Responding to President Barack Obama's major Mideast policy speech,
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Israel will not be withdrawing to the 1967 borders as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians.
The PM said that Israel appreciates the president's commitment to peace, but added that he expects Obama to reaffirm US commitments to Israel from 2004. According to the pledges made by then-President George W. Bush, the Jewish state will not be asked to retreat to the 1967 borders and large settlement blocs will remain in Israel's hands.
"Israel believes that in order for peace to prevail, the establishment of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of the State of Israel's existence," a statement issued by Netanyahu's office said. "The Palestinians, and not only the United States, must recognize Israel as the Jewish people's nation-state."
The prime minister also stressed that President Bush's pledges were meant to reinforce Israel's Jewish character, by making it clear that Palestinian refugees will be taken in by Palestine and not by Israel.
"Without a solution to the problem of refugees by settling them outside Israel's borders, no territorial concession would end the conflict," Netanyahu's statement said.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni said that "ending the conflict by adopting the principle of two states for two people, while maintaining the security of Israel, is in Israel's utmost interest."
"The political stagnation endorsed by Netanyahu's government does not serve the interests of Israel," she said. "Hence, in his upcoming visit, and especially following Obama's speech, Netanyahu must demonstrate leadership and create the required conditions to resume negotiations."
Livni added that the prime minister must act "with the understanding that only a genuine Israeli initiative, which can garner the support of the US and the international community, is the answer to the dangers and opportunities of the current times."