WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama defended his endorsement of Israel's 1967 boundaries as the basis for a future Palestine, telling America's pro-Israel lobby Sunday that his views reflected longstanding U.S. policy that needed to be stated clearly.
He also said the Jewish state will face growing isolation without "a credible peace process."
Obama tried to alleviate concerns that his administration was veering in a pro-Palestinian direction, placing his Mideast policy speech Thursday in the context of Israel's security. He told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that those border lines must be subject to negotiated land swaps and said these principles reflected U.S. thinking dating to President Bill Clinton's mediation efforts.
"If there's a controversy, then it's not based in substance," Obama said. "What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately. I have done so because we cannot afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades, to achieve peace."
The event was eagerly anticipated after Obama outlined his vision for the changing Middle East at the State Department on Thursday and then clashed in a White House meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a day later.
The speech came ahead of a weeklong trip for the president to Europe, where he'll tend to old friends in the Western alliance and look to secure their help with the political upheaval across the Arab world and the decade-long conflict in Afghanistan.
Netanyahu said in a statement after Obama's remarks that he supported the president's desire to advance peace and resolved to work with him to find ways to renew the negotiations. "Peace is a vital need for us all," Netanyahu said.
The Israeli leader's tone was far more reserved than last week, when he issued an impassioned rejection of the 1967 borders as "indefensible" and even appeared to publicly admonish Obama after their White House meeting.