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US-Israel relations

Obama: Israeli settlement policy makes two-state solution impossible

US President Barack Obama has accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of breaking his word on Israel's settlement policy. Israel is expecting more favorable treatment from incoming President Donald Trump.

In what will be one of his last interviews as US president, Barack Obama has warned that Israel's settlement policy would lead to a "worsening situation" between Israelis and Palestinians and make a two-state solution impossible.

Speaking to Israeli television program "Uvda," which broadcast the interview on Tuesday, Obama accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of backtracking on his commitment to a two-state solution with Palestine

Screenshot of Obama's interview with Uvda Programm (http://www.haaretz.com)

Speaking with 'Uvda,' Obama defended the US abstention at the UN Security Council

"[Netanyahu] says that he believes in the two-state solution and yet his actions consistently have shown that if he is getting pressured to approve more settlements he will do so, regardless of what he says about the importance of the two-state solution," Obama said.

Around 570,000 Israelis currently live in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, territories Palestine wants as part of a future state. More than 2.6 million Palestinians also call the disputed territories their home.

"Increasingly what you are seeing is that the facts on the ground are making it almost impossible, at least very difficult, and if this trendline continues - impossible, to create a contiguous, functioning Palestinian state," Obama told "Uvda."

Most of the international community views Israel's settlement policy as illegal and an obstruction to peace.

Strained relations between Netanyahu and Obama

Differences concerning Israel's settlement building and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have seen ties between Israel and the Obama administration deteriorate.

That strained relationship culminated last month when Washington refused to extend its veto right on a UN Security Council resolution prompting an end to Israel's settlement building.

The resolution's passing sparked harsh criticism from Netanyahu, who accused Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry of conspiring with Palestine to see the resolution passed.

Netanyahu reiterated that claim Tuesday, saying his government had "solid information" proving the US was behind the drafting of the resolution. However, Israel has not publicly provided any evidence backing the claim, while the White House has denied the allegations.

In Tuesday's broadcast, filmed last week in Washington DC, Obama defended the US abstention, saying he believed "it was the best move for peace."

Watch video 02:10

Israeli settlements divide US, Israel

Israel seized the West Bank and east Jerusalem, along with the Gaza Strip, during the 1967 Middle East war. Both Israelis and Palestinians cite a biblical, historical and political connection to the land.

Its annexation of east Jerusalem has to this day not been recognized by the international community.

Israel foresees improved relations with Trump

Obama's interview was broadcast just 10 days before he leaves office and Trump steps into the White House. Netanyahu has been buoyed by Trump's election and expects to receive more favorable treatment from the incoming administration.

Trump has already pledged to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, in a move likely to rile Palestine, which hopes to make east Jerusalem the capital of a future state. Trump has also appointed lawyer David Friedman as the US ambassador to Israel, a man who has raised money for Israeli settlements.

On Monday, Trump appointed son-in-law Jared Kushner as his senior adviser on Middle East Issues. Kushner's family's foundation has long supported Israel's settlement policy.

dm/cmk (AP, Reuters)

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