by Stephen Collinson Stephen Collinson – Sat May 21
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Barack Obama against chasing what he called a Middle East peace “based on illusions” as he lectured the US president amid a widening rift in US-Israeli ties.
In a dramatic Oval Office appearance, after 90 minutes of talks Friday, Prime Minister Netanyahu emphatically vowed Israel would never return to its 1967 borders and laid down a set of non-negotiable conditions for peace talks.
The exchange, which left hopes for Obama’s peace drive more remote than ever, came a day after the US president called on Israel to accept a return to territorial lines in place before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, with mutual land swaps with Palestinians to frame a secure peace.
But Netanyahu seized on the notion that he was being asked to return solely to Israel’s 1967 footprint, which he said was nine miles wide in places and half the size of the “Beltway” highway surrounding Washington.
“While Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines — because these lines are indefensible,” Netanyahu said, looking Obama squarely in the eye.