May 25, 2011
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu wowed a joint session of the US Congress, calling on Arab states to recognize the right of Israel to exist and scoffed at the notion of returning Israel to its 1967 borders as a condition of peace with Palestine.
The Congress was packed with lawmakers, a rarity as most lawmakers skip legislative sessions or send aids or student interns to take notes. The Prime Minister rallied the audience unlike any other function to take place on Capitol Hill. It has even been said his speech garnered more approval and fandom than when US President Barack Obama speaks before joint congressional secessions.
Netanyahu informed the US Congress that any two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict must weigh regional demographics, understanding that populations have changed since 1967. Essentially, he was reiterating that there are now more Israeli Jews who wish to occupy more territory.
“Jerusalem must never again be divided,” Netanyahu asserted, attacking any idea that a return to previous border suggestions which split the city, granting East Jerusalem to a Palestinian state.
He noted that a two-state solution was possible and that Israel would grant a Palestinian state and would set the border with security in mind.
“The only peace that will hold is a peace that you can defend.” Netanyahu said, explaining that peace is essentially only achievable on Israeli terms.
He praised Israeli progress and democracy, saying Israel is the only true democratic state in the Middle East. He said only in Israel are Arabs currently capable of living in a democracy.
The US Congress was hanging on every word, almost as if they were anticipating their approval of the message before Netanyahu even spoke his next line. The speech was interrupted by standing ovations 29 times.
Former Democratic US Senator Mike Gravel said Netanyahu is more powerful than the US President because US lawmakers have been bought out by AIPAC and the pro-Israel lobby.
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“Netanyahu doesn’t want any peace,” he said. “They are prepared to go ahead, and over time, push out the Palestinians from the West Bank and Jerusalem. That’s their plan.”
He explained Netanyahu and Obama will always be at odds, and the Congress will always bend to Israel over the President on Middle East policy so long as the pro-Israeli lobby rules.
The reaction on Capitol Hill is groveling, not just admiration, explained Gravel.
“Obama on this particular issue and the Congress on this particular issue lack moral courage,” he remarked.
It is political suicide to oppose the pro-Israel lobby, he noted, explaining that AIPAC possesses great influence and power in US electoral politics.
“It’s unpatriotic. American interests should be first and foremost. That’s not the case with the Middle East,” he explained, arguing Congress puts Israel and AIPAC before America.
US politicians are so tied to AIPCA money they are more interested in keeping the pro-Israel lobby happy so they remain in office than actually serving the American people as lawmakers.
“I see no immediate change,” he noted, “unless there is a change in the government of Israel.”
Jeremy Scahill, a national security correspondent for The Nation Magazine said Netanyahu received a far warmer reception than Obama ever does – from both Democrats and Republicans.
“It seems as we enter the political season here in the United States that Bibi [Netanyahu] could potentially get the nomination for either the Democratic or Republican Party,” he joked. “It’s incredible the amount of enthusiasm that is thrown on Benjamin Netanyahu.”