Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to AIPAC - America's largest pro-Israel organization - just three days after meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House. After that meeting, both sides agreed that there are many differences still remaining on the path to peace.
Netanyahu took the podium Monday night and praised the United States for continuing support and partnership.
"Thank you for defending Israel's right to defend itself. Thank you for standing by Israel as it seeks a secure peace," he said.
The prime minister's remarks came after a turbulent few days between him and his U.S. counterpart, President Barack Obama. Obama Sunday spoke to the same powerful pro-Israel organization to clarify his call, last week. for a return to 1967 border as a basis for peace negotiations. Netanyahu told AIPAC Monday that a return to the borders of 44 years ago is not an option.
"We can only make peace with the Palestinians if they are prepared to make peace with the Jewish state ... It must leave Israel with security and, therefore, Israel must not return to the indefensible 1967 lines," he said.
David Aaron is a senior fellow at the Rand Corporation and has served as its director of it Center for Middle East Public Policy. Aaron is not surprised at the discord between Obama and Netanyahu.
"I don’t really think that Prime Minister Netanyahu came here to have a sweet and light discussion. I think he feels that it might be in his interest to have a more conflictual relationship with President Obama," said Aaron. "The Israeli government, this particular government feels more comfortable if the Republicans were in the White House, so I think part of this has something to do with that kind of strategic calculation."
Obama is up for re-election in 2012.
Obama and Netanyahu say this week's public pronouncements amount to disagreements among friends.
The prime minister Monday spoke of changes in the Middle East - what many are calling the Arab Spring - and how that plays on Israel.
"Now, more than ever, what we need is clarity ... Events in our region are opening people’s eyes to a simple truth," he said. "The problems of the region are not rooted in Israel.“
Aaron says evolving Middle Eastern countries want to look ahead to their own political structure, not how the Israeli-Palestinian issue has affected them in the past.
"They want to go on and do different things with their countries," he said. "They want to change their political societies and culture. They want to create new democratic institutions. They’re not interested in fighting the ’48 war [Israel's war of independence].”
Netanyahu speaks before a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Tuesday. There, he promises to provide details on Israel's vision of peace.
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