Face to face, Netanyahu rejects Obama on borders

by
May 21, 2011
By BEN FELLER, AP White House Correspondent – Fri May 20, 7:50 pm ET

WASHINGTON – In a blunt display of differences, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the idea of using his country’s 1967 boundaries as the basis for a neighboring Palestinian state on Friday, declaring his objections face-to-face to President Barack Obama who had raised the idea just 24 hours earlier in an effort to revive stalled Mideast peace talks.

Though the two leaders, meeting in the Oval Office, found cordial and predictable agreement on the other central element that Obama outlined in his Mideast address Thursday — ironclad Israeli security alongside a Palestinian nation — progress on the bedrock issue of borders seemed as elusive as ever.

In his speech, Obama gave unprecedented prominence to a long-held U.S. stand that Israel opposes: A Palestinian state should be shaped around the border lines that existed before the 1967 war in which Israel took control of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. An essential part of what Obama proposed was that Israelis and Palestinians would also have to agree to swaps of land to account for Israeli settlements and other current conditions, a point Netanyahu failed to mention.

“While Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines,” Netanyahu declared. “These lines are indefensible.”

As they sat together for public comments after their private meeting, Obama sought to put the disagreement in the best light, and in the context of a relationship of two allies — one, however, showing strains of impatience.

“Obviously there are some differences between us in the precise formulations and language,” Obama said. “That’s going to happen between friends.”

He quickly added in a reassurance to Netanyahu: “What we are in complete accord about is that a true peace can only occur if the ultimate resolution allows Israel to defend itself against threats, and that Israel’s security will remain paramount in U.S. evaluation of any prospective deal.”

Obama and Netanyahu showed cordiality before the cameras. The president listened intently, his hand cupping his chin, as Netanyahu spoke passionately about his country’s plight and how the path to peace should run.

“Remember that, before 1967, Israel was all of nine miles wide,” Netanyahu said, emphasizing his words with his hands. “It was half the width of the Washington Beltway. And these were not the boundaries of peace; they were the boundaries of repeated wars, because the attack on Israel was so attractive.”

To read more, visit: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110520/ap_on_go_pr_wh/us_obama_mideast

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