Obama Sticks To His Mideast Plan Before AIPAC

Originally published on June 1, 2011 11:24 am
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LIANE HANSEN, Host:

NPR's White House correspondent Ari Shapiro has just returned from the Washington convention center, where President Obama spoke. Thanks for coming in, Ari.

ARI SHAPIRO: You're welcome, Liane.

HANSEN: Well, as you know, the address today follows his speech he made this past week where he suggested Israel's 1967 borders as a basis for future peace talks. It was somewhat controversial. Did the president try to explain himself today?

SHAPIRO: So, President Obama tried to restate what he first had tried to state on Thursday, saying the 1967 borders would be the beginning, with swaps - that key part meaning with swaps of territory, he said means ultimately the Israelis and Palestinians would decide on borders that would not be identical to the 1967 borders. Let's listen to what he said.

BARACK OBAMA: Since my position has been misrepresented several times, let me reaffirm what 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps means. By definition, it means that the parties themselves, Israelis and Palestinians, will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4th, 1967. That's what mutually agreed upon swaps means.

HANSEN: We're heading into an election year, Ari. And Mr. Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote then, in 2008. Do you think he risks jeopardizing that support now?

SHAPIRO: You know, the election is a little ways off but this theme of tension with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been a pretty consistent one for the last couple years of his presidency.

HANSEN: What was it like inside the convention center? I understand AIPAC put the number of attendees at 10,000?

SHAPIRO: Of course, later on in this conference, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is going to speak to Congress, other Republican Congressional leaders are going to speak to this conference. So, President Obama may have the biggest megaphone on the issue this weekend, but it's not the only one.

HANSEN: And it's just before he goes to Europe.

SHAPIRO: That's right, where this is likely to be an issue. And, you know, the Europeans tend to lean more toward the Palestinians on this issue, whereas the Americans, of course, lean more towards the Israelis.

HANSEN: NPR's White House correspondent Ari Shapiro. Thank you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: You're welcome, Liane. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.