18 March 2010
US President Barack Obama has denied that there is a deep crisis in America’s relations with Israel. In an interview with the US television network ‘Fox News’, he said: “We and the Israeli people have a special bond that is not going to go away." Admitting that the Israeli housing project in east Jerusalem reflected a disagreement between the two sides, he said that "friends are going to disagree sometimes... there is a disagreement in terms of how we can move this peace process forward."
Obama also reiterated that the US would push for "aggressive sanctions" to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon: "As we have seen, the Iranian government has been more concerned about preventing their people from exercising their democratic and human rights than trying to solve this problem diplomatically.”
He said: “We haven't taken any options off the table. We are going to keep on pushing.” Obama said preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon was one of his administration's highest priorities. "It is a hard problem, but is a problem that we need to solve because if Iran gets a nuclear weapon then you could potentially see a nuclear arms race throughout the Middle East and that would be tremendously damaging to our national security interests.”
Meanwhile, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has distanced himself from an attack on Obama made by his wife Sara’s brother, Hagai Ben-Artzi, who had accused the US president of being an anti-Semite. Obama not only disliked Netanyahu personally, but "dislikes the people of Israel,” Ben-Artzi said, adding: "As a politician running for presidency he had to hide it, but it comes out every time and I think we just have to say it plainly – there is an anti-Semitic president in America.” Netanyahu said he "strenuously" objected to his brother-in-law's comments and expressed his "deep appreciation" for Obama's commitment to Israel's security.
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