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Posted May 24, 2011, 7:27 am
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech Monday that Israel must be mindful of its security and therefore cannot return to the 1967 borders.
"(A peace agreement) must leave Israel with security, and therefore Israel cannot return to the indefensible 1967 lines," he said in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel American lobby, as reported in CNN.
Netanyahu, speaking to the lobby after he had a testy meeting with President Obama on Friday, acknowledged the "agony of war" but blamed the Palestinians for the inability to secure peace between the two sides.
"This conflict has raged for a nearly a century because the Palestinians refuse to end it. They refuse to accept the Jewish state," he said.
Palestinians have refused to restart stalled peace talks until the Israelis halt the settlement building in areas Palestinians hope will be their new state. The Israeli government, meanwhile, has criticized the Palestinian Authority for partnering with Hamas, a terrorist organization.
Obama raised the issue of borders in a major policy speech he gave last week, arguing that negotiations on final borders for the Jewish and Palestinian states must be based on the 1967 lines. This would mean Israel would have to give up land it captured in the Six Day War, notably east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu, who reacted harshly to Obama's speech, promised to present his vision for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians when he gives a speech before a joint meeting of Congress on Tuesday.
"I will outline a vision for a secure Israeli-Palestinian peace," he said, as reported by Reuters.
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"I intend to speak the unvarnished truth. Now more than ever what we need is clarity."
The Israeli leader received a warm welcome at the AIPAC event, drawing cheers and standing ovations, the Washington Post reports. He is also likely to receive a warm greeting by members of Congress, where he has strong bipartisan support.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, an ally of Obama, said at Monday's dinner: “No one should set premature parameters about borders, about building or about anything else."
After his comment, the lights at the Washington Convention Center turned on and most of the crowd gave Reid a standing ovation, Politico reports.
The support by both the lobby group and Congress may remind Obama that he will have a tough political price to pay in the 2012 election if he pushes Netanyahu too hard on land swaps and settlement building, the Washington Post states.
In his own speech to AIPAC on Sunday, Obama stressed that the borders could be adjusted through mutually agreed upon land swaps.