US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened talks Friday engaged in a public spat over Obama's proposals for a Middle East peace deal.
Obama admitted that the US shared differences with Israel after Netanyahu rejected a key feature of his Palestinian-Israeli peace plan. He added, however, that such disagreements do arise "between friends."
Netanyahu said he valued the US president's dedication to the advancement of the peace process and promised he would be willing to make some compromises.
He refused to concede, however, to Obama's reiteration of his proposal for Israeli and Palestinian territorial lines to be returned to where they were prior to the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
In his speech Thursday, Obama said the United States supports a creation of a Palestinian state based on the borderlines that existed before the war, in which Israeli forces occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.
But Netanyahu described any move towards a return to the 1967 lines as "indefensible."
"They do not take into account certain demographic changes on the ground that have taken place over the last 44 years," he told Obama.
"Peace based on illusions will eventually crash on the rocks of Middle East reality," Netanyahu added.
The United States has shared a close relationship with Israel in recent years, but Netanyahu's remarks suggest that the new US push for peace in the Middle East had yielded a deep divide.
A senior spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas responded to Netanyahu's comments on Friday by calling on Obama to put more pressure on Israel to accept his plan for a Palestinian state.
"We call on President Obama and the Mideast Quartet [Russia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations] to pressure Netanyahu to accept the 1967 borders," said Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for Abbas.
"Netanyahu's position is an official rejection of Mr Obama's initiative, of international legitimacy and of international law," he added.
Author: Charlotte Chelsom-Pill (AP, AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler