The White House on Tuesday denied as "completely false" reports that a
draft of US President Barack Obama's Middle East speech, calling on
Israel to return to the 1967 lines, had been shown to Israeli officials.
Yediot Aharonot on Tuesday
reported that Obama would classify the settlements as “illegal,” and
would call on Israel to return to the 1967 lines with negotiated border
adjustments in the speech scheduled for Thursday. The report said this
was the message that emerged from talks that new National Security
Council head Ya’acov Amidror and his predecessor Uzi Arad held in
Washington in recent days with White House National Security Adviser Tom
Donilon. The report said Amidror and Arad asked that changes be made in
a draft of Obama’s speech.
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"We have not shared a draft of the speech with anyone outside of the
administration," White House spokesman Jay Carney said during a press
briefing. Carney would not specify if Obama would talk about the 1967
lines at all in the speech, nor would he give any other specifics of the
Amidror unequivocally denied the report in an Army Radio interview on Tuesday, saying Obama’s speech “did not come up in meetings between me and the national security adviser of the US, and not with his aides. Not in one manner, or another,” he said.
Ambassador to the US Michael Oren told Army Radio on Wednesday that he had also been present at the meetings in question and the content of Obama's speech had not been discussed.
He denied that US officials had raised the possibility that Obama will call on Israel to return to 1967 borders and to divide Jerusalem in his speech set for Thursday.
Oren also denied that there was a confrontation between the White House and Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem about the timing of Obama's speech.
According to Oren, Obama's speech will precede Netanyahu's because of the president's schedule, and no other reason.
Oren told Army Radio that Obama's speech will focus mainly on the recent shifts in Middle East security, and that only a small part would be devoted to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He added that "The United States is working and will continue to work to prevent a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood in September."
Washington sources, meanwhile, are anticipating that Obama will strike a nonconfrontational tone with Israel in the Middle East speech on Thursday, as well as in his meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
There was little expectation that Obama would venture into great detail of the Israeli- Palestinian peace process, much less address the controversial final-status issues.
Instead, one Washington hand suggested that the furthest the White House was likely to go was into a reframing of the formula US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has long used as the basis for resolving the conflict.
“We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements,” Clinton said in 2009 after Netanyahu announced a partial settlement freeze.