By Nader Uskowi
President Obama, speaking yesterday at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference being held in Washington, reaffirmed his Arab-Israeli peace plan made during his speech at the State Department on Thursday. He called on Israel to recognize a Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders that are adjusted for land swaps mutually agreed with the Palestinians. The president’s challenge to Israel to make hard choices to bring peace to the region had been openly criticized by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The prime minister is scheduled to address the AIPAC conference this evening and is expected to reaffirm his unwillingness to accept the pre-1967 borders as a starting point in future negotiations for creation of a Palestinian state.
During his AIPAC address, President Obama called the bonds between US and Israel unbreakable and ironclad despite disagreements on pre-1967 borders. He said the existence of Israel as a strong and secure homeland for the Jewish people was in America’s national interests. Yet, he called the status quo unsustainable and emphasized the urgency for the creation of the state of Palestine as well. The status quo, Obama added, would soon lead to a Palestinian majority and a democratic Jewish state could not be sustained.
Obama also addressed the controversy over the participation of Hamas in the new Palestinian government, saying no country could negotiate peace with groups and organizations that are dedicated to its destruction. Implicit in those remarks, was the requirement for Hamas to recognize the existence of Israel as the homeland for Jewish people. Obama also cautioned against a UN declaration of Palestinian statehood, saying the creation of Palestinian state should be the outcome of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.