President Obama on Sunday stood by his call to use Israel’s 1967 borders—with mutually agreed-upon land swaps—as the basis for negotiations with Palestinians, but he attempted to assuage critics and stressed his commitment to Israel’s security.
In a speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference in Washington just days after his remarks, Obama stressed the urgency in reaching a peace agreement and said his comments merely stated publicly what has long been acknowledged privately.
“I have done so because we cannot afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades, to achieve peace,” he said. “The world is moving too fast. The extraordinary challenges facing Israel would only grow. Delay will undermine Israel’s security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve.”
The basis of negotiations, he said, “has to hold out the prospect of success.”
Obama’s comments last week drew criticism from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who met with Obama for two hours on Friday in the Oval Office. After the meeting, he called the 1967 lines “indefensible.” Republicans have also blasted Obama’s comments, saying that they could ultimately hurt negotiations.
But Obama today received a warm reception from AIPAC, the influential group that lobbies on behalf of Israeli interests. In introducing Obama, AIPAC President Lee Rosenberg said he appreciates the president’s efforts for finding a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Obama spent much of his speech stating his administration’s commitment to Israel and its security. “It’s why, despite tough fiscal times, we’ve increased foreign military financing to record levels,” he said to applause. “Make no mistake about it, we will maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge,” he added.
"In both word and deed, we have been unwavering in our support of Israel’s security," Obama said. "And it is precisely because of our commitment to Israel’s long-term security that we have worked to advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians."