Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a stern message to President Obama in the Oval Office on Friday, refusing to support Obama's recommendation that Israel return to its pre-1967 borders.
"While Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace ... it cannot go back to 1967 lines, because these lines are indefensible," Netanyahu said, sitting forward on his chair just a few feet from Obama.
Obama sat stiffly to the left of Netanyahu, clearly frustrated with the prime minister's brusque remarks after a private meeting between the leaders that lasted hours longer than scheduled. Obama had focused on the friendship between the two nations in his post-meeting remarks – which he delivered ahead of Netanyahu's comments. Notably, Obama did not discuss a recommendation he made on Thursday that Israel return to its pre-1967 borders.
"Overall, I thought this was an extremely constructive discussion," Obama said. "I can once again reaffirm the extremely close relationship between the United States and Israel is sound and will continue."
As for their disagreements, he said, "that will happen between friends."
The day before the meeting, Obama called for a withdrawal of Israeli military forces from occupied territories, including Jerusalem and the West Bank. Netanyahu flatly rejected Obama's proposal on Friday.
The president never took a position on the issue of Palestinian refugees, but Netanyahu welcomed an opportunity on Friday to voice his opinion.
"The Palestinian refugee problem will have to be resolved within the context of a Palestinian state but certainly not within the borders of Israel," Netanyahu said. “That’s not gonna happen. Everybody knows it's not gonna happen. And I think it's time to tell the Palestinians it's not gonna happen.”
Obama never took his eyes of Netanyahu as the prime minister spoke. The president's legs were crossed and he sat upright, gripping his chin firmly in a contemplative manner as Netanyahu leaned closer toward him, waving his hands comfortably as he punctuated his remarks.