JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Thursday tried to walk back his pre-election declaration that no Palestinian state would be established on his watch, but his new assertions appeared to do nothing to assuage an infuriated Obama administration.
In a series of interviews with American broadcasters, Mr. Netanyahu also said he had not been trying to suppress the votes of Arab citizens with an Election Day video warning that they were being bused to polling stations in “droves,” remarks that had also caused outrage at the White House and around the world.
Mr. Netanyahu said he had not intended to reverse his endorsement in a 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but only to say that it was impossible right now. He cited the Palestinian leadership’s refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and its pact with the militant Islamist Hamas movement, as well as the rise of Islamic terrorism across the region.
“I haven’t changed my policy,” Mr. Netanyahu said in an interview with MSNBC, his first since his resounding victory on Tuesday, which handed him a fourth term. “What has changed is the reality.”
“I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution, but for that, circumstances have to change,” he said. “I was talking about 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.”
But Mr. Netanyahu did not say he was ready to return to negotiations or to present any new ideas for achieving peace, and the White House all but ignored his latest comments.
Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said on Thursday that regardless of the prime minister’s clarifications, his pre-election statements demonstrated that he was “no longer committed to a two-state solution,” which “means that the United States is in a position to re-evaluate our thinking.”
A day after other White House officials suggested that the administration might now support a Security Council resolution calling for the establishment of a sovereign Palestine roughly along the pre-1967 lines that divided Israel from the West Bank and Gaza, Mr. Earnest said Mr. Netanyahu’s statements “do have consequences for actions that we take at the United Nations and other places.”
The standoff showed the lasting damage done to Mr. Netanyahu’s already-strained relationship with Washington during a divisive Israeli campaign. The tensions were worsened when the prime minister spoke to Congress, against White House wishes, to protest the emerging nuclear deal between six world powers and Iran.
In Israel, Mr. Netanyahu’s apparent reversal regarding a Palestinian state on the eve of an election was largely seen as a blatant, somewhat desperate appeal to take votes from parties on his right flank — which appears to be exactly what happened.
Many analysts expected Mr. Netanyahu to backtrack after the ballots were tallied; after all, back in 2009, he refused to explicitly endorse an independent Palestinian state right up until the Bar-Ilan speech in which he did so.
But in Washington, many officials have long suspected that Mr. Netanyahu was never serious about making peace with the Palestinians or about the American-brokered negotiations toward such an outcome that collapsed last spring. So when a right-leaning Israeli news site asked him directly on Monday, “If you are prime minister, a Palestinian state will not be established,” and he answered, “Correct,” they pounced.
Mr. Earnest said, “This is not a situation where the prime minister is creating some daylight between himself and President Obama,” Rather, the remarks created some daylight between Mr. Netanyahu and “Democrat and Republican presidents in the United States and every single member of the House of Representatives,” he said, referring to a unanimous House resolution late last year endorsing a two-state solution.
Earlier on Thursday, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority seized on Mr. Netanyahu’s original repudiation of a two-state solution to say he would continue his unilateral strategy of seeking full United Nations recognition and using the International Criminal Court to press war-crimes charges against Israelis.
“If these things are true, it means that the Israeli government has no serious intentions to reach a peace agreement that will create two states based on the 1967 borders,” Mr. Abbas said at a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee in the West Bank city of Ramallah. “We therefore will not retreat from our position to apply international law, and so it is our right to go anywhere in the world to realize our rights according to international law.”
The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, when asked how he would respond if Mr. Netanyahu retracted his statements, said, “I don’t want to engage in wishful thinking.”
“Can you imagine Netanyahu standing up and saying, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it, but I believe in a two-state solution; I recognize the state of Palestine, I will carry my obligations, I will stop settlement activities’? People will laugh,” Mr. Erekat told reporters at a briefing in East Jerusalem. “If he says that he will stop settlement activities, I’ll go see him now. Now. In his house. I’ve been there before. I’ve known him for 31 years.”
After a pre-election blitz of which several commentators observed that Mr. Netanyahu gave more interviews to Israeli news organizations in six days than he had during six years in office, the prime minister turned to international outlets on Thursday. It was a kind of damage-control tour after a campaign of hard-line stances and statements about Israeli Arabs that were widely condemned as race-baiting.
“I wasn’t trying to block anyone from voting; I was trying to mobilize my own voters,” Mr. Netanyahu told Steve Inskeep of NPR in a conversation set for broadcast on Friday’s “Morning Edition.” “The Arabs in Israel are the only Arabs that have consistently had the right to participate in elections. That’s sacrosanct.”
He also said he was proud to be “prime minister of all of Israel’s citizens, Arabs and Jews alike.”
Mr. Netanyahu’s office did not respond to interview requests from The New York Times in the days leading up to Tuesday’s election or on Wednesday or Thursday. In addition to appearing on MSNBC and NPR, he was on Fox News on Thursday, where he said he hoped that White House considerations of supporting a United Nations resolution recognizing Palestine were “not true.”
“President Obama has said time and again, as I’ve said, that the only path to a peace agreement is an agreement, a negotiated agreement; you can’t impose it,” he said on Fox. “I think that you can’t force the people of Israel — who have just elected me by a wide margin to bring them peace and security, to secure the State of Israel — to accept terms that would endanger the very survival of the State of Israel. I don’t think that’s the direction of American policy.”
Mr. Earnest, the White House press secretary, said Thursday that he was “not suggesting that any policy decisions have been made at this point.” But he appeared unmoved by Mr. Netanyahu’s new talking points, saying of the two-state solution that American presidents have backed for decades, “It’s pretty clear that Israel is no longer committed to that outcome, that pursuit.”
In a brief statement Thursday evening, the White House said Mr. Obama had called Mr. Netanyahu to congratulate him on “his party’s success in winning a plurality of Knesset seats.”
The statement said Mr. Obama had reaffirmed to the prime minister that the United States was committed to a two-state solution “that results in a secure Israel alongside a sovereign and viable Palestine.” He also reiterated his intention to reach a deal with Iran on its nuclear program, according to the statement.