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Analysis: Applause heard in White House, around world

May 24, 2011 21:00

Netanyahu could only dream of such a reception in Israel; Congress' ovation was heard by Obama, the Palestinians, the world at large.

US Congresspeople shake hands with Netanyahu

US Congresspeople shake hands with Netanyahu 311 (R). (photo credit:REUTERS/Stelios Varias)

The overall importance of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyanhu’s speech to a special joint meeting of Congress on Tuesday was not in the substance – he did not break any radical new ground – but rather in the overwhelmingly warm ovation he received.

Netanyahu could only dream of such a reception in Israel. Even his wife, Sara, received a standing ovation when she entered the hall.

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The prime minister was applauded some 30 times, many of those accompanied by standing ovations.

The nearly four-minute ovation he received when he entered the historic chamber – including a brief period of rhythmic clapping that sounded more like the Mann Auditorium than Congress – was not only heard by Netanyahu, but also by US President Barack Obama, the Palestinians and the world at large.

With all the talk of the country’s existential loneliness, and Israel’s real sense of isolation, when Netanyahu spoke to the most important parliament in the world, it exuded nothing but warmth toward Israel.

Even the prime minister’s comment that Jews are not interlopers in Judea and Samaria – not like the Belgians were in the Congo or the British in India – received raucous applause and standing ovation by most in the hall.

Granted, Congress is not the world, and it is the US president who in the final analysis sets American foreign policy. But Congress is not some insignificant little body that can be lightly dismissed – not by the president or the world – and it sets the limits to how far the president can push Israel.

With the resounding applause, on both sides of the aisle, to Netanyahu’s comments on a unified Jerusalem, not returning to the 1967 lines, not negotiating with Hamas, not allowing the descendants of Palestinian refugees to enter Israel, Obama – currently tending to US business in Europe – received a clear signal from Congress that when it comes to Israel, his hands are not free.
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