Netanyahu and Obama meet: harmonious picture, blunt disagreement
A day after Obama's Middle East policy address, Netanyahu tells the president that Israel 'cannot go back to the 1967 lines.' In their 'prolonged' conversation, the leaders sought points of agreement.
President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought Friday to smooth over the tensions that burst open a day earlier as a result of new ground Mr. Obama staked out for Israeli-Palestinian peace.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Despite the harmonious picture the two leaders offered in a joint media appearance at the White House, neither side claimed that deep differences were surmounted in what Obama called a “prolonged and extremely useful conversation.”
Mr. Netanyahu quickly rejected the US president’s endorsement – made during his Middle East speech at the State Department on Thursday – of starting with Israel’s pre-1967 borders as the basis for negotiating final territory lines with the Palestinians.
Israel “cannot go back to the 1967 lines,” the Israeli leader said. “Those lines are indefensible.”
RECOMMENDED: Obama's speech: Five ways Netanyahu can respond
US administrations and other international powers have referred for decades to the 1967 lines as the starting point for negotiations on final borders, but Obama was the first American president to make the idea of the ’67 borders as a basis for negotiations an official US policy.
Behind the scenes, Israeli officials expressed anger that Obama has now set as a starting point for territory negotiations a position the Israelis had hoped to use as a bargaining chip with the Palestinians. On the White House side, US officials are frustrated that Obama’s proposal for getting to permanent-status talks by starting with territory and security – widely viewed as the more tractable of the issues separating the two sides – is being characterized in some quarters as a significant leap beyond established US policy.
“Articulating a … truth is not some radical new departure from where we’ve been,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney, in a briefing following the two leaders’ meeting. “There is no carrot here” for the Palestinians, as some have charged, he added. By speaking Thursday of the 1967 borders “with mutually agreed swaps,” Obama was recognizing “what all sides agree is the starting point for talks,” Mr. Carney said.
In reviewing his longer-than-anticipated discussion with Netanyahu, Obama said both leaders agreed that “this is an opportunity that can be seized” in the Middle East. He added that both recognized the “significant perils as well.”