US President Barack Obama's declaration in his policy speech Thursday, May 19, that Israel should withdraw to the 1967 lines with mutually agreed territorial swaps caused consternation in Jerusalem. Before flying to Washington, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stated: The 1967 lines are indefensible. Israeli security demands an IDF presence on the Jordan River. Israel appreciates the US president's commitment to peace but a Palestinian state cannot rise at the expense of Israel's existence.
In his statement, the Prime Minister pointed out that not only the US but the Palestinians must recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people and a peace accord must guarantee an end to all claims against the Jewish State of Israel.
In effect, Israel has rejected Obama's new Middle East policy as it relates to resolving its dispute with the Palestinians before he meets the US president at the White House Friday.
As presented Thursday night, Obama call for mutual swaps of land amounted to calling on Israel hand over to the Palestinians large chunks of sovereign territory in return for leaving the settlement blocks in the West Bank. This demand was not agreed in the exchanges between the White House and the Prime Minster's Office ahead of the speech. It also contradicts the guarantee the Bush presidency gave Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004 not to force Israel to return to the indefensible borders of 1967.
Obama was also the first US president to demand that Israeli Defense Forces withdraw from the Palestinian state without the security measures Israel required after numerous Arab and Palestinian attacks and still threatened. The US President's plan would also entail the IDF's evacuation of its the vital defense lines in the Jordan Valley against invasion from the east, which would pass to the Palestinian state.
The US president stated repeatedly that the Palestinian state was entitled to "a sovereign, contiguous state" bordering on Egypt, Jordan and Israel. This would give the Palestinian state sole control of its borders without regard to Israeli's security requirements. Israel was advised to be satisfied with America's "unshakeable commitment" to its security.
Obama introduced a new concept for potential Israel-Palestinian peace negotiations, from which he admitted "the Palestinians have walked away." The Palestinians state would be "non-militarized," he said – not demilitarized as Israel has demanded but possessed of an army of a size to be negotiated by the parties.
Washington sources informed reporters later that Obama's speech was delayed by more than an hour over a behind-the-scenes argument the White House had with Jerusalem and Ramallah in pursuit of approval from both for the fundamentals contained in his speech.
debkafile's Washington sources report that although both Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas voiced strong reservations on some points, those sources concluded that they need not stop them entering into negations on the basis of the Obama principles.
According to other sources, nothing of the kind was agreed and major differences lie ahead of Netanyahu's White House talks in Washington and his speeches to Congress and the conference of AIPAC the Israel lobby.