May 22 - President Obama refused to back off from his new Mideast vision even as he sought to calm tension between the U.S. and Israel. Deborah Gembara reports.
For President Obama this weekend --- it was a balancing act --- clarifying his new vision for Middle East peace while attempting to soothe Israeli fury over his recent remarks regarding land swaps. Speaking before some of the U.S.'s staunchest Israeli supporters, the President didn't back away from the issue. SOUNDBITE: President Barack Obama saying (English): "The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state. As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself - by itself - against any threat." Reaction from the crowd at the the American Israel Public Affairs Committee or AIPAC -- was mixed. SOUNDBITE: Larry Levine from Blacklick, Ohio saying: "He wants us back to the '67 borders and I think anybody who knows anything about that will know that Israel cannot defend herself. And the prime minister of Israel, who I would assume knows more than me, said pretty much the same when he sat down with Obama, so I don't believe it. No offense, but I think this president has made up his mind. He's an ideologue and I just don't trust him." SOUNDBITE) (English) FRED KARGER, a Republican presidential candidate from California saying: (English): "I thought he backpedalled quite a bit, as I thought he might do. He seemed to punt the ball to Israel and say they're responsible for their own defense. But you don't open negotiations with your best ally in the region by suggesting they return to the '67 borders." Other say they were comforted by the president's words. SOUNDBITE: Shulamit Wenig from Skokie, Illinois saying (English): "I was extremely worried after his original speech and came in here tense. And yes, he calmed me down much. I am in a much better state now. And I hope it will come true, whatever he is hoping and wishing for. I hope it will be attainable." The president speech comes on the heels of a week that has exposed the strained relations between the Israel and its closest ally. Deborah Gembara, Reuters.