President Obama said Friday that differences remain between the United States and Israel over the Middle East peace process, after he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met at the White House.
ORIGINAL STORY ...
The frosty relationship between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endured another test Friday, as the two met in the Oval Office following a bombshell policy shift by the U.S. on terms for Mideast peace.
Obama, in a sweeping address tackling the uprisings in the Middle East and the stalled peace process, stunned Washington and Jerusalem Thursday by endorsing Palestinians' demand for their own state based on the pre-1967 borders. The break with U.S. policy appeared to immediately aggravate the Israelis, who want the borders of any future Palestinian state determined through negotiations.
In a statement released late Thursday, Netanyahu said such a withdrawal would put at risk Israel's security. He effectively called on Obama to recant his latest demand.
"Israel appreciates President Obama's commitment to peace," the statement said. "Israel believes that for peace to endure between Israelis and Palestinians, the viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state.
That is why Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004. ... Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines."
According to a report in the Israeli newspaper YNet, the prime minister was prepared for a confrontation with Obama Friday. Obama and Netanyahu have worked through a string of diplomatic challenges over the past two and a half years, but the president's Mideast speech presents a new hurdle. The U.S. had previously endorsed the concept of a Palestinian state, but not the demand for permanent pre-1967 borders, with mutually agreed land swaps.
The immediate concern among pro-Israel lawmakers and advocates was that Obama's speech will give Palestinians a new starting point in negotiations, rather than something to work toward over the course of talks.
Josh Block, former spokesman for The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, told FoxNews.com that Obama "repeats the error" made when his White House pressed the Israelis on settlement construction, granting the Palestinians more leverage in talks.
The talks have since stalled and Obama's Middle East envoy has resigned. Block said Obama's new position will not help matters.
"This strategic error is manifold, and undermines, not advances, the prospects for peace talks," he said in an email.
Obama is set to address the AIPAC conference on Sunday. Other Jewish advocacy groups, though, said Obama's position merely puts the U.S. on record in support of a plan that had a good chance of being the basis for a compromise anyway.
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