WASHINGTON: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Friday that Israel would not withdraw to 1967 borders to help make way for an adjacent Palestinian state. President Barack Obama, seated beside him, had called on Israel to be willing to do just that in a speech the day before.
The Israeli leader said he would make some concessions but Israel would not go back to the lines from decades earlier because they would be "indefensible."
For his part, Obama said that there were differences of formulations and language but that such disputes are going to happen "between friends." The president never mentioned the 1967 borders as the two men talked with reporters.
The leaders spoke after a lengthy meeting at the White House amid tense times.
Obama said in his speech on Thursday that the United States supports creation of a Palestinian state based on the border lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel forces occupied east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. The comment drew angry criticism in Israel,
and Netanyahu made clear after meeting with Obama that the idea was unacceptable.
"We cannot go back to those indefensible lines," said Netanyahu.
Both Obama and Netanyahu said they shared a desire to get to peace and downplayed disagreements. "We may have differences here and there," Netanyahu said.
But there was no sign of resolution of the many barriers that stand between Israel and the Palestinians, more now than last September when Obama brought the two parties together to call for a peace deal within a year -- a deadline that now looks all but unattainable.
Netanyahu said his nation could not negotiate with a newly constituted Palestinian unity government that includes the radical Hamas movement, which refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist. He said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had to choose between continuing the deal with Hamas and making peace with Israel.
Obama agreed that Hamas "is not a partner for a significant realistic peace process" and said Palestinians would have to resolve that issue among themselves.
Yet both Obama and Netanyahu emphasized a need to make some kind of progress, against all obstacles, as changes sweep the Arab world. "History will not give the Jewish people another chance," Netanyahu said.