Tuesday, May 24, 2011

MIDDLE EAST WRAP: AN ELOQUENT AND POWERFUL SPEECH

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing a joint meeting of Congress




Washington, May 24 – Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress, said he was prepared to offer the Palestinians a “far-reaching compromise” if their president, Mahmoud Abbas, uttered six simple words: “I will recognize a Jewish state.”


In a wide-ranging speech punctuated by 30 standing ovations, Netanyahu praised the many thousands of brave young people standing up in the Arab world for democratic rights – rights that Israel’s Arab minority have enjoyed for decades.

He also warned that Iran’s militant Islamic leaders remained determined to build nuclear weapons and time was running out to stop them.

And he appealed directly to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to tear up his recent deal with Iranian-backed Hamas, whose Charter calls for murdering Jews whereever possible, and enter peace talks with Israel to achieve a state.


“President Abbas must do what I have done. I stood before my people … 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’,” Netanyahu declared. 



“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 made clear that he was willing to give up parts of the Jewish ancestral homeland of Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank, so that a Palestinian state could be established.


“No distortion of history can deny the 4,000-year-old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land. But there’s another truth. The Palestinians share this small land with us … They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people living in their own state.”


This also meant that some settlements would not be inside Israel after the establishment of a Palestinian state, while the major suburbs that have been built close to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem would remain Israeli.


Recognizing that a future Palestine had to be economically viable to succeed, Netanyahu said Israel would be generous in the territory it gives up. But he stated once again that he was not prepared to go back to the pre-1967 lines which were impossible to defend and he would not allow Jerusalem to be divided.


Palestinians also had to stop naming public squares after suicide bombers and teaching their children to hate and they had to give up the “fantasy” of one day flooding Israel with the descendants of refugees.


“Palestinians from around the world should have a right to immigrate, if they so choose, to a Palestinian state. This means that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel,” Netanyahu said. 


The Israeli leader joined an exclusive club as the fourth world figure to address a joint session of Congress more than once. The other three were Winston Churchill, the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Nelson Mandela.


The first part of Netanyahu’s hour-long address dealt with the wider Middle East region and Iran, where Netanyahu saw the greatest danger to Israel’s peace and security.


“The hinge of history may soon turn. For the greatest danger of all could soon be upon us – a militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said. “Militant [Islam] could exact a horrific price from all of us before its eventual demise.”


Iran’s leaders would only be daunted if the West maintained a credible deterrence, leaving all options on the table, Netanyahu said. He added that Iranian leaders who express genocidal aims should be banned from every responsible forum in the world.


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