Obama, Netanyahu discuss Mideast peace

May 20, 2011 at 8:25 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 20 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pledged to work for Middle East peace despite differences about the discussion's parameters.

Netanyahu began a multiday trip to Washington Friday by meeting with Obama, discussing recent events in the region, the threat from Iran and Obama's comments Thursday about his vision for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

"The ultimate goal has to be a secure Israeli state living side by side with a contiguous, functioning Palestinian state," Obama told reporters during a media opportunity with Netanyahu. "Obviously there are some differences ... that's going to happen between friends."

Netanyahu flatly rejected Obama's call for the pre-1967 Middle East War border as a starting point, telling Obama such a border was "indefensible."

Both acknowledged, however, that they must work together to pursue a comprehensive, lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, with Obama noting differences concerning "precise formulation" and Netanyahu said there would be differences "here and there."

"We don't have a lot of margin for error," Netanyahu said, adding, he intends to work with Obama to seek a peace that addresses Israel's security concerns, secures recognition from "our Palestinian neighbors" and provides for a better future for the region.

"What we're in complete accord about, is that true peace can only occur if Israel to secure itself," Obama said. "It is possible for us to shape a deal that allows Israel to secure itself, not to be vulnerable, but also allows it to resolve what has obviously been a wrenching issue for both peoples for decades now."

Both also agreed meaningful negotiations cannot exist if one of the parties "refuses to acknowledge [Israel's] right to exist," speaking of Hamas and its accord with ruling Fatah Party.

"It is not a partner for a significant realistic peace process," Obama said.

Calling Hamas the "Palestinian version of al-Qaida," Netanyahu said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas must chose whether to kept his pact with Hamas or pursue peace with Israel.

Netanyahu also said a resolution of Palestinian refugees would not be resolved within Israel's border.

"It's not going to happen," he said.

"Peace based on illusions crash eventually on the rocks of Middle East reality," Netanyahu said. "I think for there to be peace, Palestinians will have to accept some basic realities."

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters some media coverage of Obama's Thursday speech has been misleading and that Obama's language was not a departure from longstanding U.S. policy.

"The president said the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states," Carney said. "That is a formulation that has been understood by parties to these negotiations and by anybody who's been a close observer of these negotiations in this region for years.

"And I think that, again, anybody who knows this issue knows that this has been an understood starting point for resolving one of the four major issues between these two peoples, which is territory, for a long time."

Carney said "nothing [Obama said Thursday] contradicts the 2004 letters that were exchanged between President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon, or what Prime Minister Netanyahu said today in the Oval Office."

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