Hours before his meeting at the White House on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has slammed the United States' assertion that acceptance of the pre-1967-war borders should be the starting point of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
“The viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of Israel's existence,” said Mr. Netanyahu before leaving for the U.S. for talks with President Barack Obama.
During the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Israel expanded its hold over the West Bank of the Jordan river, the Gaza strip and entire Jerusalem.
Mr. Netanyahu said he expected “to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004”. Analysts say he was referring to a letter issued by the former President, George Bush, that suggested Israel could keep some of the major settlement blocs in the occupied land as part of a peace deal.The New York Timesis also reporting quoting officials that ahead of Mr. Obama's address on West Asia, Mr. Netanyahu held “an angry phone conversation” with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in which he demanded the President's reference to 1967 borders be cut. In a keynote address on Thursday regarding U.S. policy towards West Asia, he said at a time “when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever”. He also seemed to prioritise reaching an agreement on concrete territorial limits of a full-fledged Palestinian state before addressing other two key issues: the return of Palestinian refugees displaced by earlier wars and the status of East Jerusalem, which Palestinians see as the capital of their future state.
Palestinian Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the U.S. President's speech was disappointingBut Fatah, led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, which has recently reached a unity accord with Hamas, has welcomed Mr. Obama's address.