Israel is the only country that has guaranteed freedom of all faiths in Jerusalem, which must remain undivided, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Congress Tuesday. In unusually strong language, he told members of Congress that Judea and Samaria are part of the ancient Jewish homeland that our forefathers walked in and that the 650,000 Jews living there "are not ‘occupying’ the region.” He strongly criticized the changed versions of history that are being promoted by others.
Interrupted dozens of times by standing ovations, after minutes-long applause as he entered the chamber, Netanyahu also said that there are 300 million Arabs in the MIddle East, but the only ones who are free are Israeli citizens.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu noted in his opening remarks that the "ground is still shifting” in the Middle East and that the uprisings in the Muslim countries represent people’s demands for liberty.
He thanked the United States for helping Israel reach its defense capabilities despite the “tough” economy. He jokingly said that the United States doesn't have to help build Israel--it is already built. More seriously, he said that the United States doesn't have to send soldiers to defend Israel, because Israel defends itself.
The Prime Minister did not change any of his policies, and put paid to rumors that he was going to announce new concessions. He expressed his policies in down-to-earth and homey language that clearly enthused the legislators. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was on the podium to receive him. U.S. President Barack Obama was on his way back to the United States from a visit to Ireland.
He jokingly noted that Israel is larger than the Delaware, Biden’s home state, and larger than Rhode Island, “but that’s about it.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu remarked that the length of the Washington Beltway is larger than the width of the Israel that the Palestinian Authority demands, which would be only 9 miles, hardly "strategic depth"..
He made it clear that he is willing to agree to borders for a Palestinian Authority country that would place some Jews outside of Israel’s borders, but did not mention that this would be only in settlement blocs and gave the impression of giving up less, rather than more.
Netanyahu also stressed that the borders must be negotiated because Israel “will not return to the indefensible borders of 1967.” He relied on his interpretation of U.S. President Barack Obama’s statement that any future borders of Israel will not be identical with the 1949 Armistice Lines that existed until the Six-Day War in 1967. He repeated his insistence that the Jordan River have an Israeli Army presence, remarking that in the MIddle East, peace depends on the ability to defend oneself.
The president has called for “land swaps,” a concept that Prime Minister Netanyahu did not mention and one which has little chance of getting off the ground because Israeli Arabs have little interest in giving up their freedom and economic security as Israeli citizens.
The vast majority of Jews living beyond the 1949-1967 borders live in greater Jerusalem and greater Tel Aviv,” the Prime Minister said in his address. “These areas and other places of historic, strategic and national importance will be incorporated into the final borders of Israel," he asserted.
Prime Minister Netanyahu also buried the issue of “refugees,” meaning the Arabs who either fled Israel in the wars in 1948 and 1967, or their descendants.
"Jews around the world have a right to immigrant to the only Jewish state, and Arabs around the world should have the right to immigrate to a Palestinian state.” he told Congress.
In case anyone doubted his intentions, he added, “This means that the refugee problem will be solved outside the borders of Israel".
Repeating that the obstacle to peace is not the creation of a Palestinian State to which six successive Israeli Prime Ministers agreed, but the Palestinian acceptance of the existence of a Jewish State, Netanyahu called to Abbas to tell Palestinians clearly that Israel has a right to exist. Meanwhile, he said, incitement continues in PA school curricula, squares are named after terrorists and the only reward Israel got for leaving Lebanon and Gaza was 12,000 rockets fired at its children.
"Imagine a siren sounding and giving you 60 seconds to find shelter before a missile strikes. You couldn't live with that. No one can live with that, " he said emphatically, adding, "Israel is not what is wrong in the Middle East. Israel is the only thing that is right in the MIddle East."