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Israel cannot return to 'indefensible' '67 borders, Netanyahu repeats

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks May 23, 2011 during an address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference 2011 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC.

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images/Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

After a nasty, spat in which he publicly disparaged President Barack Obama's call for a resumption of peace talks based on the pre-1967 war frontiers; Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hammered home his point again.

"Israel cannot return to the indefensible 1967 lines," the prime minister told a massive, wildly-cheering, crowd of thousands of delegates to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The same delegates had given Mr. Obama a decidedly cooler reception when the president explained in careful details that his reference to "1967 lines" was a starting point and that he clearly understood that any peace pact would include a Palestinian state demarcated by boundaries adjusted by "mutually agreed swaps" of territory.

Mr. Netanyahu ignored the conciliatory gambit, just as he ignored the "mutally-agreed swaps" caveat in Mr. Obama's original speech last Thursday.

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Instead, in a rousing address to a receptive throng, the Israeli leader vowed to lay out what he called the hard truths about Israel and the real problems of the Middle East when he addresses a joint session of Congress Tuesday while Mr. Obama is away in Europe.

"It's time to stop blaming Israel for all of the region's problems," he said, contending that it wasn't the Jewish state or its occupation of Palestinian lands but decades of repression and brutal dictators that had created poverty, despair and a yearning for freedom across the Arab World.

Arabs "want freedom, they want progress, they want a better life" he said, adding that as much as Israel is ready to make peace, "it is not a panacea for the endemic problems of the Middle East."

After publicly sparring with President Obama, the Israeli leader can expect a warmer welcome Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

Even before he arrived, both the Republican Speaker in the House of Representatives John Boehner and Harry Reid, the Democrat Majority Leader in the Senate Harry Reid, spoke to AIPAC Monday night. They both professed unwavering support for Israel.

And just in case Mr. Obama didn't get the message, Sen. Reid said; "No one should set premature parameters about borders … or anything else," a clear jibe at the president.

For Mr. Netanyahu, Monday night's session was a chance to bask in the warmth of one of America's most powerful lobby groups. He worked the crowd like a campaigner.

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"Israel is America's indispensable ally," he said, delivering the keynote speech to the annual gathering.

And he promised to tell Congress that when Israeli-style democracy - with elections and free speech and rights for gays and women - is achieved by the Arab world then the whole region will be a better, safer place.

"It's time to recognize this basic truth," Mr. Netanyahu said: "Israel is not what's wrong about the Middle East, Israel is what's right about the Middle East."

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