WASHINGTON — President Obama, delivering a major speech on the Middle East and North Africa, Thursday called for the borders of Israel and any future Palestinian state to be based on 1967 lines with "mutually agreed swaps."
His proposal immediately drew a cool response from Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement while Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas called an "urgent" meeting of Palestinian leaders.
"Negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine," Obama said in his 45-minute speech at the US State Department.
President Obama told Israel today to return to the 1967 border agreement.
Obama said Israel would not be expected to give back any territory until it could be guaranteed of its own security.
"Every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself -- by itself -- against any threat," he said.
Obama's speech, in which he also announced a significant economic aid package for Egypt, came just one day before he was scheduled to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House and two days after he held talks with King Abdullah II of Jordan.
Netanyahu's office immediately issued a statement calling on Washington to reaffirm "commitments" made to Israel by former President George W. Bush in 2004, AFP reported.
"Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines, which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centres in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) beyond those lines," the statement said.
"Those commitments also ensure Israel's well-being as a Jewish state by making clear that Palestinian refugees will settle in a future Palestinian state rather than in Israel."
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations, issued a statement saying a return to 1967 borders as a basis for negotiations "is a non-starter, when at least half of the Palestinian rulers are committed to Israel's destruction."
The 1967 borders refer to those that existed before the Six-Day War, when Egypt, Syria and Jordan launched a surprise attack on Israel. The result was a decisive Israeli victory that left Israel in control of disputed territories such as the Golan Heights and Gaza Strip. A return to the 1967 borders would mean Israel relinquishing certain territories, a position the country has opposed.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for an "urgent" meeting of Palestinian leaders immediately after Obama finished speaking. NEWS LINK