White House chief of staff Denis McDonough indicated Monday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will continue to have a tough time walking back his comments about rejecting a Palestinian state.
“We cannot simply pretend that these comments were never made,” McDonough told the liberal Israel advocacy group J Street at its annual conference in Washington.
Netanyahu said in the final hours of last week's campaign there would be no Palestinian state while he is prime minister. Even though Netanyahu stepped away from the comments afterward, saying he wants a two-state solution but that "circumstances" need to change first, the White House has seized on them, indicating it will need to reassess whether to stand with Israel should a Palestinian state resolution come down in the United Nations.
McDonough stressed that the United States solidly advocates for a two-state solution to protect Israel’s security and the sovereignty of the Palestinians.
“The Palestinian people must have the right to live and government themselves in their own sovereign state,” McDonough said.
He added that the two-state solution would enhance Israel’s security and deliver a “knockout punch” to boycott and divestment movements from against Israel.
The chief of staff went on to urge Congress not to harm the U.S.-led nuclear negotiations with Iran. Earlier this month, 47 Republican senators signed a letter to Iranian leaders saying the next president would not be bound to any deal the Obama administration made now.
“Congress played an important role in getting Iran to the table,” McDonough said. “Now they need to not harm the negotiations.”
He further said, “We can't remove diplomacy from America's tool box. That's not how we lead the world.”