WASHINGTON -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held his ground Friday following a tense White House meeting, one day after U.S. President Barack Obama advocated a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine with a return to borders based on 1967 lines.
"We cannot go back to those indefensible lines," Netanyahu said before reporters after a meeting with Obama that ran over schedule and lasted two hours. "Peace based on illusions will crash eventually on the rocks of Middle East reality."
Obama, whose relationship with the right-wing Israeli leader has been strained from the start of his administration, didn't mention 1967, the year Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights after the Six Day war with neighboring Arab countries. He attempted to downplay differences highlighted in his Middle East speech Thursday, saying that while the two countries may disagree on language and formulations, that's to be expected "between friends."
But even as the two leaders met, much of the international community expressed measured support for the broad outlines of Obama's plan.
During the meeting, the Middle East Quartet -- made up of the United Nations, the European Union, the Russian Federation and the United States -- issued a statement expressing "strong support for the vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace outlined" by the U.S. president. "The Quartet agrees that moving forward on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation for Israelis and Palestinians to reach a final resolution of the conflict through serious and substantive negotiations and mutual agreement on all core issues," the statement continued.
While the Quartet did not echo the call for a return to 1967 borders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel did.
"I think the proposal to take the 1967 borders and to consider the exchange of territory would be a good and practicable path," she said Friday in Berlin. She went on to say that neither the continued building of settlements by Israel nor the proposed unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state by the United Nations General Assembly would move the peace process forward.
"What is needed instead," Merkel said, "are common steps toward reaching a two-state solution."
The call to draw permanent borders based on 1967 lines, with land swaps to account for existing Israeli settlements in the West Bank, isn't new among foreign policy experts -- similar ideas date back to the Clinton administration. But Obama's public support of the position took Israelis by surprise and set the tone for this week's visit from the Israeli leader.
Netanyahu will speak to AIPAC, the conservative pro-Israel lobby, on Monday, followed by a visit to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, where he will address Congress at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).