Dayan asked Obama whether he had more surprises up his sleeve at the UN before his term is up or whether Netanyahu could sleep soundly until President-elect Donald Trump takes over on January 20.
Obama’s response was cynical: “Well, I think there’s an interesting question as to whether he’ll sleep better after January 20,” he said.
He further suggested that if Trump chooses to support Israel no matter what its policies are, the situation will only deteriorate.
“Unfettered support for Israel, and support for the Netanyahu government’s policies, no matter what they are, no matter how inimical they may be to the prospect of peace, if that’s what qualifies as a good friend, I believe we will see a worsening situation over time,” he said.
According to the report, Obama said Netanyahu had a friend in the White House for eight years but failed to recognize that fact. He also reemphasized that the U.S. has a deep commitment to the Jewish state, but added the caveat that this commitment is to an Israel that respects human rights.
Obama and Netanyahu have had a frosty relationship over the past eight years, often sparring on various issues, not least of which were settlements and the nuclear deal with Iran.