— by Amir Shoam
President Barack Obama gave an interview yesterday to Channel 2 News, the most popular in Israel, prior to his visit of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. “Taking 25 minutes of his time for this interview in this time of sequestration shows the importance of this visit to him,” said Yonit Levi, Channel 2 News’ main program anchor, who interviewed him.
“We’ve had some big crisis here in the US, so there’s been a lot of domestic work we had to do”, said the President. “What this trip allows me to do is to, I think, is to once again have a chance to connect with the Israeli people. There’s no substitute for that. The bonds between our two countries are so strong — not just shared values, but shared families and shared businesses”.
More after the jump.
About Iran’s developement of a nuclear weapon said the President:
There is a window — not an infinite period of time, but a window of time where we can resolve this diplomatically, and that is in all of our interests — Israel’s, the United States’, the World’s and Iran’s. Right now we think it would take over a year for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon, but obviously we don’t want to cut it too close. I continue to keep all options on the table. The United States has significant capabilities, but our goal here is to make sure that Iran does not possess a nuclear weapon that could threaten Israel or that can trigger an arms race in the region. Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel share my view that our commitment to Israel’s security is unbreakable.
About his image within some of the people in Israel, President Obama said:
I think some of this is politics. Particularly when there’s an election season coming up, like there was last year, the attempt to paint me as somehow not fully there and committed to Israel’s security, despite actions and words to the contrary, might have served some political purposes. Throughout my career I have admired not just Israel’s history, not just its core values, not just the incredible success that we’ve seen in terms of its economy, but also the fundamental right of Israel to be secure as a homeland for the Jewish people and its connection to the land. There had been times in which I had differences with some Israelis and pro-Israel individuals here in the United States about what’s the best way to preserve Israel as a democratic Jewish state in a very though neighborhood during a very difficult time. I’ve met with Bibi (Netanyahu) more than any other world leader. We’ve got a terrific business-like relationship, and we get stuff done. This is one of these unique times when you have what would be considered a center-left government here in the United States at the same time as you’ve got a more conservative government in Israel — usually things have lined up a little bit differently — so that probably puts a little bit of strain between our governments in terms of how certain issues should be pursued, but we always get them resolved.
About the Israel-Palestinian conflict the President said:
My goal on this trip is to listen. I’m intending to meet with Bibi and other leaders inside of Israel, I’m intending to meet with Fayad and Abu Mazen and to hear from them what is their strategy, what is their vision, where do they think they should go. What I do know is that is profoundly in the interest of both the Israeli people and the Palestinian people to get this resolved, in part because the environment has changed so drastically.
About the imprisoned Jewish spy Jonathan Pollard Obama said:
There is a justice system that allows for periodic review and the potential for him ultimately being released, and the way I, as President, function here is to try to make sure that I’m following the basic procedures and rules of that review. I have no plans for releasing Jonathan Pollard immediately.
About visiting Israel this time as a President he said:
I’d love to sit in a cafe and just hang out. The last time I was there, as a Senator, I still had the option of wandering through the old city in Jerusalem. That option, I think, becomes a lot trickier once you are actually President. Sometimes I have this fantasy, that I can put on a disguise, wear a fake mustache, and wander through Tel Aviv. It’s the toughest thing about being President — you can’t just slip out and interact with people without having a bunch of guys with machine guns around you.