PM to set out ‘firm principles’ in May speech to Congress

Netanyahu tells Likud he will demand "real, lasting peace, not peace on paper"; says invitation to speak shows strong alliance between US, Israel.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu acknowledged for the first time on Thursday that he will deliver a speech to a joint session of the US Congress at the end of May in which he will lay out the principles of his government’s diplomatic and security policies.
“Next month I will have the opportunity to present the principles of our diplomatic and security polices during my visit to the US,” Netanyahu said at a pre-Pessah Likud gathering in Tel Aviv.
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“I received an invitation to speak before a joint session of Congress from my friend Speaker of the House John Boehner, and I greatly appreciate this opportunity. It symbolizes the strong alliance between the American people, the American Congress and the American administration with Israel and the Jewish people.”
Netanyahu is scheduled to go to Washington on May 22, and is expected to address Congress two days later.
For weeks, Netanyahu’s aides have been saying that he would deliver a major policy address, likely to Congress, but this was never confirmed by the prime minister himself.
On Monday, at a luncheon in Jerusalem with EU ambassadors, the prime minister said he had not decided when to deliver the speech, or what to say in it.
Netanyahu’s announcement comes two days after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that President Barack Obama would soon be delivering an address on the Middle East and North Africa.
It is not clear whether Obama or Netanyahu will deliver his speech first.
Netanyahu recalled that he addressed a joint session of Congress 15 years ago, when he was prime minister the first time around.
“I said then that the biggest threat to world peace and to Israel is Iran’s efforts to gain nuclear weapons. There were some then who raised an eyebrow, but I don’t think there is anyone who is doing that today,” he said. “Unfortunately, that threat has only gotten bigger since then, and I will speak about it and the big changes taking place in our region.”
Netanyahu said he would also speak about the way he believes it will be possible to reach peace with the Palestinians.
“Not peace on paper,” he said. “Not a peace of ceremonies, but a real peace that will last and ensure our security and future.”
Netanyahu said the pillars of such a peace would be Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, and genuine security arrangements on the ground needed not only to secure the peace, but also to defend Israel in the eventuality that the peace crumbles.
“We need to prepare in light of the tempest taking place around us,” the prime minister said. “I will stand firm on these principles in spite of a not-insignificant amount of pressure, because they are necessary for our existence.”
Earlier in the day, at a meeting with the IDF General Staff, Netanyahu alluded to the upcoming holiday and the phrase in the Hagadda saying that in every generation there are those who rise up to destroy the Jewish people.
“What has changed is not that in every generation there are still enemies who are trying to destroy us, but that in this generation we have the means to repel these attacks, and the means are the IDF, its soldiers and commanders who are represented here – to repel these attacks,” he said.
Netanyahu said that despite the tremendous challenges the country faced, it would be able to overcome them because of the strength of the Jewish people.
Netanyahu taped a similar two-minute Pessah message that was uploaded onto YouTube. He said the Pessah story taught that there was no existence without freedom.
“In essence we learned that lesson through our years of exile. We were not a free people, so they attacked us and destroyed us. Only when we succeeded to come to the Promised Land, only then did we succeed again in ensuring our future and we gathered our unique national strength to defend ourselves,” he said.