Obama Repeats Proposal But Offers Assurance at AIPAC

The Israel lobby and Netanyahu issued positive responses

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When President Obama addressed the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC on Sunday, he repeated his call for a return to pre-1967 borders adjusted for land swaps, despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rejection of the proposal. The New York Times reports that Obama "did not walk back from his speech on Thursday," and instead challenged the Israeli government to “make the hard choices that are necessary to protect a Jewish and democratic state," as well as warned that Israel would face growing isolation without a viable Middle East peace process.

However, the Wall Street Journal found that his AIPAC address changed the "tone" of his earlier position by emphasizing the Jewish state's security and clarifying the borders.

“Since my position has been misrepresented several times, let me reaffirm what '1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps' means,” Mr. Obama said. “By definition, it means that the parties themselves — Israelis and Palestinians — will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. It is a well known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years.”

Obama's speech at AIPAC was considered critical by some who thought his Thursday speech represented a marked shift in U.S. policy toward Israel. Jennifer Rubin wrote for the Washington Post that "Obama confirms his distinction as the president least sympathetic to Israel and most disruptive of the peace process."

Following such critique, Obama's allies feared an adverse reaction from AIPAC. However, the Times reports that the packed hall stood up and clapped, and some even cheered. The Journal was less positive, observing that his comments on the 1967 lines "drew a reserved response, and were jeered by a few audience members. But the president's overall speech was received warmly."

Afterward, AIPAC put out a statement saying "we appreciate his statement that the U.S. does not expect Israel to withdraw to the boundaries that existed between Israel and Jordan in 1967 before the Six Day War."

Furthermore, Prime Minister Netanyahu released the following statement in response:

I am a partner to President Obama’s wish to promote peace, and I appreciate his efforts in the past and present to achieve this goal. I am determined to work with President Obama to find ways to renew peace talks.

After Netanyahu addresses AIPAC Monday night, it will become more clear how successful Obama was in neutralizing the tension.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.