President Barack Obama said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vow to oppose a two-state solution makes "it hard to find a path" to serious peace talks, despite Netanyahu’s post-election comments that he is open to the idea.
"We take him at his word when he said that it wouldn't happen during his prime ministership, and so that's why we've got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don't see a chaotic situation in the region," Obama said in an interview with the Huffington Post that was published Saturday.
Obama told the news organization that he raised concerns to Netanyahu after his victory in Israel’s elections Tuesday, indicating to the prime minister that "it is going to be hard to find a path where people are seriously believing that negotiations are possible."
Leading up to the election, Netanyahu declared that he would not allow the establishment of a Palestinian state. But on Thursday, in his first American interview since winning re-election, Netanyahu told NBC News, "I don't want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution."
Netanyahu's already strained relationship with the U.S. frayed further in recent weeks when the prime minister spoke in Congress against a nuclear deal with Iran.
Obama told the Huffington Post that he was dismayed by Netanyahu’s election day warning that "Arab voters are coming in droves to the ballot boxes. Left-wing NGOs bring them in buses."
"We indicated that that kind of rhetoric was contrary to what is the best of Israel's traditions. That although Israel was founded based on the historic Jewish homeland and the need to have a Jewish homeland, Israeli democracy has been premised on everybody in the country being treated equally and fairly," Obama told the Huffington Post.
"And I think that that is what's best about Israeli democracy," Obama said. "If that is lost, then I think that not only does it give ammunition to folks who don't believe in a Jewish state, but it also I think starts to erode the meaning of democracy in the country."
Obama said he doesn't think the elections will have a significant impact on the ability of the U.S. to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran. He repeated his commitment that Iran not be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon.
"What is going to have an effect on whether we get a deal done is, number one, is Iran prepared to show, to prove to the world that it is not developing a nuclear weapon, and can we verify that in an intrusive, consistent way," Obama said.
"And frankly, they have not yet made the kind of concessions that are I think going to be needed for a final deal to get done," he said. "But they have moved, and so there's the possibility."