(JTA) — Benjamin Netanyahu responded to President Obama’s call for negotiations based on the 1967 lines by saying these lines are "indefensible" borders for Israel.
The Israeli prime minister urged Obama to reaffirm commitments made by President George W. Bush regarding Israel’s borders and the fate of Palestinian refugees.
"Israel appreciates President Obama’s commitment to peace," the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement. "Israel believes that for peace to endure between Israelis and Palestinians, the viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state."
In his Thursday policy address at the State Department, Obama had said that the borders of a "sovereign, nonmilitarized" Palestinian state "should be based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps."
Netanyahu’s office said in response that he "expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress."
"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 centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines," the Prime Minister’s Office 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."
In a 2004 letter to Israel’s then-prime minister, Ariel Sharon, President Bush stated: “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.” Bush added that “it is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.”
Bush’s letter also said that the solution to the Palestinian refugee “will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.”
The Prime Minister’s Office statement also reiterated the prime minister’s insistence that the Palestinians recognize Israel as "the nation state of the Jewish people" and that Israel retain a military presence along the Jordan River.
In his speech, Obama said he envisions a Palestinian state with a permanent border with Jordan.
Netanyahu’s statement also said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas "seeks a Palestinian state in order to continue the conflict with Israel," pointing to recent statements by the Palestinian leader and.citing his unity agreement with Hamas.