President Barack Obama Monday pressured Israel to make peace with hostile Arabs and issued some vague promises to punish Russia for its seizure of the Crimea.
“What we are also indicating to the Russians is if in fact they continue on the current trajectory that they’re on, that we are examining a whole series of steps — economic, diplomatic — that will isolate Russia and will have a negative impact on Russia’s economy and its status in the world,” Obama told reporters as he began a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Russia’s actions “are a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty [and its] territorial integrity … of international law [and] of previous agreements that Russia has made with respect to how it treats and respects its neighbors,” Obama complained.
Congress has a role in this crisis, he said.
Congress should “help provide a package of assistance to the Ukrainians, to the people and that government,” Obama said.
“When they get back in, assuming the weather clears, I would hope that that would be the first order of business. … We should be able to come up with a unified position that stands outside of partisan politics,” he said.
He also sought to claim the credit for any actions by Congress.
“And my expectation is, is that I’ll be able to get Congress to work with us in order to achieve that goal.”
Obama’s Monday meeting with Netanyahu followed the Sunday publication of an interview in which Obama suggested that Israeli reluctance to sign a peace deal with Arabs — before the Arabs collectively adopt a political consensus that Israel has a moral right to exist — may cause him to cut diplomatic support for Israel in the United Nations.
That’s a dire threat, because Arab countries would try to use the U.N. to impose trade sanctions on Israel.
“We [have] had to stand up in the [U.N.] Security Council [for Israel] in ways that 20 years ago would have involved far more European support, far more support from other parts of the world when it comes to Israel’s position,” Obama told an interviewer with Bloomberg.
“And that’s a reflection of a genuine sense on the part of a lot of countries out there that this [Arab vs. Israel] issue continues to fester, is not getting resolved, and that nobody is willing to take the leap to bring it to closure,” he said.
But Obama showed enormous deference to the Palestinians, despite the continued Arab missile attacks, shootings and bombings of Jews by Arabs.
“I believe that [Arab] President Abbas is sincere about his willingness to recognize Israel and its right to exist, to recognize Israel’s legitimate security needs, to shun violence, to resolve these issues in a diplomatic fashion that meets the concerns of the people of Israel,” Obama insisted.
In response, Netanyahu told Obama during their Monday meeting that the Arabs refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist, despite a stream of Israel concessions.
“When you look at what we got in return, it’s been scores of suicide bombings, thousands of rockets on our cities fired from the areas we vacated, and just incessant Palestinian incitement against Israel,” Netanyahu said to Obama while the cameras rolled.
“So Israel has been doing its part, and I regret to say that the Palestinians haven’t,” he added. “I know this flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but it’s the truth. … [Israelis want a] peace that is anchored in mutual recognition of two nation states that recognize and respect one another, and solid security arrangements on the ground.”