Netanyahu in Washington rejects Obama's Palestinian state plan
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived in Washington hours after he rejected a call by US President Barack Obama for a negotiated solution to the Middle East conflict based on the 1967 borders that existed prior to the Six-Day War.
A senior Israeli official said the prime minister felt Obama did not understand the security threats Israel faces as popular revolts in neighbouring Arab countries sweep against it borders.
Obama’s call came in his long-awaited ‘Arab Spring’ address on Thursday on future US policy in the Middle East.
“The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognised borders are established for both states,” he said in the speech at the State Department.
In rejecting the call, Netanyahu said giving up the entire West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the northern Golan Heights, would leave Israel with indefensible borders. The move would also place hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers inside a new Palestinian state.
Palestinians responded cautiously to Obama’s speech with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas calling an urgent meeting of top advisers to discuss the way forward.
Obama also used the speech to explain the sometimes-contradictory US response to the wave of protests in the Middle East and North Africa.
He called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to lead a transition or “leave” in a stiffening of the US line on Damascus one day after the introduction of sanctions on the leadership.
A Syrian official dismissed the appeal telling the Sana news agency that it “reaffirmed the deep-rooted and unwavering support for Israel’s security”.
Obama also urged a real dialogue between the government and opposition forces in Bahrain and said Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh should follow through on his promise to cede power.
The talks between the two leaders take place in a busy week for Middle East diplomacy in Washington.
On Sunday, Obama will address the powerful Israel lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee before heading off on a week-long trip to Europe.
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