PM Netanyahu addresses Congress 311 (R).
(photo credit: Reuters)
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.
Read the full text of Netanyahu's speech to Congress
Any peace agreement must leave Israel with security
speech eyed for sign of US-Israel rift
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.
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.'
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.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.
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
"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.
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'
"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
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
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