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Israeli reaction varies to Obama's stance on 1967 borders

From Kevin Flower, Jerusalem Bureau Chief
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacts coolly to President Obama's speech
  • Opposition leader: Obama's "call to start negotiations represents Israel's interests"
  • Kadima's Tzipi Livni defends Obama's statement the pre-1967 borders should be basis for talks
  • Other political figures In Israel respond along predictable partisan lines

(CNN) -- Reaction in Israel has varied to President Barack Obama's endorsement of the long-held but rarely stated U.S. support for a future Palestinian state based on borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded coolly, saying that to use those borders as a basis for talks would leave Israel "indefensible" because major population centers are beyond those lines.

Not everyone in Israel agrees.

Tzipi Livni, an opposition leader and former foreign minister who leads the Kadima movement, criticized Netanyahu's resistance to Obama's vision for peace talks.

"An American president that supports a two-state solution represents the Israeli interest and is not anti-Israeli," Livni said. "President Obama's call to start negotiations represents Israel's interests."

In addition to saying "the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines," Obama said peace talks could include "mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states."

Israel seized the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula in the 1967 war.

"The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine," Obama said in the concluding section of his 45-minute address that looked at political and social change sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa.

Other political figures In Israel responded along predictable partisan lines.

The outspoken deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset, or parliament, and Likud party member Danny Danon excoriated Obama for proposing borders along 1967 lines. He said in a statement that Obama had "adopted Yasser Arafat's infamous 'Stages Plan' and the hope to eventually remove the state of Israel from the map."

The Stages Plan refers to a Palestine Liberation Organization political document calling for a binational state that many in Israel believed was a ploy for staging further attacks against Israeli targets.

Einat Wilf, a member of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs Committee, sounded a far more conciliatory tone, however.

The Independence Party member said Obama's speech confirmed the principle "that Israel needs to be recognized by the Palestinians as the homeland of the Jewish people."

She also said it reaffirmed that the only way to achieve a Palestinian state is through direct negotiations with Israel, and she said it's particularly important that Obama mentioned that the Palestinians walked away from negotiations.

Opinions were varied in Israel's freewheeling media as well.

An editorial in the Jerusalem Post took note of Obama's reference to sensitive issue of the right of return of Palestinian refugees, writing "disturbingly, he did not specify that the Palestinian refugee problem must be solved within a new 'Palestine,' not in Israel."

Columnists Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer, writing in the pages of the mass circulation daily Yedioth Aronoth, argued that the focus on 1967 border lines was a "distraction."