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President Obama Talks More About Israel’s Borders with BBC as GOP Attacks

Pete Souza/The White House(WASHINGTON) -- In an interview with the BBC Thursday, President Obama went into a bit more detail about his stated new policy that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”

To the BBC, the president said, "the basis for negotiations will involve looking at that 1967 border, recognizing that conditions on the ground have changed and there are going to need to be swaps to accommodate the interests of both sides. That's on the one hand and on the other hand, and this was an equally important part of the speech, Israel is going to have to feel confident about its security on the West Bank and that security element is going to be important to the Israelis.”

The president said that the Israelis "will not be able to move forward unless they feel that they themselves can defend their territory particularly given what they have seen happen in Gaza and the rockets that have been fired by Hezbollah."

Republicans have attacked the president for his position. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said in a statement that “President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus. He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace.”

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who like Romney is pursuing the GOP presidential nomination, said that “President Obama’s insistence on a return to the 1967 borders is a mistaken and very dangerous demand.  The city of Jerusalem must never be re-divided. To send a signal to the Palestinians that America will increase its demands on our ally Israel, on the heels of the Palestinian Authority’s agreement with the Hamas terrorist organization, is a disaster waiting to happen.  At this time of upheaval in the Middle East, it's never been more important for America to stand strong for Israel and for a united Jerusalem.”

The president, however, told the BBC that he wasn’t discussing Jerusalem, saying “our argument is let's get started on a conversation about territory and about security, that doesn't resolve all the issues, you still end up having the problem of Jerusalem and you still end up having the problem of refugees, but if we make progress on what two states would look like, and a reality sets in among the parties, that this is how it is going to end up, then it becomes easier for both sides to make difficult concessions to resolve those two other issues.”

Other voices in the pro-Israel community seemed to have a different take than those of Republican presidential candidates.

The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith issued a statement applauding the president for his speech including his “strong affirmation of the importance of the deep and unshakeable U.S.-Israel relationship, and his clear articulation of the moral and strategic connections between America and Israel.  We support the president's vision of a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian settlement with strong security provisions for Israel, and a non-militarized Palestinian state.  We appreciate his direct rejection of a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state and his understanding that the Hamas-Fatah agreement poses major problems for Israel.”

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