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What they're saying about Obama's Mideast speech, mainly on Israel and Palestine

May 19, 2011 |  4:56 pm

Full text of President Obama's latest Middle East speech is available here.

Now, for some reactions:

Office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress.
Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines.

Those commitments also ensure Israel’s well-being as a Jewish state by making clear that Palestinian refugees will settle in a future Palestinian state rather than in Israel. Without a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem outside the borders of Israel, no territorial concession will bring peace.

Simon Wiesenthal Center, Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper:

We welcome the president's recognition of Israel's security needs and that Hamas cannot be a partner in the peace process, but a call to a return to 1967 borders as the basis for negotiations, even with "land swaps," is a non-starter, when at least half of the Palestinian rulers are committed to Israel's destruction. The road to peace has been clear for a long time -- direct negotiations between parties who recognize each other's legitimacy.

Republican former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney:

President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus. He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace. He has also violated a first principle of American foreign policy, which is to stand firm by our friends.

George Will:

Obama should have said nothing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, his prior statements (about Israel housing construction, and a deadline for a peace settlement) having made matters worse. Obama's idea -- Israel's, too -- is "two states for two people." Now, there is nothing more to be said until a Palestinian leader also says that.

Edward Walker of Hamilton College and former ambassador to Israel and Egypt for President Clinton:

The president's speech on the Middle East was clear about where he wants to go and not so clear on how to get there.

Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio of the Foreign Relations Committee:

I’m pleased the president used his unique platform to address America and the Middle East during this critical moment in history.  We need to back up our words with actions and policies. Our actions should leave no doubt that America is on the side of those who strive for freedom....

Unfortunately, the president’s reference to Israel’s 1967 borders marks a step back in the peace process, as the U.S. must not pre-determine the outcome of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Our focus should be in encouraging direct and meaningful negotiations between the sides, and to continue playing an important role as a security guarantor in the region.

Republican former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty:

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.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

President Obama was very clear. And what we want is to continue to support the voices of democracy. Those who are standing against the brutality.  But we're also well aware every situation is different. 

And in this one, (Syrian President Bashar Al) Assad has said a lot of things that you didn't hear from other leaders in the region, about the kind of changes he would like to see. That may all be out the window, or he may have one last chance.

Republican Jewish Coalition:

....It is, in fact, President Obama’s insistence on a settlement freeze as a pre-condition to negotiations, more than anything else, that doomed his administration’s peace-making efforts. That stand emboldened Palestinian extremists, damaged the PA’s ability to negotiate, and forced Israelis to question the sincerity of the administration’s friendship.

With that immediate history in mind, we are concerned that when President Obama speaks of “the 1967 borders,” he means borders for Israel that are much less secure and defensible and that put Israel at risk.

Leave your own reaction to the president's remarks in our Comments section below.

More reactions will be added here as they become available.

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