WASHINGTON -- Indicating no progress toward peace, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sat alongside President Obama on Friday and declared that Israel will not withdraw to 1967 borders to help make way for an adjacent Palestinian state. Obama had called on Israel to be willing to do just that a day earlier.
The Israeli leader said he will make some concessions but Israel will not go back to the lines from decades earlier because they would be "indefensible."
For his part, Obama said there were differences of formulations and language but that such disputes are going to happen "between friends."
The president never mentioned the 1967 borders as the two men talked with reporters. The leaders spoke after a lengthy meeting in the Oval Office, amid tense times.
Obama said in a speech Thursday that the United States supports creation of a Palestinian state based on the border lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel forces occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza -- along with mutually agreed-to land swaps that could accommodate existing Israeli settlements. The comment on 1967 borders drew angry criticism in Israel, and Netanyahu made clear after meeting with Obama that the idea is unacceptable.
"We cannot go back to those indefensible lines," said Netanyahu. The prime minister made no mention of Obama's stipulation that there would be land swaps -- an omission that seemed to present Obama's proposal as more onerous.
Obama and Netanyahu said they share a desire to get to peace and downplayed disagreements. "We may have differences here and there," Netanyahu said.
However, there was no sign of resolution of the many barriers that stand between Israel and the Palestinians, more now than last September when Obama brought the two parties together to call for a peace deal within a year -- a deadline that now looks unattainable.
Netanyahu said his nation will not negotiate with a newly constituted Palestinian unity government that includes the radical Hamas movement, which refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist. He said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has to choose between continuing the deal with Hamas and making peace with Israel.
Obama agreed that Hamas "is not a partner for a significant realistic peace process" and said Palestinians will have to resolve that issue among themselves.
Yet both Obama and Netanyahu emphasized a need to make some kind of progress, against all obstacles, as changes sweep the Arab world.
"History will not give the Jewish people another chance," Netanyahu said.
Another major stumbling block is how to resolve the issue of Palestinian refugees. Palestinians demands a "right of return" of large numbers of refugees and descendants to Israel, but Israeli leaders say this would dilute the Jewish presence in Israel so that it would no longer be the Jewish state that Netanyahu demands and Obama supports.
"That's not going to happen," Netanyahu said. He said Palestinians need to recognize that, and also said that Israel will not budge on its need for troops on the border with Jordan.