Israeli leader cool to Obama speech

JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister on Thursday gave a cool reception to President Barack Obama’s Mideast policy speech, warning a withdrawal from the West Bank wold leave Israel vulnerable to attack and setting up what could be a tense meeting at the White House.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s prime minister on Thursday gave a cool reception to President Barack Obama’s Mideast policy speech, warning a withdrawal from the West Bank wold leave Israel vulnerable to attack and setting up what could be a tense meeting at the White House.

In his speech, Obama endorsed the Palestinian position on the borders of their future state, saying it should be based on Israel’s lines before the 1967 Mideast war. Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in the fighting, and the Palestinians claim those areas for their state.

The U.S., the international community and even past Israeli governments have endorsed a settlement based on the 1967 lines, but Obama was far more explicit than in the past. His position appeared to put him at odds with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has not accepted the concept.

Reacting to Obama’s speech, Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a full withdrawal from the West Bank, saying the 1967 lines were “indefensible” and would leave major Jewish settlements outside Israel. Netanyahu rejects any pullout from east Jerusalem.

Netanyahu heads to the White House on Friday and said he would seek clarifications.

Behind the rhetoric, though, was the possibility of finding common ground. Obama said he would support agreed-upon territorial swaps between the Israel and the Palestinians, leaving the door open for Israel to retain major West Bank settlements, where the vast majority of its nearly 300,000 Jewish settlers live.

Netanyahu said he would urge Obama to endorse a 2004 American commitment, made by then President George W. Bush, to Israel. In a letter at the time, Bush said a full withdrawal to the 1967 lines was “unrealistic” and a future peace agreement would have to recognize “new realities on the ground.”

Israelis have interpreted Bush’s commitment as U.S. support for retaining the major settlement blocs. Earlier this week, Netanyahu said Israel would have to retain the blocs as part of any future peace agreement.

But Netanyahu also wants to keep other parts of the West Bank, including a strategic section of land along the Jordanian border that he believes is vital to Israel’s security. The Palestinians oppose any Israeli presence in their future state.

Netanyahu said he would reiterate his security demands at Friday’s meeting.

Netanyahu said he plans to raise other demands: Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish homeland, guarantees that Palestinian refugees be resettled outside of Israel and condemnation of an emerging Palestinian government that is to include the anti-Israel Hamas militant group.

With peacemaking stalled for months, the Palestinians have said they will ask the United Nations to recognize their independence in September, with or without a peace deal.

In his speech, Obama rejected the U.N. push. “Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state,” Obama said.

It was not immediately clear whether Obama’s statement on the 1967 borders as the basis for negotiations — something the Palestinians have long sought — would be sufficient to persuade the Palestinians to drop their quest for U.N. recognition.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas planned to convene a meeting with senior officials as soon as possible to decide on the next steps, said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Abbas is determined “to give President Obama’s effort and that of the international community the chance they deserve,” Erekat said.

Former U.S. Democratic Congresman Robert Wexler, president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace in Washington, said the speech had created a “moment of truth” for the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

“No longer in earnest can President Abbas seek a United Nations resolution and say he’s serious about the creation of a Palestinian state. And likewise, Prime Minister Netanyahu must determine whether he is willing to negotiate based on the 1967 lines with agreed-upon territorial swaps,” he said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
A CN rail worker stands on an idle locomotive as protesters opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion block rail lines, in Burnaby, B.C., on Friday, November 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
CN makes rival bid to CP Rail’s offer to buy U.S. railway Kansas City Southern

Offer tops proposal made last month by Canadian Pacific Railway

The Rogers Logo is photographed on a Toronto office on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
Rogers says wireless service fully restored after daylong nationwide outage

Wireless interruption had deep economic implications

President Joe Biden meets with members of congress to discuss his jobs plan in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Feds weighing how to respond after verdict in Chauvin trial

The verdict, and the aftermath, will be a test for Biden

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, centre, tables the federal budget in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Monday April 19, 2021. The federal government unveiled spending plans to manage the remainder of the COVID-19 crisis and chart an economic course for a post-pandemic Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservatives, Bloc Quebecois to propose budget rewrites as debate starts

O’Toole has signalled that his party will propose its own economic recovery plan

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

The controversial Super League is materializing after Madrid and 11 other clubs announced its creation on Sunday. (File photo by BLACK PRESS)
Super League a ‘longtime dream’ for Madrid president Pérez

League created because coronavirus pandemic left clubs in a dire financial situation

San Jose Sharks centre Patrick Marleau (12) skates during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild, in San Jose, Calif., Monday, March 29, 2021. Marleau is skating in his 1,757th game. Only one other player in NHL history has hit that mark. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Tony Avelar
Patrick Marleau set to break Gordie Howe’s record for most NHL games played

Marleau was set to suit up for the 1,768th time Monday

FILE - In this Saturday April 17, 2021 file photo, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II follows the coffin in a car as it makes it’s way past the Round Tower during the funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip inside Windsor Castle in Windsor, England. Now that the Royal Family has said farewell to Prince Philip, attention will turn to Queen Elizabeth II’s 95th birthday on Wednesday, April 21 and, in coming months, the celebrations marking her 70 years on the throne. This combination of events is reminding the United Kingdom that the reign of the queen, the only monarch most of her subjects have ever known, is finite. (Leon Neal/Pool via AP, file)
Queen enters ‘twilight’ of reign after farewell to Philip

Charles’ increased role began gradually

This combination photo shows Oscar nominees for best actress, from left, Viola Davis in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Andra Day in “The United States vs Billie Holiday,” Vanessa Kirby in “Pieces of a Woman,” Frances McDormand in “Nomadland and Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman.” (Netflix, from left, Hulu, Netflix, Searchlight Pictures, Focus Features via AP)
Oscar predictions: Can anything beat ‘Nomadland’?

Best actress race is perhaps the biggest wild card

Letters
Letter: Restrictions have nothing to do with religion

Many have framed the closure of GraceLife Church near Edmonton by Alberta… Continue reading

LtE bug
Letter: Thanking volunteers in Red Deer

National Volunteer Week is April 18 to 24. At the Canadian Cancer… Continue reading

Letter to the editor
Letter: Good on MLAs for speaking out

This is a letter in regard to MLAs not standing united behind… Continue reading

Treena Mielke
Family: Happiness can be found in many ways

I’ve heard it said that necessity is the mother of invention. I… Continue reading

Most Read