Last Thursday, Obama broke with long-standing US policy and completely sided with the Palestinians in the ongoing Israel-Palestinian conflict by endorsing Palestinian demand for their own state based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Six-Day War. That means Israel must forfeit the West Bank and Jerusalem, rolling back its borders to pre-1967. That, in turn, means that Israel effectively becomes territorially indefensible.
The next day Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to the United States to meet with Obama in the Oval Office, where this interesting photo was snapped. The New York Times describes Obama as listening, “almost frozen,” as Mr. Netanyahu clearly and firmly rejected what Obama had proposed the day before.
Photo taken by Jim Young of Reuters
This is the transcript of what Netanyahu told Obama:
Thank you, Mr. President.
Well, Mr. President — and first, I want to thank you and the first lady for the gracious hospitality that you’ve shown me, my wife and our entire delegation. We have an enduring bond of friendship between our two countries. And I appreciate the opportunity to have this meeting with you after your important speech yesterday.
We share your hope and your vision for the spread of democracy in the Middle East. I appreciate the fact that you reaffirmed once again now and in our conversation, and in actual deed, the commitment to Israel’s security. We value your efforts to advance the peace process.
This is something that we want to have accomplished. Israel wants peace. I want peace. What we all want is a peace that will be genuine, that will hold, that will endure. And I think that the — we both agree that a peace based on illusions will crash eventually on the rocks of Middle Eastern reality, and that the only — the only peace that will endure is one that is based on reality, on unshakable facts.
I think for there to be peace, the Palestinians will have to accept some basic realities. The first is that while Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines, because these lines are indefensible, because they don’t take into account certain changes that have taken place on the ground, demographic changes that have taken place over the last 44 years. Remember that before 1967, Israel was all of 9 miles wide — half the width of the Washington Beltway. And these were not the boundaries of peace; they were the boundaries of repeated wars, because the attack on Israel was so attractive from them.
So we can’t go back to those indefensible lines, and we’re going to have to have a long-term military presence along the Jordan.
I discussed this with the president. I think that we understand that Israel has certain security requirements that will have to come into place in any deal that we make.
The second is — echoes something the president just said, and that is that Israel cannot negotiate with a Palestinian government that is backed by Hamas. Hamas, as the president said, is a terrorist organization, committed to Israel’s destruction. It’s fired thousands of rockets on our cities, on our children. It’s recently fired an antitank rocket at a — at a yellow school bus, killing a 16-year-old boy.
And Hamas has just attacked you, Mr. President, and the United States for ridding the world of Bin Laden. So Israel obviously cannot be asked to negotiate with a government that is backed by the Palestinian version of Al Qaeda.
I think President Abbas has a simple choice. He has to decide if he negotiates or keeps his pact with Hamas, or makes peace with Israel. And I — I can only express what I said to you just now: that I hope he makes the choice, the right choice, of choosing peace with Israel.
But a third reality is that the Palestinian refugee problem will have to be resolved in the context of a Palestinian state but certainly not in the borders of Israel. The Arab attack in 1948 on Israel resulted in two refugee problems, Palestinian refugee problem and Jewish refugees, roughly the same number, who were expelled from Arab lands. Now tiny Israel absorbed the Jewish refugees, but the vast Arab world refused to absorb the Palestinian refugees.
Now, 63 years later, the Palestinians come to us and they say to Israel: accept the grandchildren, really, and the great-grandchildren of these refugees, thereby wiping out Israel’s future as a Jewish state.
So that’s not going to happen. Everybody knows it’s not going to happen. And I think it’s time to tell the Palestinians forthrightly, it’s not going to happen.
The Palestinian refugee problem has to be resolved. It can be resolved. And it will be resolved if the Palestinians choose to do so in Palestinian state. That’s a real possibility. But it’s not going to be resolved within the Jewish state.
The president and I discussed all of these issues, and I think we may have differences here and there, but I think there is an overall direction that we wish to work together to pursue a real, genuine peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors, a peace that is defensible.
Mr. President, you are the — you are the leader of a great people, the American people. And I am the leader of a much smaller people. The…ancient nation of Israel. And you know, we’ve been around for almost 4,000 years. We have experienced struggle and suffering like no other people. We’ve gone through expulsions and pogroms and massacres and the murder of millions.
But I can say that even at the dearth of — even at the nadir of the valley of death, we never lost hope and we never lost our dream of re-establishing a sovereign state in our ancient homeland, the land of Israel. And now it falls on my shoulders as the prime minister of Israel at a time of extraordinary instability and uncertainty in the Middle East to work with you to fashion a peace that will ensure Israel’s security and will not jeopardize its survival.
I take this responsibility with pride but with great humility, because, as I told you in our conversation, we don’t have a lot of margin for error and because, Mr. President, history will not give the Jewish people another chance.
So, in the coming days and weeks and months, I intend to work with you to seek a peace that will address our security concerns, seek a genuine recognition that we wish from our Palestinian neighbors and give a better future for Israel and for the entire region. And I thank you for the opportunity to exchange our views and to work together for this common end.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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