Israel's 1967 borders are "indefensible" and the nation can never return to them, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on the second day of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual conference in Washington on Tuesday morning.
"Tomorow in Congress I'll describe what a peace bewteen a Palestinian state and a Jewish state could look like," he said, "but I want to ensure you of one thing: It must leave Israel with security, and therefore Israel cannot return to the indefensible 1967 lines." This remark was met by loud applause and cheers from the audience.
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Netanyahu spoke admirably of the words of Abraham Lincoln and pointed
out the vast similarities between American and Israeli culture, noting
that both are cultures of learning and ideas. Lincoln's writings
resonate, he said, because "They're rooted in ideas, first championed by
our people - the Jewish people." This is the reason, Netanyahu said,
that Jerusalem must remain undivided.
the cradle of our civilization, and the modern state of Israel was
founded precisely on these eternal values," he said, adding that this
civilization was born and fostered in "our eternal capital: The united
city of Jerusalem."
"I want to thank the President and Congress for providing Israel with vital assistance so that Israel can defend itself by itself," he said."Support for Israel does not divide America, it unites America."
Israel wants peace, Netanyahu said, but it cannot have peace until it has a peace partner. "It's time that we admitted another truth: This conflict has raged for nearly a centuty because the Palestinians refuse to end it. They refuse to accept the Jewish state." Moments before calling on Hamas to release Gilad Schalit, Netanyahu implored the audience to audience that no peace deal could happen until the Palestinians acknowledged their partner in the process.
"I repeat; we can only make peace with the Palestinians if they're prepared to make peace with the Jewish state," he said.
Netanyahu had warm words for the protesters in many of Israel's neighboring cities who were rallying for democracy. "What the people of Israel want is for the people of the Middle East to have what you have in America, what we have in Israel: democracy." Democracy, however, required much more than a single election, the prime minister pointed out, adding that true democracies provide equal rights for women, gays, and practitioners of all religions.
Netanyahu said that Arab nations' desire for democracy is showing the world that upheaval and conflict have nothing to do with the Jewish State. "Events in the region are opening peoples' eyes to a simple truth: The problems in the region are not rooted in Israel," he said, continuing, "It's time to stop blaming Israel for all the regions' problems."
The prime minister's address came a day after US President Barack Obama addressed AIPAC,
where he defended his formulation for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal and made clarifications that put his comments more in line with Israeli positions. Obama reiterated statements from his Middle East speech on Thursday that a Palestinian state should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps, which had sparked outrage from many in the pro-Israel community.
Speaking to AIPAC Sunday morning, Obama emphasized that “by definition,
it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will
negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June
4, 1967.” He added, to extended applause, “It allows the parties
themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the
last 44 years. It allows the parties themselves to take account of those
changes, including the new demographic realities on the ground.”
After meeting with Obama at the White House on Friday, Netanyahu flatly rejected any return
to the 1967 borders, the basis – along with agreed land swaps – for a
deal with the Palestinians as laid out in the US president's Middle East
“While Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it
cannot go back to the 1967 lines,” Netanyahu said, sitting alongside
Obama in the Oval Office. “These lines are indefensible, because they
don’t take into account certain changes that have taken place on the
ground, demographic changes.”
Netanyahu also ruled out any return of Palestinian refugees to Israel
proper or that Israel would negotiate with Hamas, branded a terrorist
organization by both US and Israel.
"Tomorow in Congress I'll describe what a peace between a Palestinian
state and a Jewish state could look like, but I want to ensure you of
one thing: It must leave Israel with security, and therefore Israel
cannot return to the indefensible 1967 lines."
Hilary Leila Krieger contributed to this report.