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January 16, 2017 2:03 pm

In ’60 Minutes’ Interview, Obama Downplays US-Israel Tensions During His Tenure

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President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem during Obama's visit to Israel in 2013. Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO.

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem during Obama’s visit to Israel in 2013. Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO.

JNS.org — In what was expected to be his last official interview, outgoing President Barack Obama downplayed the hit US-Israel ties has taken under his administration.

Obama told the CBS Sunday program 60 Minutes that he did not think his decision to abstain in the recent United Nations Security Council vote condemning Israel for settlement building has “caused a major rupture in relations” between the countries, and stood behind his policy of consistently criticizing Israeli construction in eastern Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria as the major obstacle to peace.

“Because of our investment in the region, and because we care so deeply about Israel, I think [America] has a legitimate interest in saying to a friend, ‘This is a problem.’ It would have long-term consequences for peace and security in the region, and the United States,” Obama said.

He also dismissed questions about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s voicing of serious concerns about the UN vote, as well as over other sources of US-Israel tension.

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“If you’re saying that Prime Minister Netanyahu got fired up [about the UN resolution], he’s been fired up repeatedly during the course of my presidency, around the Iran deal and around our consistent objection to settlements. So that part of it wasn’t new,” Obama said.

Netanyahu has expressed hope for a “new era” to be ushered in by the incoming US administration, with President-elect Donald Trump expressing markedly different views from his predecessor on Israel and the Palestinian issue, as evidenced in his selection of the pro-settlement David Friedman as his ambassador to Israel.

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