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Israel cannot return to pre-1967 boundaries, leader insists

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking to a pro-Israel lobby, again criticizes the plan President Obama offered for peace talks. Netanyahu says it would jeopardize Israel's security.

May 24, 2011|By Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen on a screen as he speaks at a gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen on a screen as he speaks… (Jason Reed, Reuters )

Reporting from Washington — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday repeated his criticism of President Obama's plan for peace negotiations with Palestinians, saying that his country could not return to the boundaries it had before 1967 because of the risks it would pose to Israel's security.

In remarks to a pro-Israel lobby, Netanyahu said that while Israel is eager to negotiate a peace deal, "it must leave Israel with security. Therefore, it cannot return to the indefensible 1967 lines."

Netanyahu and Obama have been exchanging sharp words since Thursday, when Obama offered a series of principles he said should guide any new Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. The president said the negotiations should use the 1967 boundaries as a baseline for discussions, and then swap territory on each side of the line to arrive at a mutually acceptable deal.

Obama, in a Sunday speech to the same lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, emphasized that he did not expect Israel to fall back to the old lines, but only to use them as a starting point in the talks for territorial swaps. But Netanyahu again on Monday repeated his view that Israel could not use the 1967 lines even as the starting point for negotiations.

The Israeli prime minister did not expand on his ideas for peace discussions, but he promised he would lay them out in more detail Tuesday, when he addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress.

Netanyahu has received some criticism for taking a tough line with Obama in recent days, and some analysts in Israel have expected the prime minister to take a more conciliatory line. But Netanyahu held his ground.

At the same time, he again thanked the Obama administration for its help on security issues, including in funding the Iron Dome missile defense system, which has just been deployed in Israel against rockets fired into the country by militants.

Netanyahu, leader of the conservative Likud Party, said he thanked Obama and Congress for providing security assistance so Israel "can defend itself, by itself."

paul.richter@latimes.com

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