By AMY TEIBEL
Associated Press Writer
JERUSALEM May 20, 2009
Media focus on the idea of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, favored by President Barack Obama, is "childish and stupid," said an aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday
The aide's statement reflected efforts by Netanyahu to deflect attention away from the issue during his just-completed trip to Washington.
Ron Dermer spoke to The Associated Press after Netanyahu and his entourage arrived home from Washington. He denied that he meant that the two-state concept itself childish and stupid, as he was quoted earlier as saying in an anonymous briefing to journalists on the plane carrying Netanyahu home.
"I told reporters that the focus by the media on the concept of solving the Israel-Palestinian issue through a two-state solution is childish and stupid, but I deny that I described the idea that way," he said.
President Barack Obama made it clear that the U.S. backs creation of a Palestinian state, but Netanyahu has not endorsed the concept.
During his trip to Washington, Netanyahu constantly tried to shift emphasis from Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking toward the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program. He and Obama publicly disagreed about the relative weight of the two issues.
Netanyahu argued that reining in Iran would spur peace efforts, while Obama felt that progress toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians would undermine extremist elements, including Iran.
Referring to his talks with Obama, Netanyahu said, "There was an agreement that we need to immediately begin the peace process, I said I am willing to open peace talks with the Palestinians, by the way with the Syrians as well, of course without preconditions, but I made it clear that in any peace agreement there must be a solution to Israel's special security needs."
He also said that Arab nations should be brought into the peacemaking process, "meaning not only does Israel need to contribute and the Palestinians contribute, but Arab states need to make concrete contributions already at the beginning of the process."
Netanyahu did not mention talks with Syria during his appearances in Washington. Israel's previous government held several rounds of proximity talks with Syrian officials, mediated by Turkey, but no results were disclosed.
In his airport statement, Netanyahu said he and Obama agreed that Iran must not obtain nuclear weapons, and attempts to solve the problem through negotiations could not be unlimited in time. "There was also an understanding that Israel preserves the right to defend itself," Netanyahu said.
Israel has not taken the military option off the table and analysts say it might have the ability to strike some of Iran's nuclear facilities.
Israel considers Iran a strategic threat because of its nuclear program, long-range missiles and references by its president to the destruction of the Jewish state.
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