“I say to President Abbas: Tear up your pact with Hamas! Sit down and negotiate! Make peace with the Jewish state! And if you do, I promise you this: Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations. It will be the first to do so,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his address to a joint meeting of Congress today.
Speaking to a warm, enthusiastic audience, Netanyahu said, “I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace. As the leader of Israel, it is my responsibility to lead my people to peace.”
“This is not easy for me. I recognize that in a genuine peace, we will be required to give up parts of the Jewish homeland. 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.”
“This is the land of our forefathers, the Land of Israel, to which Abraham brought the idea of one God, where David set out to confront Goliath, and where Isaiah saw a vision of eternal peace. No distortion of history can deny the four thousand year old bond, between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.”
Netanyahu’s address was a response to President Obama’s two recent speeches, in which the President said that a peace agreement should be based on the 1967 lines.
“We will be very generous on the size of a future Palestinian state,” Netanyahu told Congress today. “But as President Obama said, the border will be different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. Israel will not return to the indefensible lines of 1967.”
Netanyahu focussed on the failure of Palestinians to recognize Israel. “My friends, this must come to an end. President Abbas must do what I have done. I stood before my people, and I told you it wasn’t easy for me, and I said… ‘I will accept a Palestinian state.’ It is time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say… ‘I will accept a Jewish state.'”
“Those six words will change history. They will make clear to the Palestinians that this conflict must come to an end. That they are not building a state to continue the conflict with Israel, but to end it. They will convince the people of Israel that they have a true partner for peace. With such a partner, the people of Israel will be prepared to make a far reaching compromise. I will be prepared to make a far reaching compromise.
Netanyahu stood his ground on the future of Jerusalem. “As for Jerusalem,” he said, “only a democratic Israel has protected freedom of worship for all faiths in the city. Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel. I know that this is a difficult issue for Palestinians. But I believe with creativity and goodwill a solution can be found.”