Netanyahu at AIPAC
Netanyahu at AIPACIsrael news photo

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu challenged U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s strong anti-united Jerusalem stand and told a cheering American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) crowd Monday night, “Jerusalem is not a settlement; it’s our capital.”

He pointed out that Israel has made constant to the concessions to the United States and Palestinian Authority but drew the red line at Jerusalem, reasoning that building houses for Jews in all of united Jerusalem “in no way precludes the possibility of a two-state solution.”

More than half of the American Congressmen were among the more than 7,000 people listening to the speech at the annual conference of the pro-Israel lobby group in Washington. The speech was delayed in order to allow people to enter the packed convention hall.

The Prime Minister spoke several hours after Secretary Clinton charged that Israel’s building in parts of Jerusalem that the United States does not recognize as being under Israeli sovereignty “undermines” U.S. policy.

The United States the past two years has rapidly moved towards including Jerusalem as an issue to be discussed with the Palestinian Authority even before the subjects of Arab terrorism and incitement and the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria are settled. Secretary Clinton’s stand inherently backs PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ claim that Jerusalem must be the capital of a future PA state, leaving little room for “negotiations” in the talks.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, receiving a standing ovation, said that Jewish neighborhoods where Clinton and the PA oppose further building for Jews “are an integral and inextricable part of modern Jerusalem. Everyone knows that these neighborhoods will be part of Israel in any peace settlement.”

His and Secretary Clinton's speech made it clear that the two allies have agreed to make their differences public and not to compromise. However, behind the scenes, it is generally assumed that Israel will keep a lower profile on new building in united Jerusalem in order to allow the continuation or American-mediated talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Before his speech to AIPAC, the Prime Minister met with Clinton and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and outlined the complicated and long process before houses can be built in Israel.

The Obama administration sharply protested and even "condemned" Israel’s announcement earlier this month that it is building 1,600 new homes in the totally Jewish neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, located across the road from a large industrial park that includes offices of Teva Pharmaceuticals, Intel and dozens of other high-tech firms.

The PA and the Obama government seized the building project to condemn Israel for building even though the announcement only referred to the fourth of seven steps before construction begins in at least two more years.