President Barack Obama suggested Thursday that a Palestinian state based on Israel's 1967 borders would be best for peace negotiations -- a bold endorsement that seemingly goes against U.S. promises to Israel and adds fuel to an already intense debate surrounding Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Although Obama assured the U.S. commitment to Israel's security is "unshakeable," he called on the country to act "boldly to advance a lasting peace."
"While the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear -- a viable Palestine, a secure Israel," Obama said in Thursday's speech on the Middle East. "We believe 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."
Obama's support of Palestine's demands for the borders that existed before the Six Day War in which Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza is a significant shift in the U.S.-Israeli policy.
The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately disapproved of the president's comments, calling the 1967 lines "indefensible."
Click play to watch an updated report with CBN News White House Correspondent Jennifer Wishon, followed by reaction from Senior Editor John Waage on Obama's comments and what this could mean for the U.S. policy on Israel.
"Israel believes that for peace to endure between Israelis and Palestinians, the viability of a Palestinian state... cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state," officials said in a statement posted on Twitter. "That is why Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004."
"Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines," the post continued. "Which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines."
A Threat to U.S.-Israeli Relations?
Congressman Allen West, R-Fla., called the president's plan for a two state solution in Israel a mistake.
"The creation of a Hamas-led Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders signals the most egregious foreign policy decision his administration has made to date, and could be the beginning of the end as we know it for the Jewish State," he said.
"The pre-1967 borders endorsed by President Obama would deny millions of the world's Jews access to their holiest site and force Israel to return the strategically important Golan Heights to Syria, a known state-sponsor of terrorism," West continued. "Make no mistake, there has always been a Nation of Israel and Jerusalem has been and must always be recognized as its rightful capital."
The American Center for Law and Justice added that Obama's decision "rewards Hamas -- a terrorist group that vows to eliminate Israel."
"President Obama is not the negotiator-in-chief for the Middle East and to make sweeping demands and characterizations not only hurts the peace process, but damages U.S.-Israeli relations," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ.
Obama on Middle East Unrest
Obama's comments were made in a wide-ranging speech on the democratic revolts in the Middle East.
He also said the intense uprising in the region and North Africa shows "the strategy of oppression (by leaders) won't work."
"Sometimes, in the course of history, the actions of ordinary citizens spark movements for change because they speak to a longing for freedom that has built up for years," he said.
Since February, popular protests have brought down regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, and thousands of people have died in ongoing protests in Libya, Syria and Bahrain.
The Obama administration has instituted economic sanctions against Syrian President Bashar Assad and six other senior officials for human rights abuses against democratic protestors.
The president believes one of the most important things the U.S. can do to promote democracy in the region is to support economic growth.
Currently, large populations of young people in the Middle East are out of work -- something the president sees as a critical window of opportunity to nurture the transitions taking place in the region.
But some Mideast analysts warn his approach could create a breach with friends in the region.
"The president essentially has to balance his support for the popular uprisings in the Middle East without further alienating important U.S. allies," explained Haim Malka, deputy director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Obama tried to convince Americans that the fate of countries in the region is worth the money and attention of the United States, even during weak economic times at home.
To the world, the president wants to leave no doubt that the U.S. stands behind those seeking greater human rights.