Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat- The White House yesterday denied reports published in the New York Times that President Barack Obama has pledged not to veto UN resolutions condemning Israel should Tel Aviv “undermine trust” between Israel and Palestine.
The New York Times claimed that this pledge was included in a letter conveyed to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas from US President Barack Obama, and that he also stressed his commitment to the peace process and encouraged Abbas to resume negotiations with Israel. In this op-ed article, the New York Times said that “if Israel seriously undermines trust between the two parties [Israel and Palestine], the United States will not stand in the way of a United Nationals resolution condemning that.”
However a White House official speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat denied that the President had made any such pledge and said that “this report is inaccurate.” The US official added that “our policy on issues concerning Israel at the UN will not change.”
The White House official also told Asharq Al-Awsat “We will continue to issue strong statements on Israel’s right to self defense, and we will continue to oppose efforts that solely and unjustly condemn Israel.”
The White House refused to comment on the content of Obama’s letter to Abbas, and the US official said “we have asked both sides to take steps to rebuild confidence and move forward with indirect talks.”
The White House source also said “we will not go into the details of these requests because we believe that this should be discussed through private diplomatic channels.”
US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates conducted a joint press conference with Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barack on Tuesday, during which the two officials discussed advancing the Middle East peace process and increasing pressure on Iran.
For his part, US National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer told Asharq Al-Awsat that President Obama is “optimistic” about the possibility of resuming negotiations and achieving peace.
However Hammer refused to discuss details of the meeting that took place between President Obama and Ehud Barak on Tuesday, saying only “The President is naturally optimistic and we are optimistic…we want a resumption of negotiations as soon as possible.”
Answering a question about the potential impact that the Iranian nuclear file could have on the peace process, Hammer stressed that the US administration is equally concerned and attentive to both issues.