Israeli rebuke of Obama exposes divide on Mideast

Posted: May 21, 2011 in US News

By Jeffrey Heller and Matt Spetalnick
Reuters
May 21, 2011

(Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bluntly told President Barack Obama on Friday his vision of how to achieve Middle East peace was unrealistic, exposing a deep divide that could doom any U.S. bid to revive peace talks.

In an unusually sharp rebuke to Israel’s closest ally, Netanyahu insisted Israel would never pull back to its 1967 borders — which would mean big concessions of occupied land — that Obama had said should be the basis for negotiations on creating a Palestinian state.

“Peace based on illusions will crash eventually on the rocks of Middle East reality,” an unsmiling Netanyahu said as Obama listened intently beside him in the Oval Office after they met for talks.

Netanyahu insisted that Israel was willing to make compromises for peace, but made clear he had major differences with Washington over how to advance the long-stalled peace process.

Netanyahu’s resistance raises the question of how hard Obama will push for concessions he is unlikely to get, and whether the vision the U.S. leader laid out on Thursday to resolve the decades-old conflict will ever get off the ground.

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