Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded tonight to criticisms leveled on Thursday by former President Bill Clinton, who blamed Netanyahu for creating obstacles to a Middle East peace deal.
"The two great tragedies in modern Middle Eastern politics, which make you wonder if God wants Middle East peace or not, were [Yitzhak] Rabin's assassination and [Ariel] Sharon's stroke," Clinton said on Thursday, in remarks reported exclusively on The Cable.
Clinton said that Netanyahu moved the goalposts and made reaching a comprehensive peace deal more difficult upon taking office.
"The Israelis always wanted two things that once it turned out they had, it didn't seem so appealing to Mr. Netanyahu," Clinton said, referring to what he called fair offers from the Palestinian government and the other Arab nations. "Now that they have those things, they don't seem so important to this current Israeli government."
Clinton also said that the Palestinians have offered Netanyahu the same deal the two sides almost agreed to in 2000 at Camp David, but Netanyahu refuses now to accept it.
Netanyahu shot back at Clinton when asked about the remarks in an interview with ABC News.
"I respectfully disagree," Netanyahu said. "The Palestinians are basically trying to shortcut this. They're trying to get a state without giving us peace, without giving us security."
"President Clinton knows very well [that] in 2000 at Camp David ... who really made the generous offer and the Palestinians refused to come," he said. "I'm sure that President Bush can tell you what happened at Camp David a few years later, when another Israeli prime minister made a generous offer, and the Palestinians refused to come."
When asked if he had moved the goalposts, Netanyahu said, "Not at all."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton late on Thursday praised a new statement issued by the Middle East Quartet calling for new negotiations, a statement neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians have endorsed.
"The Quartet proposal represents the firm conviction of the international community that a just and lasting peace can only come through negotiations between the parties," she said. "Therefore, we urge both parties to take advantage of this opportunity to get back to talks, and the United States pledges our support as the parties themselves take the important next steps for a two-state solution, which is what all of us are hoping to achieve."