PM: I'll make territorial concessions, but not on J'lem

By JPOST.COM STAFF
May 24, 2011 19:23

Netanyahu tells Congress Hamas isn't a partner for peace, its charter calls for killing Jews; says he's ready to make "far-reaching compromises"; White house says PM "pointed to the importance of peace."

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PM Netanyahu addresses US Congress

PM Netanyahu addresses Congress 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told a joint session of the US Congress on Tuesday that he is willing to make "far reaching" territorial concessions, but not on Jerusalem.

The prime minister said he is "prepared to make a far-reaching compromise," for peace.

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Israel, he said, will be generous with the size of a Palestinian state but will be firm on where we put [the border]." Netanyahu said he recognize that "a Palestinian state must be big enough to be viable."

Jerusalem, however, "must remain the united capital of Israel." Only a democratic Israel, the prime minister said, "has protected the freedom of worship" in the holy city.

"The status of the settlements will only be be decided in negotiations, but I'll say this... in any real peace agreement...that ends the conflict... some settlements will end up beyond Israel's borders," the prime minister went on, adding, "The exact border will be negotiated.'

Addressing the recent Palestinian reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas, Netanyahu told Congress that he is willing to return to negotiations with the Palestinians, but not with Hamas.

Israel will not, he said, "negotiate with a Palestinian government, which is backed by a Palestinian version of al-Qaida," he said referring to Hamas after noting that they condemned the US killing of Osama bin Laden.

Hamas, he noted, is not a partner for peace. It "remains committed to Israel's destruction and to terrorism. They have a charter, it calls not only for the destruction of Israel, it says: kill the Jews."


The prime minister also stressed Israel's position as the one democracy in the Middle East, in a special joint session of Congress.

"Israel is the one anchor of stability in a region of shifting alliances," Netanyahu said.

He went on to stress the strong ties between Jerusalem and Washington. "Israel has no better friend than America and America has no better friend than Israel," Netanyahu said.

The two countries "stand together, to defend democracy, to advance peace and to fight terrorism," he said.

The White House offered a low-key response to Netanyahu's speech. Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, said in London that the prime minister had "reaffirmed the strength of the US-Israeli relationship" and had "pointed to the importance of peace."

Middle East changes 'hold the promise of a new opportunity'

In addition to spelling out what he views as the fundamentals for a future peace deal with the Palestinians, Netanyahu also focused on Iran and the upheaval in the Arab world.

"We can all see that the ground is still shifting in Middle East," he said. "This historic moment holds the promise of a new opportunity," he added. "An epic battle is now underway in the Middle East between tyranny and freedom... the tremors of shattered states, they topple governments."

The prime minister also referred to the killing of Osama bin Laden. To extended applause, Netanyahu said, "Congratulations America. Congratulations Mr. President. You got bin Laden. Good riddance."

Netanyahu detailed the history of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, and said that it is "the same tyranny that smothered Lebanon's Cedar Revolution... and inflicted [on Lebanon] the Medieval rule of Hezbollah."

Speech represents 'wide bipartisan support for Israel in Congress'

This was the second time Netanyahu addressed 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 public.

Netanyahu's address to Congress, which he worked on for days with his senior adviser Ron Dermer, came about 12 hours after Netanyahu gave a speech to over 10,000 delegates at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

That speech, coming after four stormy days in the US-Israel 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.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report


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