(Newsmax) – Former Secretary of State James Baker criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for being wrong on both the Palestinian issue and Iran’s nuclear program, Politico reported.
The Republican foreign policy doyen made his remarks at a dinner sponsored by J-Street, a dovish Jewish group which shares the Obama administration’s position on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Iranian nuclear issue.
Baker said Netanyahu’s “diplomatic missteps and political gamesmanship” had set back Obama administration efforts to solve the Arab-Israel conflict. He said “settlement construction has continued unabated” despite Netanyahu’s “rhetoric.”
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The Israeli leader’s absolute opposition to leaving the Islamic Republic of Iran with a short break-out time to develop nuclear weapons would torpedo chances of any deal, Baker said.
Baker said there is no military solution to the Iranian nuclear program. “If the only agreement,” that Netanyahu would accept “is one in which there is no enrichment, then there will be no agreement.”
“Frankly, I have been disappointed with the lack of progress regarding a lasting peace — and I have been for some time,” Baker said. Netanyahu’s election victory was a further setback to establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank because the Israeli leader had purportedly backtracked on his conditional endorsement of the two-state solution, according to Baker.
The former secretary pointed out that every administration since the 1967 Six Day War has worked to pressure Israel to withdraw to the 1949 Armistice Lines in “a land-for-peace approach.” He said a “substantial portion” of Israelis favored the formula as did the international community, according to Politico.
Baker served at the State Department under George H.W. Bush. He now provides foreign policy advice to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
“I experienced firsthand the complexity and occasional contentiousness of the U.S.-Israel relationship,” Baker told the J-Street audience, referring to his disputes with previous Israeli leaders Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir.
Addressing a congressional hearing on June 14, 1990, as secretary, Baker called out the number of the White House switchboard and told Israeli leaders to call when “you’re serious about peace.”
As Ronald Reagan’s White House chief of staff in 1981, he waged a successful campaign, over the objections of the pro-Israel lobby, to provide AWAC surveillance aircraft to Saudi Arabia. He is reputed to have dismissed Jewish objections to the sale with an expletive, adding “they don’t vote for us anyway.”
Baker told J-Street, which brands itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace,” that “no one around the entire world should ever doubt America’s commitment to Israel. Not now, or at any point in the future.”