U.S. President Barack Obama's former chief of staff and current Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, attempted to assuage Israeli fears that the U.S. administration expects Israel to return to 1967 borders, clarifying that this was never Obama's policy, in an op-ed for the Washington Post on Friday.
Emanuel was referring to a sentence in Obama's Middle East policy speech last month, in which Obama said that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected this statement publicly at the time, claiming that 1967 borders are 'indefensible'.
Many believe that this led to tension between Israel and the U.S., its longtime ally. Both Obama and Netanyahu, however, were hasty to assure the public in joint comments to the press last month that while there remain points of contention, these are "disagreements between friends".
Obama has not altered the United States' policy vis-à-vis Israel, Emanuel said in his op-ed, adding that the concept of a loose basis of 1967 borders with land swaps has been the foundation of any serious American attempt at negotiations since former U.S. President Bill Clinton held talks at Camp David in 2000.
Emanuel added that 1967 borders are the starting point and not the end point for negotiations.
"That statement does not mean a return to 1967 borders," Emanuel said, adding that "no workable solution envisions that. Land swaps offer the flexibility necessary to ensure secure and defensible borders and address the issue of settlements."
Emanuel continued, saying that Obama clarified this further at the AIPAC conference last month when he said “it means that the parties themselves - Israelis and Palestinians - will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.”
The Chicago mayor reiterated the United States' commitment to Israel, as well as its pledge to fight efforts that aim to weaken and delegitimize Israel.
"The president I know and worked for is deeply committed to the peace and security of a Jewish state of Israel," Emanuel wrote, "I have seen him make unprecedented commitments to guarantee the continued qualitative military edge essential to Israel’s security in a dangerous neighborhood."
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