The tension during US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's White House meeting on Friday was the focus of American and British media reports, after Netanyahu slammed Obama's speech, saying Israel will not retreat to the 1967 lines because they are "indefensible."
Under the title "Netanyahu's outrage at Obama's Middle East speech is synthetic," British newspaper the Guardian's Middle East Editor Ian Black claimed that Obama's statement about Israel's need to return to 1967 lines "is more about Israeli anxieties and spin than a substantive US policy shift.
"American presidents from Bill Clinton onwards have used identical language. It was the basis for talks between Clinton, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat at Camp David in 2000. It also formed the basis for George W. Bush's talks with Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert," he wrote.
Black noted that "Netanyahu's outraged rejection of Obama's words thus appeared both tactical and synthetic.
"The accompanying notion of 'mutually agreed swaps' allows in principle for Israel to retain settlement blocs it has built illegally in the West Bank and around east Jerusalem," he wrote, adding that "the row reflects Netanyahu's dislike of Obama as well as mounting alarm that Israel's diplomatic position is being eroded by a combination of international impatience and the changes of the 'Arab spring' – especially in an Egypt now pursuing a less pro-American foreign policy."
Awkward moments. Netanyahu, Obama at White House (Photo: Reuters)
Black concluded that "Netanyahu's anger would have been genuine had Obama insisted simply on a return to the 1967 borders. That would have been a major shift in US policy."
British newspaper the Independent took a harsher stance against Israel, writing that the disagreements between the US president and the Israeli prime minister were too visible to conceal.
Under the title "Netanyahu shoots down Obama’s peace plan at the White House," the paper's US Editor David Usborne wrote, "Any artifice of unity between the leaders evaporated when they came before the television cameras at the White House to report on their talks.
"It has become clear that the men share little personal chemistry, the right-wing Israeli premier more at home with the Republican Party, which is generally more supportive of Israel's demands vis-à-vis the Palestinians."
The American press also commented on the strained atmosphere during the leaders' on-camera talk. The Wall Street Journal stated that "Netanyahu delivered a rare public rebuke of President Barack Obama at the White House, declaring that Israel would never accept the terms of his proposal to resume peace talks with the Palestinians.
"Friday's 15-minute Oval Office photo-op with President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might go down as one of the most undiplomatic moments of international diplomacy ever offered for the cameras," the newspaper added.
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