Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Obama to AIPAC: I Won't Back Down on Israel-Palestine Border Issue

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Obama to AIPAC: I Won't Back Down on Israel-Palestine Border Issue

Article excerpt

Speaking to AIPAC Sunday, President Obama repeated his position that Israel-Palestine peace negotiations must acknowledge the 1967 borders as a starting point. But he also emphasized that US commitment to Israel's security is 'ironclad.'

President Obama is not backing down on how to solve the Israel- Palestine border issue in achieving peace in the Middle East.

Speaking Sunday to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee - which identifies itself as America's leading pro-Israel lobby - Obama reiterated his stance: Any negotiation has to begin by acknowledging the 1967 borders before the Six-Day War in which Israel occupied land in Jordan, Syria, and Egypt.

In his closely-watched speech on the Middle East Thursday, Obama had made it clear that this had to include "mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states."

But to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, many supporters of Israel, and Republican presidential hopefuls this was a nonstarter.

Israel "cannot go back to the 1967 lines," the Israeli leader said. "Those lines are indefensible."

Speaking to AIPAC Sunday, Obama sought to clarify what he had meant on Thursday regarding the 1967 borders.

"By definition, it means that the parties themselves - Israelis and Palestinians - will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967," Obama said. "It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years. It allows the parties themselves to take account of those changes, including the new demographic realities on the ground, and the needs of both sides."

"The ultimate goal is two states for two people," he said, "Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people - and the State of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people - each state in joined self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace."

Other officials elaborated.

"The president didn't say that Israel has to go back to the '67 lines. He said with agreed swaps," former Middle East envoy George Mitchell said Sunday on ABC's This Week. "Swaps means an exchange of land intended to accommodate major Israeli population centers to be incorporated into Israel and Israel's security needs. …

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