By Mike Lillis - 05/24/11 03:34 AM EDT
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday once again rejected President Obama's call to base the borders of a Palestinian state on those existing in 1967.
Addressing delegates of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Netanyahu said a peace deal is a top priority of the Israeli government, but he also drew a sharp line in the sand regarding such an agreement.
Netanyahu, who is scheduled to address a joint meeting of Congress Tuesday morning, said he'll describe then "what a peace between a Palestinian state and a Jewish state could look like."
His position on the 1967 lines represents a break from President Obama, who has called in recent days for those boundaries to form the "foundation" of renewed peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. The remarks drew immediate criticism from many members of Congress and Israeli officials, who argue that land occupied since then provides an important buffer from terrorist attacks.
Addressing AIPAC Sunday, Obama emphasized that "mutual land swaps" would ensure that such a buffer remained.
Netanyahu placed the blame for the impasse squarely on the shoulders of Palestinian leaders, both for reconciling with Hamas and for denying Israel's right to exist.
"This conflict has raged for nearly a century because the Palestinians refuse to end it," he said. "We can only make peace with the Palestinians if they're prepared to make peace with the Jewish state."
Still, he was optimistic that such a deal could happen, despite the formidable obstacles.
"We can – we must – resolve it," he said.
Netanyahu's speech was interrupted five or six times by pro-Palestinian activists, who raised signs and shouted toward the stage, stirring an uproar that rippled through the room. In each case, the larger crowd broke out in chants of "Bibi! Bibi! Bibi!" – Netanyahu's nickname – as security officers removed the protestors from the vast conference hall.
The prime minister's speech on Capitol Hill is slated for 11 a.m. Tuesday.