Are they really at odds? To see the answer, you have to read between the lines.
It's all in the code. The words themselves don't mean much. And therein lies a lot of misunderstanding over whether President Obama really broke new ground on Mideast peace this week, or whether he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu truly disagree.
The conventional wisdom is that there are bitter differences between Obama and Netanyahu stemming from the president's brand-new proposal. Indeed, in a remarkable colloquy at a White House photo op on Friday, a day after Obama's landmark speech, the president and the prime minister appeared to be almost negotiating in public, further roiling an already tense relationship. Netanyahu effectively rebuked Obama for suggesting that talks with the Palestinians should be based on the 1967 borders, or that the Palestinian refugee issue can be kept separate from the issues of "territory and security," as the president suggested.
Home Is Where the Votes Are
Daniels Ramps Up His Fundraising
Obama, for his part, appeared eager to assuage Netanyahu's concerns. In his own remarks to reporters at the photo op, he emphasized that "a true peace can only occur if the final resolution allows Israel to defend itself against threats."
That, too, was code for: The actual '67 borders don't mean much, and we really don't disagree all that much. Both sides know that huge Israeli settlements in the West Bank that amount to mini-cities will be part of any permanent solution, if that comes, and always be part of Israel. There is no chance the Israelis will simply withdraw from the West Bank as they did from Gaza. When Obama declared that "the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps," he went further than any U.S. president had before. But he didn't go any further than some Israeli leaders have gone dating back to then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David in 2000.