Netanyahu: Israel Cannot Return to 1967 Borders

Posted on May 24, 2011


May 23: Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee meeting in Washington.

 “Israel cannot return to the indefensible 1967 borders,”Netantahu. It is so refreshing to hear and see a strong leader compared to the weak, detached Barack Obama. SHAW

Israel’s prime minister promised to present his  vision for an Israeli-Palestinian peace in a speech before U.S. lawmakers on  Tuesday, but vowed his country would not return to mid-1967 borders that he  termed “indefensible.”

Benjamin  Netanyahu made this pledge in an address Monday to thousands of pro-Israel  American Jews and U.S. lawmakers. His speech drew roaring cheers and standing  ovations, a sign of the powerful backing he enjoys in the U.S. as the White  House pressures him to do more to renew stalled Mideast peacemaking.

The warm reception Netanyahu enjoyed at the gala  dinner of the American Israel  Public Affairs Committee contrasted sharply with the contentious quality of some  of his recent exchanges with President Barack  Obama precisely over border issues.

His planned address on Tuesday to a joint meeting of  Congress, where Israel enjoys strong bipartisan backing, could similarly remind  Obama, ahead of his re-election bid, of the political price he might pay if he  tries to push Netanyahu too hard.

In that speech, Netanyahu said, he will “outline a  vision for a secure Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

But in language that suggested he was not going to  take a conciliatory pose, he promised to “speak the unvarnished truth.”

“This conflict has raged for 100 years because the  Palestinians refuse to end it. They refuse to accept a Jewish state.”

A peace agreement, he said, must assure Israel’s  security: “Israel cannot return to the indefensible 1967 borders,” he declared,  rekindling the dispute with Obama in a possible effort to placate territorial  hardliners in his government.

Borders became an issue last week when Obama, in a  major Mideast policy speech, took the position that any negotiations on final  borders of the Jewish and Palestinian states must be based on the boundaries  Israel held in 1967 before capturing east Jerusalem, the West  Bank and the Gaza  Strip — lands the Palestinians claim for their hoped-for state.

In direct statements and through aides, Netanyahu  suggested Obama did not understand Israel’s security needs or the realities of  the conflict-riven Mideast.

Obama said clearly in his policy speech and in his  own address before AIPAC on Sunday that the territorial markers could be  adjusted through mutually agreed land swaps — a principle accepted by the  Palestinians that would allow Israel to retain major settlement blocs and help  assure its security.

But Netanyahu has repeatedly sidelined this part of  the Obama message.

In a sign of the sympathy Netanyahu can hope to  enjoy in Congress, Obama’s own political ally, Senate Majority Leader Harry  Reid, challenged Obama on the border issue at the AIPAC dinner.

“No one should set premature parameters about  borders, about building or about anything else,” Reid, D-Nev., said.

The reference to building alluded to earlier U.S.  demands that Israel renew an expired moratorium on settlement construction.

Peacemaking with the Palestinians stalled in late  2008, shortly before Obama and Netanyahu each took office. Obama had hoped to  bring the two sides back to the negotiating table and wrest a deal by September  2011. But those efforts foundered after Israel refused to extend a settlement  construction slowdown and Palestinians abandoned negotiations after three short  weeks, saying continued Israeli building on land they want for a future state  did not show good faith.

Now, they are refocusing their strategy on trying to  obtain a unilateral declaration of statehood at the U.N. when the General  Assembly meets in September. Israel would like to derail that campaign, which,  if successful as expected, could compound its diplomatic isolation.

The U.S. also opposes unilateral action, which would  put Washington in the awkward position of having to vote against Palestinian  statehood at a time when calls for greater democracy are ringing out across the  Arab world.

Further complicating peace efforts is a unity deal  between rival Palestinian factions that would bring violently anti-Israel Hamas  militants into the Palestinian government.

Obama has said Israel should not be expected to  negotiate with a government that does not recognize its right to exist.

Anti-Israel hecklers interrupted Netanyahu’s speech  several times, but supporters drowned them out, leaping to their feet, giving  him a standing ovation and at one point chanting his nickname, “Bibi, Bibi” and  pumping their arms in the air.