On Tuesday, Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the US Congress. The entire speech can be found here. It was an excellent speech in which he made a number of important points. Here are a few of his words. My commentary again follows. In bold are what I believe to be his most significant statements.
Israel has no better friend than America. And America has no better friend than Israel. We stand together to defend democracy. We stand together to advance peace. We stand together to fight terrorism. Congratulations America, Congratulations, Mr. President. You got bin Laden. Good riddance!
In an unstable Middle East, Israel is the one anchor of stability. In a region of shifting alliances, Israel is America’s unwavering ally. Israel has always been pro-American. Israel will always be pro-American.
…Of those 300 million Arabs, less than one-half of one-percent are truly free, and they're all citizens of Israel!
This startling fact reveals a basic truth: Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East. Israel is what is right about the Middle East.
Israel fully supports the desire of Arab peoples in our region to live freely. We long for the day when Israel will be one of many real democracies in the Middle East.
Militant Islam threatens the world. It threatens Islam. I have no doubt that it will ultimately be defeated. It will eventually succumb to the forces of freedom and progress. But like other fanaticisms that were doomed to fail, militant Islam could exact a horrific price from all of us before its inevitable demise.
Leaders who spew such venom, should be banned from every respectable forum on the planet. But there is something that makes the outrage even greater: The lack of outrage. In much of the international community, the calls for our destruction are met with utter silence. It is even worse because there are many who rush to condemn Israel for defending itself against Iran’s terror proxies.
As for Israel, if history has taught the Jewish people anything, it is that we must take calls for our destruction seriously. We are a nation that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust. When we say never again, we mean never again. Israel always reserves the right to defend itself.
The peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan are vital. But they're not enough. We must also find a way to forge a lasting peace with the Palestinians. Two years ago, I publicly committed to a solution of two states for two peoples: A Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state.
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.
But there is another truth: The Palestinians share this small land with us. We seek a peace in which they will be neither Israel’s subjects nor its citizens. They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people in their own state. They should enjoy a prosperous economy, where their creativity and initiative can flourish.
So now here is the question. You have to ask it. If the benefits of peace with the Palestinians are so clear, why has peace eluded us? Because all six Israeli Prime Ministers since the signing of Oslo accords agreed to establish a Palestinian state. Myself included. So why has peace not been achieved? Because so far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state, if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it.
You see, our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It has always been about the existence of the Jewish state. This is what this conflict is about. In 1947, the United Nations voted to partition the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews said yes. The Palestinians said no. In recent years, the Palestinians twice refused generous offers by Israeli Prime Ministers, to establish a Palestinian state on virtually all the territory won by Israel in the Six Day War.
They were simply unwilling to end the conflict. And I regret to say this: They continue to educate their children to hate. They continue to name public squares after terrorists. And worst of all, they continue to perpetuate the fantasy that Israel will one day be flooded by the descendants of Palestinian refugees.
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."
So 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.
In essence Netanyahu clarified a number of points. Israel is willing to withdraw from a good portion of the West Bank, as long as security guarantees are made, including maintaining an Israeli military presence on Jordan’s border. Israel would retain the large settlement blocs of Ariel, Gush Etzion and Maale Adumim. Israel would forever retain control of the entirety of Jerusalem. This would write the majority of Israelis living outside the Green Line within the State of Israel’s borders. Furthermore the Palestinian refugee problem would be solved within the newly created Palestinian state. All of these points appear self-evident. In reality Netanyahu’s positions offered clarification of what Obama suggested in his speech of last week. All of this has been the formula for at least the last ten years. Two times Israelis and Palestinians were near reaching an agreement. Creative solutions, different from Netanyahu’s positions, were then offered regarding the refugees and Jerusalem. One such proposal suggested that a peace agreement would philosophically affirm the Palestinian positions on these issues but hue to the Israel position in terms of practice.
I fear that Netanyahu’s speech is closer to the truth. Although much of the world views Israel as the stumbling block to peace, the Palestinians and their Arab leaders have created this “catastrophe.” If Abbas were to come to the Knesset, as Sadat did, and loudly and unequivocally affirm the Jewish State, he would win over the majority of Israelis. The question is what Netanyahu can do in order to nurture such a move. What can Netanyahu do to support the likes of Salam Fayyad? Time is not on our side.
To be very honest part of the problem is that the world has not by and large bought into the Jewish vision of the State of Israel. It has affirmed the democratic foundations of the state. If these democratic foundations continue to be eroded we will most certainly lose even more of the world’s support. Would we want to go it alone? Moreover, are we willing to sacrifice these democratic principles?