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Israel and Palestine

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Israel's Netanyahu Rejects Obama's Call for Returning to Pre-1967 Borders as Indefensible

May 22nd 2011

Israel Topics - Netanyahu and Obama

On May 19, President Barack Obama gave an address at the State Department in Washington DC in which he laid out his vision for US policy following the blur of events unleashed since late 2010 and into what is now regarded as the "Arab Spring." The upsurge of street demonstrations, fueled by social networking at websites such as Facebook, saw mass demonstrations and bloodshed in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, and Syria. While the dictators of Tunisia and Egypt have fallen, and those of Yemen and Syria have been stirred, there is much uncertainty in the Mideast region, and Israel and its supporters fear that the future may be bleak. The decades-long arrangement, under which peace has been sustained between Israel and its immediate neighbors, is now challenged by ever louder calls from the Muslim Brotherhood and irredentists among the Palestinians to put an end to the state of Israel.

Obama's speech broke new ground just as tensions are rising within the Mideast region. Palestinian terrorists continue to make artillery and other cross-border attacks on Israel, for example. At the State Department Obama declared, "We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state." Continuing in that vein, Obama said "What America and the international community can do is state frankly what everyone knows: a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples," and "Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.” And at the end of the hour-long address, he cautioned that "the dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation."

The speech came just a day before a scheduled visit by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to the White House. By some accounts, the over-time conference between the two heads of state was tense. Besides their initial one hour-and-half meeting, which was double the foreseen length, they had an hour-long luncheon tête-a-tete at which no notetakers were present and leaving observers wondering as to how frank the meeting did become.

Below is the full text of the official Israeli reaction to President Obama's speech before Prime Minister Netanyahu's departure from Israel to Washington:

Israel appreciates President Obama’s commitment to peace. Israel believes that for peace to endure between Israelis and Palestinians, the viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state.

That is why Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress.

Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines.

Those commitments also ensure Israel’s well-being as a Jewish state by making clear that Palestinian refugees will settle in a future Palestinian state rather than in Israel.

Without a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem outside the borders of Israel, no territorial concession will bring peace.

Equally, the Palestinians, and not just the United States, must recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, and any peace agreement with them must end all claims against Israel.

Prime Minister Netanyahu will make clear that the defense of Israel requires an Israeli military presence along the Jordan River.

Prime Minister Netanyahu will also express his disappointment over the Palestinian Authority’s decision to embrace Hamas, a terror organization committed to Israel’s destruction, as well as over Mahmoud Abbas’s recently expressed views which grossly distort history and make clear that Abbas seeks a Palestinian state in order to continue the conflict with Israel rather than end it.

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