(Bloomberg) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
said he is still committed to Palestinian statehood if
circumstances improve, pulling back from comments he made during
his re-election campaign rejecting a two-state solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“I don’t want a one-state solution,” Netanyahu said in an
interview Thursday on MSNBC. “I want a sustainable, peaceful
two-state solution, but for that, circumstances have to
change.”

Netanyahu said the burden lies with the Palestinians, who
must accept Israel and end attacks against the nation’s
interests.

The prime minister drew criticism from the U.S. after he
said on Monday, the day before Israeli voters went to the polls,
that he wouldn’t agree to the establishment of a Palestinian
state while he held office.

“I think that whoever today moves to establish a
Palestinian state and withdraw from territory is giving attack
territory for Islamic extremists against the state of Israel,”
Netanyahu told the NRG news website. “Whoever ignores that is
burying his head in the sand.” Asked if that meant no
Palestinian state if he were to win a fourth term on Tuesday,
Netanyahu said, “Indeed.”

On Thursday, he said he was referring to “what is
achievable and what is not achievable.”

“To make it achievable, then you have to have real
negotiations with people who are committed to peace,” he said
on MSNBC. “We are. It’s time that we saw the pressure on the
Palestinians to show that they are committed too.”

Palestinian Reaction

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Netanyahu isn’t
serious about making peace.

“We will not back down from our effort to seek
international legitimacy,” Abbas said Thursday in the West Bank
city of Ramallah, according to the official Palestinian news
agency Wafa. He didn’t elaborate.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the U.S. is
rethinking its approach to the region because of Netanyahu’s
campaign comments. He said Netanyahu “walked back from
commitments that Israel had previously made to a two-state
solution.”

Along with a rebuke, Earnest delivered a veiled threat that
the U.S. will reconsider its policy of siding with Israel in
votes before the United National Security Council.

“The United States is in a position to reevaluate our
thinking about this and a wide range of other issues that do
have some consequences for actions that we take at the UN,”
Earnest said. “Certainly some new thinking needs to go into how
we’re going to approach these issues.

Earnest said that no decisions have been made yet.

President Barack Obama, who has had a chilly relationship
with Netanyahu during his entire term, may call the prime
minister to talk about the election as soon as today, Earnest
said.

Many, including some White House officials, had long
expressed skepticism toward Netanyahu’s acceptance of two
states. Historically, he had been opposed and only in 2009 did
he say he accepted it. Even so, he always talked about why that
solution couldn’t come about, not why it could.

Soon after starting his third term in June 2009, Netanyahu
said he would accept a Palestinian state if it were
demilitarized and recognized Israel as a Jewish state. His
words, delivered at Bar-Ilan University outside Tel Aviv, were
the foundation of a series of U.S.-backed efforts to revive
peace negotiations that ultimately crashed last April. Earlier
this month, Netanyahu said his 2009 remarks were no longer
relevant because of unrest across the Middle East.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Mike Dorning in Washington at
mdorning@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Craig Gordon at
cgordon39@bloomberg.net
Joe Sobczyk, Mark McQuillan