WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Washington Friday ahead of his meeting with United States President Barack Obama, and responded to the president's latest speech, saying: "There are issues which just cannot be swept under the rug."
The US president's latest endorsement of the longstanding Palestinian demand to establish a state based on 1967 borders sets the stage for what could be a tense meeting with Netanyahu.
"Sometimes being right is also being smart, especially when it comes to core issues which are important to the Israeli consensus. I will bring them up before the president," Netanyahu promised as he landed in Washington.
Netanyahu is expected to stress some of the same points he spoke of in his Knesset speech about Israel's inclinations in the peace process.
Senior officials joining Netanyahu hinted that the PM plans to elaborate on recent "Nakba Day" events. "One cannot ignore recent events taken place in the Middle East. People are waging war along the fences and it's not an exaggeration.
"The truth must be told and the prime minster only speaks the truth. Peace cannot be based on delusions. Such a peace would crash into the cliffs of Mideast reality."
Still, Netanyahu was not caught off-guard by Obama's speech, having been informed of its general outline a few hours beforehand. Behind closed doors the prime minister – apparently backed up by Israeli opinion polls – stressed that he represents the public consensus.
PM willing to make big concessions?
The prime minster had spoken with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a few hours prior to the president's speech, expressing his rage over Obama's intent to support a peace accord based on the 1967 borders. He said that Obama had pushed Israel too far.
Netanyahu, who has had strained relations with Obama, headed for Washington saying the president's vision of a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967 – as part of his vision for an elusive US-brokered peace deal – could strip Israel of its defenses.
Obama has reportedly told close aides and allies that he does not believe Netanyahu will ever be willing to make the kind of big concessions that will lead to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, according to the New York Times.
Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni said Friday that Netanyahu's approach was harming US-Israel relations and as a result, harming Israel's security and deterrence.
"A prime minister who treats the US administration like the enemy, might end up making it just that," she said.
Livni mentioned that the PM presented his stance regarding a peace treaty with the Palestinians to the Knesset plenum this week. "If there is a consensus in Israel it's the understanding that relations with the US are crucial to Israel, and a prime minister that harms these ties for no essential or critical reason – is harming Israel's security and its deterrence capabilities. A prime minster like that should return his keys."
"When a prime minster heads to the US with such sayings by his associates, I say this conflict is not a good enough reason," added Livni. "Personal coalitional motivation and political survival do not justify the price Israel will pay."
Livni believes Israel should initiate, "because there is not freeze, just deterioration. An American president supporting a two-state solution is representing an Israeli interest and not an anti-Israeli interest."
Ronen Medzini contributed to this report
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