The right wing has been in full on freak out mode since President Obama in a speech on the Middle East yesterday said that for a lasting Middle East peace, “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines.” As CAP’s Matt Duss noted, this isn’t a particularly new substantive position for the U.S. to take but rather perhaps a rhetorical shift.
Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu criticized that plan yesterday, saying he “expects Obama to refrain from demanding that Israel withdraw to ‘indefensible‘ 1967 borders ‘which will leave a large population of Israelis in Judea and Samaria and outside Israel’s borders.’”
Netanyahu met with Obama in the Oval Office and afterword, the two leaders issued statements about what they had discussed. Obama, seeming to recognize the contentious debate on the 1967 borders issue, offered a measured summary of their discussion on the issue. “[W]e discussed the issue of a prospective peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” Obama said and without mentioning the border issue specifically, added, “And I reiterated and we discussed in depth the principles that I laid out yesterday.” However, Netanyahu wasn’t as tactful, outright rejecting, in front of the President, in the Oval Office and in front of video cameras, Obama’s 1967 borders language (watch the full briefing here):
NETANYAHU: I think for there to be peace, the Palestinians will have to accept some basic realities. The first is that while Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines — because these lines are indefensible; because they don’t take into account certain changes that have taken place on the ground, demographic changes that have taken place over the last 44 years.
Bibi spent the next several minutes lecturing the President and as ABC’s Jake Tapper noted, “seemed to think he needed to educate President Obama on some issues.”
But maybe Netanyahu is starting to feel the pressure. After all, Israel’s security elite line up more with Obama’s Middle East polices rather than Bibi’s and as Politico’s Ben Smith reported yesterday, “Many U.S. officials are furious…at Benjamin Netanyahu,” quoting one former State Department official:
Netanyahu is being completely disingenuous and irresponsible by trying to suggest that anyone has talked about a return to the exact 1967 borders. That’s not what the President said and he knows very well — because he’s heard this in myriad discussions, that when you’re talking about swaps, it accounts for the settlement blocs, for security.