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Netanyahu Knesset speech may be precursor to DC visit
ByREBECCA ANN STOIL, GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
May 16, 2011 01:43
Officials advise those who want to speculate as to contents of PM’s speech in Washington should pay attention to his words in the Knesset.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu 311 reuters. (photo credit:Reuters)

Prime Minister Binaymin Netanyahu is expected to fire the opening round at the Knesset Monday, in what is expected to be the start of a nine-day diplomatic marathon of key events, stretching from Jerusalem to Washington.

Israeli officials advise that those who want to speculate as to the contents of Netanyahu’s much-touted speech in Washington before a special meeting of Congress on May 24th, should pay attention to his words in the Knesset Monday, when the summer session officially opens.



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The most important aspects of his message will be reserved for Washington, a source in the prime minister’s office said, but Netanyahu’s address to the Knesset is expected to be a precursor to his trip to the United States, and to provide some general talking points.

Along with Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) and Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni, Netanyahu is expected to speak Monday evening at a special Knesset event honoring the 151st birthday of the founder of Zionism, Theodore Herzl.

Netanyahu’s speech comes amid the backdrop of Sunday’s border break through by Syrian Palestinians, Palestinians inside Israel demonstrating on Nakba Day and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza telling Muslim worshippers to pray for Israel’s demise.

Netanyahu held a number of security-related meetings, including with the septet, and then issued a harsh warning that Israel understands very well in watching these demonstrators that it is dealing with an enemy that is looking to destroy it.

In light of Fatah’s recent reconciliation with Hamas, Netanyahu is expected in Washington to clearly issue some already known demands: that Israel wants peace – but only with a Palestinian government that renounces terror and recognizes its right to exist.

He will warn against divorcing the peace process from Palestinian statehood, and urge the international community not to cede to the Palestinian call for unilateral statehood recognition at the United Nations in September.

At a meeting Sunday with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, who arrived Saturday for a four-day visit, Netanyahu said that a “UN resolution on Palestinian statehood could put the peace process back for decades.” He added that it would prevent any kind of flexibility in the negotiating process.

What remains unclear is whether Netanyahu would use the platform provided to him in Washington to launch a new peace initiative.

Netanyahu has held his cards so tightly to his chest that many parliamentarians and ministers – including those in his own party – said they do not know what he is likely to say. Quite a number were not even aware that he planned to address diplomatic issues at the Knesset on Monday.

MK Danny Danon (Likud) filed an official request to Coalition Chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) for the party to discuss the speech as part of Monday’s weekly faction meeting. Danon said that he planned to raise the issue of the Washington speech during the meeting, which he has also requested that local government leaders from the West Bank attend.

Separately, the national camp planned to hold a show of force Monday as well.

MKs Danon and Miri Regev co-sponsored a Likud meeting in the Knesset, which was expected to include additional MKs, local government leaders, Likud Central Committee members and field activists.

The meeting’s agenda called for Netanyahu to respond to Palestinian attempts for unilateral recognition of statehood by placing all West Bank settlements under Israeli civil authority.

Danon began planning the meeting shortly after reports began to circulate regarding Netanyahu’s intent to make a foreign-policy speech in Washington.

Likud Minister Yuli Edelstein said that in light of recent events it would be “irresponsible” for Netanyahu to start talking about new concessions in Washington.

“We are not at the right moment for a break though in the peace process,” Edelstein said.

Deputy Premier Moshe “Boogie” Ya’alon said he has consistently advised Netanyahu – even before the Washington trip was a possibility – to stick to his already stated principles of demanding that the Palestinians recognize that Israel is a Jewish state, and agree to end the conflict.

After Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset on Monday, Jordanian King Abdullah II is expected to meet Tuesday with US President Barack Obama in Washington.

On Thursday, Obama will deliver a major address on the Middle East. It is likely that he will speak after Netanyahu is already in the air on his way to Washington.

On Friday, Netanyahu and Obama will meet, then on Monday Netanyahu will address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and on Tuesday he will speak before the special meeting of Congress.
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