US president’s coming speech about Washington’s Mideast policy to demand PA recognize Israel, drop unilateral UN bid for statehood, while urging Israel to return to ’67 lines, cease settlement expansion

By Yitzhak Benhorin

May 17, 2011 “YNet” — WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama is set to give his next political speech at 6pm Thursday, just hours before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaves for Washington and according to a draft of the speech, obtained by Yedioth Ahronoth, the American president’s Middle East policy, though unwavering, may not be as discordant as some have feared.

Obama is expected to urge Israel to return to the 1967 lines while negating the Palestinian Authority’s planned unilateral bid for statehood in September.

According to the draft – which may change again by Thursday – Obama will call on Jerusalem and Ramallah to reignite the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, saying it is the only way to achieve viable peace.

Obama stands to demand the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel as the Jewish state, and that the Palestinians unequivocally abandon terror.

He is also likely to stress Israel must cease any settlement expansion in the West Bank and further avoid any act which could be construed as changing the status quo on the ground.

The subject of Jerusalem also stands to be included in the American president’s speech: Washington sees the city as the capital of both Israel and the Palestinian state, with its east Jerusalem neighborhoods – which are largely populated by Palestinians – under the PA’s sovereignty, and its Jewish neighborhoods under Israeli sovereignty.

Following Netanyahu’s vehement speech before the Knesset plenum Sunday, it seems Washington has decided to lower its expectations of Netanyahu.

Still, State Department Spokesman Mark Toner said that the White House was not “as pessimistic” as reported, adding that the peace process “faces immense challenges.”

Israeli Media Reveals U.S. President’s Forthcoming Mideast Speech

By Xinhua

May 17, 2011 “Xinhua” – JERUSALEM — U.S. President Barack Obama will call on Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders and agree to additional concessions that will enable a resumption of the peace process, Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth revealed on Tuesday.

The newspaper claimed to have obtained a draft of Obama’s planned speech at the State Department on Thursday in which he will outline his administration’s Middle East policy, in light of the anti-government protests that have swept the region over the past year.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Sunday that Obama would raise the need for progress in the peace process. However, he did not reveal whether the president planned to present a diplomatic initiative to revive the process, after negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians broke down last September.

According to Yedioth Ahronoth, Obama will call on Israel to withdraw to the 1967 cease-fire lines with territorial adjustments that will be agreed on in the negotiations with the Palestinian National Authority. The president will label the West Bank settlements as “illegal” and emphasize that Israel must halt their construction.

Obama’s position on the settlement blocs, which Israel slates to remain under its sovereignty in any peace deal, is yet unclear.

The president is also expected to announce his solution regarding the status of Jerusalem and call for its division. The U. S. envisions the city as the shared capital of the two states, Israel and Palestine, side by side in peace.

Such a stand would essentially echo the so-called “Clinton Parameters” offered by then-president Bill Clinton in 2000, which called predominantly Arab neighborhoods to come under the Palestinian sovereignty while Jewish neighborhoods remaining within the Israeli territories.

Yedioth Ahronoth claimed that the contents of Obama’s speech were shared with Netanyahu’s national security advisor Ya’akov Amidror and his predecessor Uzi Arad in their recent discussions with senior U.S. officials.

Amidror and Arad were dispatched to Washington last week to prepare the ground for Netanyahu’s scheduled meeting with Obama on Friday, the report said.

The two purportedly met with White House national security advisor Tom Donilon, trying to convince him and other officials that Obama’s positions essentially matched those of the Palestinians.

The Israelis are said to have stressed that Obama’s initiative will not enable “real” peace negotiations and demanded that changes be inserted, according to the paper, which quoted an unidentified U.S. official as answering the two that “you are familiar with the positions of American administrations. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already specified in detail an Israeli-Palestinian agreement last October.”

Amidror, however, on Monday categorically denied that such a meeting had ever taken place, saying that “Not one word in that article is correct.”

“There was no meeting with Donilon … no talks. The meeting simply never occurred,” Amidror told Army Radio.

Obama’s address will not be short of demands on the Palestinians, according to Yedioth Ahronoth. The president is expected to explicitly demand a Palestinian willingness to accept the conditions set forth by the Mideast Quartet, including a recognition of Israel’s right to exist, a renunciation of violence and incitement, and dropping a unilateral declaration of statehood at the United Nations in September.

As a precursor to his speech before a joint session of the U.S. Congress next Tuesday, Netanyahu on Monday evening presented lawmakers his basis for negotiations with the Palestinians, saying that Israel was prepared to “cede parts of our homeland for true peace,” though he assessed that there is no partner on the Palestinian side.

In his address, Netanyahu expressed Israel’s willingness to withdraw into several West Bank settlement blocs while maintain its military presence in the Jordan Valley. The future Palestinian state, he said, would be demilitarized and created only through a peace agreement.

Netanyahu outlined his preconditions for entering peace negotiations with the Palestinians, saying that these preconditions enjoyed the support of a majority of the Israeli public.

The Palestinians would first have to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, Netanyahu said. A peace agreement also must end the conflict and any further Palestinian demands. Netanyahu said Palestinian refugees would not resettle in Israel and the settlement blocs would remain under the Israeli sovereignty.

Regarding Jerusalem, Netanyahu said the city would remain Israel’s “united capital,” a position echoed by all Israeli governments since 1967.

The prime minister added that Israel would not be able to strike a peace agreement with a Palestinian government if half of it was comprised of the members of Islamist group Hamas.