Netanyahu disappointed by Obama speech

2011-05-20 13:01

Washington - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Washington on Friday, concerned and disappointed with US President Barack Obama's speech calling for peace talks with the Palestinians.

"There are things that can't be swept under the carpet," Netanyahu said, according to a senior Israeli official who briefed reporters on the flight hours before the prime minister was to hold Oval Office talks with Obama.

The official said Netanyahu felt Obama did not understand the security threats Israel faces as popular revolts in neighbouring Arab countries sweep against its borders.

"There is a feeling that Washington does not understand the reality. Washington does not understand what we face," the official said.

Obama's "Arab Spring" address on Thursday included a call for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be based on the 1967 borders that existed prior to that year's Six Day War.

Netanyahu has rejected the call, saying that if Israel gives up the entire West Bank, including east Jerusalem, and the northern Golan Heights, it will leave his country with "indefensible" borders.

Call for assurances

Such a move would also leave hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers inside a new Palestinian state, which Netanyahu has also rejected.

The Israeli leader has instead called on Washington to confirm "assurances" given to Israel by former president George W Bush in 2004 on not having to go back to 1967 lines.

"The prime minister's tough response expresses the disappointment with the absence of central issues (from the speech) which Israel had demanded, primarily the refugees," the official said.

The Palestinians have asked that at least some of the refugees from the 1948 war that attended Israel's creation and their descendants be allowed to return. Netanyahu has said the issue should be resolved outside Israel's borders.

The official said Netanyahu was "worried about what happened on the borders" last weekend, when Palestinian refugees stormed Israel's frontier with Lebanon and Syria and demonstrated in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

"The refugees are trying to fulfil their goal of return," the official said.

Obama has called for the renewal of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that broke down late last year after Israel refused Palestinian demands to rein in settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

Read more on:    benjamin netanyahu  |  barack obama  |  israel  |  us  |  palestine  |  middle east peace
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