Obama - Reuters - 19.5.11
U.S. President Barack Obama. Photo by Reuters
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A senior U.S. State Department official told Haaretz Friday that U.S. President Barack Obama is disappointed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's reaction to his Middle East policy, faulting Netanyahu for focusing on the issue of 1967 borders instead of looking at his policy as a whole, especially at his alternative to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state at the United Nations.

"There were plenty of things in support of Israel," the official said, citing Obama's wariness of the recent reconciliation of Hamas and Fatah, his condemnation of terror perpetrated by Hamas and his call for Palestinians to halt unilateral steps toward recognition. He added that Obama recognized Israel as a Jewish state, saying that focusing on the issue of 1967 borders misses the point.

Netanyahu rejected Obama's call for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians based on 1967 borders Thursday and Friday, saying such territorial lines are "indefensible" given the current demographic and security reality.

The official said Obama presented his vision as a way of getting started, and of avoiding a repeat in September of the situation in February when the UN Security Council voted on the condemnation of settlements and the U.S. vetoed the resolution.

Bad for U.S., bad for Israel

"This time we might end up at the General Assembly with 187 countries voting for the recognition of the Palestinian state and two against it," he said, adding, "It's bad for Israel and it's bad for the United States. Netanyahu's reaction has aggravated the situation and frankly I don't know how he will get down from this tree."

The official said Obama mentioned 1967 borders with territory swaps as a basis for negotiations - not as a final point.

"We don't see Hamas any differently than Israel does," the official said, adding that the United States recognizes Hamas as a terror organization.

He added, "we cannot exclude an option of negotiation with the Palestinian Authority," pending its acceptance of the Quartet conditions.

Asked whether the United States still feels it has leverage over Palestinians, the official said, "Palestinians are clearly disappointed, but they should realize that the UN resolution doesn't produce a state," adding, "They realize they cannot achieve it on their own, without using the United States' connection with Israel."

The objective, he said, is to present an alternative to unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state.

"President Obama's speech should be seen in its entirety, with 1967 borders and the swap of territories as the starting point for negotiations, not the final outcome," said the official.