Asked why he gave a strong rebuttal to U.S. President Barack Obama's speech on the Middle East, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters on Friday on board his plane to Washington: "There are things that can't be swept under the carpet."
As Netanyahu arrived in the U.S. ahead of his meeting with the American president later in the day, a senior Israeli official said that Obama does not understand the reality of Israel's situation.
In a high-profile Middle East policy speech on Thursday, Obama supported continued Mideast peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians based on 1967 borders, a move which caught Israeli leaders by surprise and drew criticism from Netanyahu and his aides.
"There is a feeling that Washington does not understand the reality, doesn't understand what we face," the official said on board the plane taking Netanyahu to Washington.
"The prime minister's tough response expresses the disappointment with the absence of central issues that Israel demanded, chiefly the refugee (issue)," he added.
Tensions between Israel and the U.S., already strained by a lengthy stall in Mideast peace talks, seemed to reach fever pitch following Obama's speech, and ahead of Netanyahu's planned address to Congress next week.
Earlier Friday, the New York Times reported that the American president had told his close aides that he did not believe that Netanyahu would be able to make the concessions necessary to strike a peace deal that would even the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
That comment came after Netanyahu, apparently taken aback by Obama's consent to a Palestinian state within 1967 borders, said Thursday that Israel would object to any withdrawal to "indefensible" borders, adding he expected Washington to allow it to keep major settlement blocs in any peace deal.
In a statement after Obama's speech outlining Middle East strategy, Netanyahu said before heading to Washington that "the viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of Israel's existence."
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni commented on Obama's speech and Netanyahu's response Friday, saying that "ending the conflict by adopting the principle of two national states, while safeguarding Israel's security, is a clear Israeli interest."
The Kadima MK criticized Netanyahu, saying that the policies of his government vis-à-vis the Palestinian-Israeli conflict "do not serve Israel's interests."
Livni called on Netanyahu to show leadership in his visit to the United States, particularly in light of Obama's speech. She said that the prime minister must "create the necessary conditions to renew negotiations with those who are willing to end the conflict out of an understanding that a true Israeli initiative that holds weight and has American and international backing is the only answer to the dangers and the opportunities of today."
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