Mixed response to Obama's Israel speech


President Barack Obama's call for a Palestinian state along 1967 lines has been met with mixed reaction from politicians and Jewish groups.

In a speech on the direction of US policy in the Middle East on Thursday, President Obama said a Palestinian state should be based on those lines with "mutually agreed swaps".

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who is in Washington DC to meet President Obama, said the proposal was "indefensible" because it would mean key Jewish settlements were left outside Israel.

In a statement, he said: "Israel believes that for peace to endure between Israelis and Palestinians, the viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state."

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) welcomed the speech and the president's "strong affirmation of the importance of the deep and unshakeable US-Israel relationship".

"We support the President's vision of a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian settlement with strong security provisions for Israel, and a non-militarised Palestinian state," said Robert Sugarman, ADL National Chair, and Abraham Foxman, ADL National Director.

The ADL also commended President Obama's "direct rejection of a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state and his understanding that the Hamas-Fatah agreement poses major problem". In the speech the president emphasised that "symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September" would not result in an independent Palestinian state.

But the Zionist Organisation of America called the policy anti-Israel. "President Obama is the most hostile president to Israel ever," said ZOA president Morton Klein.

The World Jewish Congress criticised President Obama for putting Israel's security at risk.

WJC President Ronald Lauder said: "He is the first sitting US president to call for a final peace settlement based on the fragile 1967 lines, which fail to provide Israel's major cities with minimal territorial protection against possible Palestinian terrorist attack."

The president's words were also criticised by two of the leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, said the speech had handed the Palestinians a victory before they even returned to negotiations and blasted the president for throwing Israel "under the bus".

Newt Gingrich said the speech was the most dangerous one "ever made by an American president for the survival of Israel".

President Obama is the first US president to openly call for a Palestinian state along pre-Six Day War lines.

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