Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s publicly contradicting U.S. President Barack Obama’s attempt to shrink Israel’s borders to the demands of the Palestinian Authority is only “a friendly argument," he insists.
The Prime Minister was trying to calm down reactions from American media, whose reports included accusations that he threw a ”tantrum” and gave President Obama lecture for the world to see and hear.
Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Associated Press that the disagreement has been “blown way out of proportion” and that, "It's true we have some differences of opinion, but these are among friends.”
President Obama delivered a policy speech on Thursday, and reiterated in a televised discussion with his host, that Israel must accept the 1949 Armistice Lines as its new borders, with land swaps with the Palestinian Authority. Israel’s borders changed in 1967 after the Arab world surrendered areas of Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria occupied for 19 years by Jordan, all of which were restored to Israel.
President Obama’s policy statement was not new so much as it was stated so strongly and directly to the Israeli leader in public.
Prime Minister Netanyahu did not flinch and was equally frank with his host.
“Peace based on illusions will crash eventually on the rocks of Middle East reality,” he said.“While Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines. These lines are indefensible, because they don't take into account certain changes that have taken place on the ground, demographic changes.”
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney clearly backed Israel and stated, “Obama has thrown Israel under the bus. He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace. He has also violated a first principle of American foreign policy, which is to stand firm by our friends.”
The Israeli leader was criticized by many American media pundits. The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky called Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statements to President Obama a “tantrum” that reflected “total denial about the future.” Similarly, Roger Cohen of the pro-Palestinian Authority New York Times wrote that Netanyahu “will be judged a failure if he refuses, now, to make a good-faith effort to see if Israel’s security can be squared with Palestinian statehood in the West Bank and Gaza."
The response was less favorable to President Obama among Republicans, Arabs and also outside of United States and among Arabs. The Toronto Globe & Mail noted that the Canadian government does not back the American policy, while Arab-American leader James Zogby wrote in the Huffington Post that President Obama’s speech “fell flat” and was too tired and too careful, in no significant way advancing the discussion beyond the Cairo speech of 2009."
In Israel, even Netanyahu’s political foe Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the apparent conflict between the president and the Prime Minister is a lot “smaller than it looks.”