Netanyahu, Obama clash over borders

President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, Friday, May 20, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

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.”

Obama, frustrated by Mideast peace talks that have collapsed, is seeking to get both sides to contend with the issues of borders and security. Even progress on those enormous fronts would still leave unsettled the fate of Jerusalem and of Palestinian refugees. Netanyahu underscored just how difficult that last issue is alone, declaring that Palestinians will not be allowed to settle in Israel as part of any peace plan.

“It’s not going to happen. Everybody knows it’s not going to happen,” he said. “And I think it’s time to tell the Palestinians forthrightly it’s not going to happen.”

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Netanyahu’s comments with Obama were tantamount to “his total rejection of the Obama vision and speech.”

“Without Mr. Netanyahu committing to two states on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps, he is not a partner to the peace process,” Erekat said. “I think, when President Obama gave him a choice between dictation and negotiations, he chose dictation.”

On the border matter, the Obama administration up until now has tried to summarize the positions of each party but had not taken a position itself. Obama’s direct reference to the 1967 borders and land swaps in his speech incensed Israel, adding tension to the atmosphere of Netanyahu’s visit.

As Obama pushes for a return to negotiations that he championed prominently last year, that prospect seems bleak.

Netanyahu said his nation could not negotiate with a Palestinian unity government that includes the radical Hamas movement, which refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist. He said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had to choose between continuing the deal with Hamas and making peace with Israel.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Netanyahu’s rejection of a return to 1967 lines was “clear evidence that the negotiations option was a waste of time.”

The comments from Netanyahu and Obama, after a longer-than-scheduled meeting that lasted over an hour-and-a-half, shed little light on how the peace process will advance.

The two leaders did not take questions from the press, and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was unable in a subsequent briefing to point to any concrete signs of progress.

Netanyahu is to address Congress on Tuesday to press Israel’s position.

On Thursday, Netanyahu was informed shortly before Obama’s speech of its contents by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, according to U.S. officials. Netanyahu sought in vain to get the border language removed from the speech, the officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive diplomatic exchange.

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Associated Press writers Erica Werner in Washington, Amy Teibel traveling with Netanyahu, Karin Laub in Ramallah, West Bank and Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press

9 Responses to "Netanyahu, Obama clash over borders"

  1. Carl Nemo  May 21, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has that look in his eye and no doubt thoughts to the fact that Obama’s another single term President like Jimmy Carter. It’s bye bye Obama, no matter how much money he raises which in my book is a ‘good thing’ as Martha Stewart might say about one of her hot glue creations… : ))

    Mr. Netanyahu is extremely bright, well-credentialed and tough. Our President is simply an ‘articulate’ empty suit. : |

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Netanyahu

    Carl Nemo **==

  2. Almandine  May 21, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    Our “Christian” President, ever the Global Democrat, has proven himself to be the Best Muslim advocate in the West .

    • Carl Nemo  May 21, 2011 at 10:17 pm

      Maybe so, Almandine. Seemingly he wasn’t all that keen on the OBL sanction either, the same as Bush & Co during the Tora Bora cave complex SOCOM insertion where they let OBL get away. This President was kept out of the loop until the last minute. The situation room photo speaks a thousand words. He’s surely not given a position of deference as President and evidently was extracted from a game of golf when everything came down…? / : |

      Here’s a link describing how the sanction progressed, basically with Leon Panetta controlling the operation via a separate link that kept the mission from being aborted by last minute Executive equivocation. The mission was a “go” as far as Clinton, Gates, Panetta and the Generals et al. were concerned with seemingly protracted politically based conflict between Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama’s ‘handlers’ and the mission all linked to his political ‘image’.

      http://socyberty.com/issues/white-house-insider-obama-hesitated-panetta-issued-order-to-kill-osama-bin-laden/

      He’s a master at talking out of both sides of his mouth to the unwashed masses; ie., a world class demagogue. They simply handed him a ‘victory script’ to read post sanction.

      Unequivocally he will not be reelected because he’s foolishly crossed the State of Israel and exposed his hand. He’s Jimmy Carter redux. Israel both own and control our crimpols’ butts, lock stock and barrel. : |

      Carl Nemo **==

  3. cettel  May 21, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    Obama restated what had been the official U.S. position before George W. Bush, and which was supported by Ehud Barak but rejected by Yasir Arafat at Camp David causing those peace talks to collapse. This idea is to allocate the same total land area to Israel and to the Palestinians as before the 1967 war, and then, with that as the base, to have the two sides trade land with each other so as to form the final boundaries.

    This is the only basis upon which peace can even possibly be achieved between those two negotiants. The only alternative is restoration of hot war there between the Israelis and the Palestinians; and that would necessarily entail continuation of hatred of America by the majority of Muslims around the world, because the U.S. would then be supporting Israel no matter how much Israel would be controlled by the fanatical West Bank settlers.

  4. jim0001  May 22, 2011 at 8:46 am

    The Hamas constitution calls for the total destruction of Israel.

    Negotiation with a terrorist group will not achieve peace, Cettel.

    Yasir Arafat was a terrorist just like OBL. Same theme different face.

    Wake up and smell the threat!!!

    • Carl Nemo  May 22, 2011 at 12:56 pm

      Spot-on jim0001! Netanyahu is absolutely correct in that such a ‘line on the map’ border is not defendable along with the fact that Hamas and the rest of the arab world would rejoice in the destruction of Israel which isn’t going to happen, shy of the world experiencing the long predicted Armageddon. Obama & Co. are ‘village idiots’ for even proposing such a DOA concept. It has created controversy where there should be none.

      Israel does not admit to owning nukes, but our intel indicates they are in possession of at leat 100-200 thermonuclear devices, not fission weapons; but fusion in nature . All the major arab and non arab capitals such as in Iran are already targeted in the event they do something stupid. Rest assurred Israel will not hold back if they are pushed against the wall and find themselves without U.S. support.

      Carl Nemo **==

    • woody188  May 23, 2011 at 12:17 am

      One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. There was no Israel until 1948 when Israel was carved out of Palestine. What if they had taken Florida instead? Would you call Floridians against Israel terrorists if they were fighting to take back Florida?

      Israel is the most highly armed nation in the region. Netanyahu’s claim of not being able to defend it is totally bogus, particularly since they illegally built a 30-ft concrete wall along most of 1967 lines. According to the UN, Israel isn’t supposed to be building settlements past the 1949 green line, so Netanyahu’s argument is also in direct defiance with international law. Those settlers should not be there in the first place. But it’s hard to argue with a theocracy of fundamentalists that believe they are Yahweh’s chosen people and that Yahweh gave them that land.

      Too bad for them a closer reading of their own scripture shows that Yahweh also said he and he alone would return them to their promised land and any attempt to regain the land on their own would result in their own destruction. Perhaps we are seeing Yahweh’s wrath with every suicide bomb.

      It’s funny how the United States can’t pay for a fence with Mexico but gives aid to build this monstrosity in Israel. This thing is many time the size of the Berlin Wall. Mr. Netanyahu, TEAR DOWN THAT WALL!

      • Carl Nemo  May 23, 2011 at 1:27 am

        Solid thoughts Woody, but that wall isn’t coming down…ever! They’ve staked their claim and its tough sh*t for Hamas and the Palestinians.

        My comments on this thread aren’t pro-Israel per se, but simply expressing the real politik of the region. : |

        Carl Nemo **==

  5. DejaVuAllOver  May 24, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    I wish people would stop talking about Israel being “created” in 1948, it just makes them look like ignoramuses and reinforces Israeli propaganda. The only thing that happened in 1948 was the UN giving Israel the rubber stamp and accepting the name change to “Israel” from what had been known for 500 years (at least) as Palestine. The “state” of Israel was created by the British army, the Rothschilds, a backroom dirty deal or twelve and a bunch of Jewish terrorists launching false-flag attacks in the 1917 to 1948 period. The Brits finally gave up trying to keep the peace (they could have stayed but chose not to) and let the terrorists have their way. I suppose anyone gets tired of being shot in the back by your alleged “friends.”

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