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50-year Zionist occupation must end: Obama's close aide
Wednesday March 25, 2015 8:31 AM, Reuters

The United States expects the next Israeli government to end nearly 50 years of occupation and clear the way for a Palestinian state, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough has told Jewish Americans.

Denis McDonough

To cheers from the liberal Jewish group J. Street, McDonough vowed to safeguard Israel and criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's abandonment of a Palestinian state in the run-up to his re-election on March 17.

Netanyahu is working to form Israel's next coalition government.

One of President Barack Obama's closest advisers, McDonough said a separate state is the best guarantee of Israel's long-term security.

"An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end, and the Palestinian people must have the right to live in and govern themselves in their own sovereign state," McDonough said.

Palestinians seek a state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, lands Israel usurped in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

"In the end, we know what a peace agreement should look like. The borders of Israel and an independent Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps," McDonough said.

Since his re-election Netanyahu has tried to row back on his election eve remarks dismissing a two-state solution, long a cornerstone of U.S. peacemaking efforts. But McDonough said the United States remained troubled.

"We cannot simply pretend that these comments were never made," he said.

Separately, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters the administration was unsure where the Israeli leader stood. Netanyahu has said "diametrically opposing things, so which is his actual policy?" Harf told reporters. "I think we just don't know what to believe at this point."

McDonough also defended the deal world powers are trying to reach to contain Iran's nuclear ambitions, saying it was "realistic and achievable."

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