Netanyahu rejects Israeli return to the 1967 lines

Obama and Netanyahu meet, discuss range of issues in Middle East; both leaders acknowledge differences in their positions concerning Palestinian issue; Obama says Hamas not a partner for negotiations.

PM Netanyahu sitting with US President Obama 311 (photo credit: Avi Ohayon / GPO)
PM Netanyahu sitting with US President Obama 311
(photo credit: Avi Ohayon / GPO)
WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu acknowledged the differences that divide them even as they emphasized areas of agreement over the peace process, Iran and democratic changes in the Middle East after their White House meeting 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 a speech by Obama the day before.
“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.
Obama echoed Netanyahu’s last point, using stronger language to reject the prospect of Israel talking to Hamas than even a day earlier in his own Middle East address.
“It is not a partner for a significant, realistic peace process,” Obama stated Friday. “The Palestinians are going to have to explain how they can credibly engage in serious peace negotiations.”
But Obama did not accede publicly to Netanyahu’s demand, made in a statement following Thursday’s speech, that he endorse a letter written by George W. Bush that included an American rejection of Palestinian refugees settling in the Jewish state and acknowledged more clearly that Israel’s final borders would include settlements, the demographic changes on the ground alluded to by the prime minister.
Netanyahu seemed to push Obama to speak out on the refugee issue after the president in his speech the day before underscored the need to “tell the truth.”
“It’s not going to happen. Everybody knows it’s not going to happen,” Netanyahu said of Palestinian refugees being absorbed by Israel. “And I think it’s time to tell the Palestinians forthrightly that it’s not going to happen.”
Both leaders acknowledged that they didn’t see eye-to-eye on every issue, referring to “differences” on details as they sought to emphasize their larger shared interest in pursuing peace.
“We have may have differences here and there, but I think there’s an overall direction that we wish to work together to pursue a real, genuine peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors, and peace that is defensible,” Netanyahu said.
Obama, for his part, said that, “Obviously there are some differences between us in the precise formulations and language, and that’s going to happen between friends.”
In a nod to Netanyahu’s focus on Israel’s strategic concerns, the president added, “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.”
Following a meeting that ran more than an hour later than planned, and comes ahead of Obama’s own address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Sunday, the American president stressed that “the extraordinarily close relationship between the United States and Israel is sound and will continue.”