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After President Obama’s speech on the Middle East, B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:

B’nai B’rith International commends President Obama for clearly reiterating U.S. support for Israel. The president noted the relationship between the United States and Israel is rooted in shared history and values and he strongly asserted that the commitment to Israel’s security is unshakable, while he affirmed that Israel is a Jewish state.

It was also encouraging that the president spoke against unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood, a measure the Palestinians are planning to bring before the United Nations in September.

The president rightfully called the recent partnership between Fatah and Hamas unacceptable, and he made it clear that Hamas cannot be part of any negotiations as it refuses to recognize Israel and continues to call for its destruction. Israel’s security needs are legitimate and must be respected. We fully agree with the president’s call that any Palestinian state must be non-militarized.

B’nai B’rith is concerned that the president is prejudging the outcome of the peace process by publicly calling for pre-1967 borders as a basis for a Palestinian state, with land swaps. Discussion about this difficult issue should be reserved for direct negotiations between the parties.

Though he noted the issue of Palestinian refugees, B’nai B’rith is disappointed that the president failed to mention the one million Jewish refugees created at the same time. The issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands is often overlooked.

As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu begins his visit to Washington on May 20, B’nai B’rith will carefully monitor developments.