WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were sharply at odds over terms for Middle East peace ahead of a highly anticipated Oval Office meeting Friday.
In a speech Thursday on U.S. policy in the Mideast , Obama for the first time endorsed the Palestinians’ demand that their eventual state be based on borders that existed before the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel forces occupied east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.
From Jerusalem, Netanyahu dismissed the position as “indefensible,” saying it would leave major Jewish settlements outside Israel. Then he boarded a plane for his long-scheduled visit to Washington, vowing to seek clarifications in his meeting with Obama at the White House.
A senior Israeli official told reporters on the aircraft that there’s a sense Washington “does not understand the reality” of the situation.
The official added that Netanyahu was disappointed the speech did not address the Palestinian demand to repatriate to Israel millions of Palestinians, most descendants of people who were driven from or fled homes in the war over the Jewish state’s 1948 creation.
Asked why he gave such a strong rebuttal to Obama’s remarks, Netanyahu told reporters on board his plane: “There are things that can’t be swept under the carpet.”