Likud: Obama's AIPAC Speech Shows He Listened to Netanyahu

The prime minister's party praises Netanyahu for taking a stand against Obama's Mideast policy speech calling for return to '67 borders; Palestinians express mixed reaction to Obama speech.

Members of Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling Likud Party last night expressed satisfaction with Barack Obama's speech and said that the president's remarks were prompted by the forceful stand taken by the prime minister.

"The wisdom and determination of the prime minister and the dividends that they yielded were evident in President Obama's speech," said MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen. "President Obama gave an explicit, emphatic 'no' to the '67 lines and Hamas [while expressing] boundless support for the State of Israel as a Jewish and a democratic state whose security is ensured."

Benjamin Netanyahu at an April 2010 Likud meeting in Tel Aviv. Alon Ron
Alon Ron

Likud MK Danny Danon said that "Obama must understand that Israel will not pay the price for his tuition as he gets caught up to speed on the essence of the conflict. Obama is zigzagging in accordance with whatever position will give him more votes while justifying his Nobel Prize. We must stand strong in order to ensure that this will not be on account of the state of Israel."

Labor MK Isaac Herzog said that Obama gave Netanyahu "a golden platform." "We cannot miss this opportunity," he said. "[Netanyahu] must give a courageous, affirmative answer and adopt Obama's proposal. This would serve the interests of Israel and of Zionism."

Opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni (Kadima ) said Obama's speech represented longstanding American policy. "When there is a will, then it is possible to enlist the United States to your side in the understanding that there is a joint interest at play," she said.

The Palestinian reaction to Obama's speech was mixed.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat refused to address the government's reconciliation with Hamas or Obama's opposition to Palestinian efforts at the United Nations.

AIPAC pro-Palestinian protesters U.S. - AP - 22.5.11

"I want to hear from Mr. Netanyahu," he said, calling for the Israeli leader to hold peace talks according to Obama's principles. "Before he says yes, it's a waste of time to talk about a peace process."

Hamas said it wouldn't recognize the "Israeli occupation" and that it, too, rejected Obama's reference to the 1967 borders. "It is a mistake to consider the U.S. as an honest sponsor for the so-called peace process," spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was in Amman as Obama was making his remarks, and Abbas' aides in Ramallah remained tight-lipped.

In its coverage of Obama's speech, the Palestinian news agency WAFA emphasized the president's support of a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines.

A senior Palestinian official told Haaretz yesterday that despite Abbas' dissatisfaction with the speech, the Palestinian leader has opted not to publicly confront Obama. The official added that the Palestinian leadership is coordinating its response to the speech with Arab foreign ministers.

It has also been learned that the Arab League will convene in the coming days to offer an official response to Obama's remarks.

Prominent media commentators decried the speech as an attempt by the administration to kowtow to Israel and Netanyahu.

"In this speech, Obama comes across worse than his predecessor," said Nasser Laham of the Maan news agency. "It appears that he is thinking about the Jewish vote in the United States and not about a Palestinian state."

Leading U.S. Republicans seized on Obama's remarks, insisting that he was imperiling Israel's security.

"This is the very worst time to be pushing Israel into making a deal," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told Fox News Sunday, citing the uncertainty in neighboring Egypt and Syria.