President Barack Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)
President Obama welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House Friday, one day after a major policy speech in which the president called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for Israel to accept its pre-1967 borders.
The president’s statement had angered Netanyahu, whose office released a statement saying, “[T]he 1967 lines … are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines.”
Appearing together before the cameras Friday, President Obama described Netanyahu’s seventh visit during his presidency as and “indication of the extraordinary bond between our two countries.”
In underscoring the message of his Thursday policy speech, the president said there was a “moment of opportunity” in Arab Spring but “significant perils as well.” He touched on the threat posed by unrest in Syria, Israel’s neighbor, and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
But the two leaders focused in on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, in an effort to move past the much-discussed 1967 borders statement.
Despite differences in what a peace agreement would look like, “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 and that Israel’s security will remain paramount in U.S. evaluations of any prospective peace deal,” Mr. Obama said.
Netanyahu echoed the common-goal approach. “Israel wants peace. I want peace. What we all want is a peace that will be genuine, that will hold, that will endure,” he said, adding that “the only peace that will endure that is one that is based on reality … on unshakeable facts.”
Netanyahu reiterated his stance that the 1967 borders are “indefensible,” saying that “Israel has certain security requirements” and “cannot negotiate with a Palestinian government that is backed by Hamas,” a reference to an agreement forged earlier this month between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah government and Hamas. Netanyahu, addressing President Obama directly, called Hamas the “Palestinian version of al-Qaida.”
He told the president that they both share the goal of a “better future for Israel and the entire region,” and that as prime minister of Israel he felt great responsibility to preserve its interests during a time of turmoil in the region.
“History will not give the Jewish people another chance,” he said.