Reid breaks with Obama on Israel

Breaking with President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday urged a renewal of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks without preconditions regarding borders.

Obama, in recent days, has proposed that Israel's 1967 boundaries be the "foundation" for relaunching the stalled negotiations.

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But Reid rejected that strategy Monday night, saying any such preconditions would be "premature."

"The parties that should lead those negotiations must be the parties at the center of this conflict – and no one else," Reid told thousands of pro-Israel activists gathered in Washington for the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
 
"The place where negotiating will happen must be the negotiating table – and nowhere else. Those negotiations will not happen – and their terms will not be set – through speeches, or in the streets, or in the media.  

"No one should set premature parameters about borders, about building or about anything else," Reid added, bringing the audience to its feet for the first time during the speech.

Obama last week made international headlines when he suggested that the basis for talks over a Palestinian state be Israel's 1967 borders, which were expanded during the Six Day War of the same year and have since been settled by thousands of Israelis.

The president emphasized that the two sides would have to work out land swaps – meaning his proposal is not a call for the 1967 borders to be the final lines.

"By definition, 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," he said. "That’s what mutually agreed-upon swaps means."

Still, Israeli leaders pushed back immediately, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the 1967 borders wouldn't provide the real estate the country needs to protect itself from attacks launched from the Palestinian territories.

"For there to be peace, the Palestinians will have to accept some basic realities," Netanyahu said at a press briefing with Obama Friday. "The first is that while Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines."

Netanyahu is scheduled to address a joint meeting of Congress Tuesday morning.