|Update: U.S. - Israel Relations|
On Thursday, May 19, President Barak Obama delivered a speech on American diplomacy in the Middle East and North Africa, which included some statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and peace process. President Obama emphasized his commitment to Israel’s security and a desire to bring both sides back to the negotiating table. However, he did receive criticism for stating that the basis for territory negotiations should be the pre-1967 borders with mutually agreed swaps.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement in response to President Obama’s speech shortly before he embarked on his trip to Washington. The Prime Minister expressed disappointment that President Obama did not reaffirm the U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which stated that any border negotiations would have to recognize “the new realities on the ground,” meaning existing Israeli settlements.
On Friday, Prime Minister Netanyahu met with President Obama in the Oval Office, followed by a press briefing. Despite some disagreements, the two leaders concurred that Israel’s security is a vital component of any peace deal, that Hamas has no place in peace talks, and that both leaders are committed to a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.
On Sunday, President Obama addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference, re-emphasizing his support for Israel and the peace process. President Obama also clarified some of his statements from Thursday:
By definition, [1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps] means that the parties themselves—Israelis and Palestinians—will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. That’s what mutually agreed-upon swaps means. It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. 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: 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.
President Obama received criticism from Palestinian leaders regarding his statements that Israel must be a Jewish state for the Jewish people. Hamas has also condemned President Obama's AIPAC speech, restating that it will not recognize that State of Israel.
Prime Minister Netanyahu will be speaking at the AIPAC conference this evening and will deliver an address to Congress tomorrow.
For additional information about the AIPAC conference, including a live feed for banquet speeches, archived videos and a daily newsletter, visit www.aipac.org/pc.Date: 5/23/2011