President Obama repeated and clarified his position on Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations as he addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) this morning. Referring to the "questions" raised by his policy speech on Thursday, Pres. Obama called for a two-state solution, with permanent Israeli and Palestinian borders "based on the 1967 lines with mutally agreed swaps."
While stressing actions his administration has taken to support Israel, including securing extra funding for the Iron Dome rocket defense system, the President emphasized the urgency for a peace settlement, especially given changes in regional demographics, technology and the "Arab Spring" uprisings.
Pres. Obama repeated his bottom line for negotiations, declaring that "the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967." Rejecting Palestinian efforts to gain statehood through a United Nation's resolution, the President affirmed, "peace cannot be imposed on the parties to the conflict."
During a meeting at the White House Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Pres. Obama's 1967 borders proposal. He said, “The first is that while Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines -- because these lines are indefensible; because they don’t take into account certain changes that have taken place on the ground, demographic changes that have taken place over the last 44 years.”
Just hours after Pres. Obama gave his Middle East speech, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) called for further U.S. intervention in Syria – everything short of military action - while outlining his policy recommendations for the entire Middle East region.
Fresh from a trip to Pakistan where Senator John Kerry (D-MA) met with local leaders in an attempt to ease the strained relationship since the death of Osama bin Laden, he held a hearing Tuseday on the future of the U.S. relationship with Pakistan.
“We are strategic partners with a common enemy in terrorism and extremism,” Senator Kerry said. He said his meetings with President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani were a step to “begin to renew that partnership.”
General James Jones (Ret.), former National Security Advisor for President Obama, testified before the committee on the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. He told the committee that Pakistan needs to clarify and its relationship with the U.S. He gave the same message in remarks at the National Press Club Monday.
In his address on foreign policy, Pres. Obama spoke about more than the peace process, he also called on the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to step aside if he failed to implement democratic reforms.
Regarding Egypt and Tunisia, two countries undergoing political transition, the President said, "America must use all our influence to encourage reform in the region." He announced aid packages for both countries.