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President Obama's Middle East Speech Rattles Israelis, Palestinians Alike

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- President Barack Obama stepped right into the line of fire Thursday, laying out a controversial Middle East peace plan that has both the Israelis and the Palestinians unhappy.

He's urging Israel to pull back to 1967 borders, which has always been rejected, and he wants the Palestinian state to be demilitarized.

Obama's speech was met with shock and dismay here in the Tri-State Area from people on both sides of the issue, reports CBS 2's Marcia Kramer.

The Israelis and the Palestinians haven't agreed on anything since the state of Israel was established in May 1948. But on Thursday they did agree on one thing -- Obama blew it in his speech on the Middle East.

"I think in Israel the reaction to the '67 line will be very vocal. I think people will be critical and concerned about it and the fact that the president laid this out," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

That was an understatement. Jewish and political leaders were stunned when the Obama became the first American president to say that the boundaries of a Palestinian state should go back to the 1967 borders, before territory reclaimed by Israel in the Six Day War.

"Steps toward a lasting peace, with real security, cannot start with pre-existing conditions on Israel, said New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

"The Palestinians have said in 1967 and every year since that they want Israel not to even exist. That's the problem," added Rep. Anthony Weiner.

"I think the fundamental philosophy of the United States should be trying to help our ally in the region, to help democracy and freedom. That means being an ally of Israel. The Palestinians have made it clear again and again they prefer violence to peace."

But while supporters of Israel are upset by the president's demand for the Palestinians to recover territory taken by Israel in 1967, Palestinians in New York City said they are equally upset by the Obama's insistence that the state of Palestine be a demilitarized state.

"I think that Rabbi Hillel once said that you should want for your neighbor what you want for yourself and I think to put the Palestinians at a disadvantage, in may ways, I don't think will bode well for peace in the long term," said Zead Ramadan, the president of Council on American-Islamic Relations: New York.

Ramadan said Palestinians need guns to protect themselves from many others in the area.

"I think to leave a nation defenseless … I think there's a multitude of times in history when defenseless nationals have always been attacked. They have to protect themselves from the neighboring Arab nations, from intrigue, and infiltration."

This is only the first of many times in the coming days the president will confront the problem in the Middle East. He will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, but then is scheduled to talk to a major Jewish group over the weekend, where you can bet the questions will be thick and tough.

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