Saeb Erekat
Saeb Erekat Israel news photo: Flash 90

Hamas and Fatah were united in their reactions to Netanyahu’s speech in Congress, while Israeli reactions, with few exceptions, fell along party lines.

Saeb Erekat, a senior member of the Ramallah-Based Palestinian Authority and the senior negotiator during the period of talks with Israel, accused Prime Minister Netanyahu of distorting history. The Israeli leader told Congress that all of Judea and Samaria, including parts he would be willing to surrender for a “true peace,” are part of the ancient Jewish homeland.

He also said that Israel’s ancient ties to the land do not allow for charges that Jews are “occupying” Judea and Samaria.

In a recent speech by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, published and translated by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), he claimed that Palestinian history dates back 9,000 years, making Palestinians "the owners of history."

After Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech, which was warmly received by Congress, Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh reiterated the PA’s opposition to Israel’s demand for a military presence along the Jordan Valley and a de-militarized Palestinian Authority.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri stated that the speech to American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) this week by “the Zionist Benjamin Netanyahu…makes the continuation of negotiations with the Zionist entity is wrong and pointless."

Nationalist leaders in Israel chastised the Prime Minister for stating that he is willing to surrender parts of Israel that he told Congress “is the land of our forefathers." The Likud party leader also told the special session of Congress, “In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. We are not the British in India.  We are not the Belgians in the Congo...  

“No distortion of history can deny the 4,000-year-old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land."

Gershon Mesika, chairman of the Samaria (Shomron) Regional Council, charged that Prime Minister Netanyahu “waved the sword of expulsion over the heads of 100,000 Jews in Judea and Samaria” by declaring he would be willing to agree to a Palestinian Authority state with many Jewish communities outside of Israel’s borders.

"Netanyahu surfed down the slippery slope that he created in his speech at Bar-Ilan University last year that recognized a future Palestinian Authority country,” Mesika stated. “His tactic of holding out for more time does not justify promises to trade our homeland.”

National Union Knesset Member Dr. Michael Ben-Ari said that judging by "the reactions of both houses of Congress, we can learn that if it were up to them, the Palestinians are looking for a country on the moon. Netanyahu should understand that even the Americans are more right-wing than he is. Netanyahu has become the Herzl of the Palestinians."

National Union chairman and Knesset Member Yaakov (Ketzaleh) Katz said that this is “the first time that Netanyahu has publicly stated that the Likud platform has changed and that an Arab country will rise in the Land of Israel.”

Several Kadima Knesset members chided Prime Minister Netanyahu for delivering “an election speech,” which the New York Times noted had the tone of a State of the Union address.

His speech was a hit with his audience and generally was considered excellent in style. Kadima MK Otniel Schneller differed from his colleagues’ criticism and said, "The Prime Minister's speech reflects a broad common denominator in Israeli society that seeks to promote the political process while maintaining the values ​​and security interests of the country.”

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