Bibi and Biden 311.
(photo credit: GPO)
WASHINGTON – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will “break new ground” in his much-anticipated speech Tuesday to a special joint session of Congress, senior Israeli officials said Monday.
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In addition to spelling out what he views as the fundamentals for a future peace deal with the Palestinians, Netanyahu is also expected to focus on Iran and the upheaval in the Arab world.
This will be the second time Netanyahu addresses a joint session of Congress; the first came during his first tenure in 1996. Netanyahu is the sixth Israeli prime minister to receive the honor.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the invitation to address
Congress – an invitation extended to few foreign leaders – reflects the
wide bipartisan support for Israel in Congress and among the American
Sources close to Netanyahu rejected charges that by addressing Congress,
the prime minister was attempting to bypass US President Barack Obama
and take Israel’s case to the country’s lawmakers, since they are more
amenable to Netanyahu and Israel than the president.
“This has nothing to do with politics,” one Israeli official said. “He is not trying to play on the US political field.”
Perhaps an indication that Netanyahu does not want to appear to be
wading into American politics is the fact that although he is meeting
the Senate and House leaders from both parties, he did not intend during
this trip to meet any of the Republican 2012 presidential hopefuls.
The address to Congress, which Netanyahu has been working on for days
with his senior adviser Ron Dermer, will come about 12 hours after
Netanyahu gives a speech to over 10,000 delegates to the American Israel
Public Affairs Committee.
That speech, coming after four stormy days in the USIsrael relationship,
represented an effort by Netanyahu to put those events behind and
stress the positive, strong elements of the relationship.
Netanyahu thanked the US for its deep commitment to Israel’s security,
and thanked Obama and Congress for the recent allocation of an
additional $205m. for the Iron Dome, a new mobile air defense system. Earlier on Monday, Netanyahu met with US Vice President Joe Biden in the
White House for talks that the Prime Minister’s Office described as
“warm and open.”
According to a statement issued by the PMO, the two discussed the close
proximity between the US and Israeli positions, a proximity that has not
been felt in recent days since the public policy spat between Netanyahu
and Obama. According to the statement, the prime minister and Biden
discussed ways to renew the diplomatic process with the Palestinians, as
well as the fight against terrorism and ways to stop Iran’s nuclear
Opposition head Tzipi Livni, meanwhile, addressed a closed session at the AIPAC conference on Monday.
Without mentioning Netanyahu by name, Livni said the “lack of action is
not an option” and that her message – both regarding developments around
the region and with the Palestinians – is that “if we do not lead, we
will be led.”
Livni said that creating two homelands for two peoples is not doing a
favor to anyone, including Obama, and that it has been the policy of the
previous three governments and is not an anti-Israeli position.
In a clear jab at Netanyahu, she said that “fear is not a policy,” and
added that she was pleased that Obama initiated a formula for restarting
negotiations that could prevent the Palestinians from taking their call
for statehood recognition to the UN in September.