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Monday 19 February 2018

Obama gives pledge on Israeli security

David Usborne

US PRESIDENT BARACK Obama reassured his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu at tension-filled talks at the White House yesterday that America remained committed to maintaining his country's security at a time of unusual turmoil and political change across the Middle East.

The three hours of meetings between the two men came at a time of unprecedented difficulty between them. Earlier, the Israeli side had lambasted a speech on the Middle East given by Mr Obama on Thursday, which included the assertion that a peace settlement with the Palestinians should be based on Israel's borders as they were before the Six-Day War of 1967, when Israeli forces seized East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

Even as the meetings at the White House were taking place, the so-called 'Quartet for Middle East Peace', which comprises the United Nations, European Union and Russia as well as the US, issued a strong endorsement of the 1967 borders vision set out by Mr Obama.

The Quartet, headed by its special envoy and former British prime minister Tony Blair, said the way forward outlined by Mr Obama gave "a foundation for Israelis and Palestinians to reach a final resolution of the conflict".

Mr Obama came under scorching attack from Republicans after his speech.

But the criticism was harshest from Mr Netanyahu and his entourage. It emerged that Mr Netanyahu placed a telephone call to Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, on Thursday morning, just ahead of Mr Obama's address, raging about the suggestion that it might include an endorsement of the 1967 borders as the basis of future negotiations with the Palestinians.

Mr Obama stood his ground, however, and the speech, meant also to align America with the forces of the Arab Spring, was delivered unchanged.

The two leaders were confronted not only with the reality of their own worsening relationship, but also with the knowledge that the fast-changing political landscape across the Middle East means their search for a peaceful solution has become more complicated. In addition, there is the looming diplomatic pile-up of the Palestinians seeking a vote at the UN this September that would grant them statehood.

There remains very little doubt that the US will acquiesce to Israeli demands that it veto any such move should it come before the Security Council. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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