Political Buzz May 24, 2011: Democrat Kathy Hochul Wins Upstate New York Congressional Race Over Republican Jane Corwin — Medicare Biggest Issue

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS — ELECTIONS

Michael Appleton for The New York Times

Kathy Hochul delivered her victory speech in Amherst on Tuesday evening.

Democrat Wins G.O.P. Seat in Closely Watched Upstate New York Race: The Associated Press has declared Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, the winner in a closely watched Congressional race in upstate New York that is being seen as a test of a Republican plan to overhaul Medicare.
On Tuesday, she captured 47 percent of the vote to Ms. Corwin’s 43 percent, according to unofficial results. A Tea Party candidate, Jack Davis, had 9 percent

  • Democrat Wins G.O.P. Seat; Rebuke Seen to Medicare Plan: Democrats scored an upset in one of New York’s most conservative Congressional districts on Tuesday, dealing a blow to the national Republican Party in a race that largely turned on the party’s plan to overhaul Medicare.
    The results set off elation among Democrats and soul-searching among Republicans, who questioned whether they should rethink their party’s commitment to the Medicare plan, which appears to have become a liability heading into the 2012 elections.
    Two months ago, the Democrat, Kathy Hochul, was considered an all-but-certain loser in the race against the Republican, Jane Corwin. But Ms. Hochul seized on the Republican’s embrace of the proposal from Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, to overhaul Medicare, and she never let up…. – NYT, 5-25-11
  • Democrat Wins Upstate New York Congressional Race: Democrats scored an upset in one of New York’s most conservative congressional districts on Tuesday, dealing a blow to the national Republican Party in a race that largely turned on the party’s plan to overhaul Medicare.
    The results set off elation among Democrats and soul-searching among Republicans, who questioned whether the party should rethink its commitment to the Medicare plan, which appears to have become a liability as 2012 elections loom.
    Two months ago, the Democrat, Kathy Hochul, was considered an all-but-certain loser. But Ms. Hochul seized on her Republican rival’s embrace of the proposal from Representative Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, to overhaul Medicare, and she never let up.
    With 66 percent of the precincts reporting, Ms. Hochul led with 48 percent of the vote, to 43 percent for the Republican candidate, Jane L. Corwin…. – NYT, 5-24-11
  • Democrat Wins G.O.P. Seat; Rebuke Seen to Medicare Plan: Democrats scored an upset in one of New York’s most conservative Congressional districts on Tuesday, dealing a blow to the national Republican Party in a race that largely turned on the party’s plan to overhaul Medicare.
    The results set off elation among Democrats and soul-searching among Republicans, who questioned whether the party should rethink its commitment to the Medicare plan, which appears to have become a liability as 2012 elections loom.
    Two months ago, the Democrat, Kathy Hochul, was considered an all-but-certain loser in the race against Jane Corwin. But Ms. Hochul seized on her Republican rival’s embrace of the proposal from Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, to overhaul Medicare, and she never let up.
    Voters, who turned out in strikingly large numbers for a special election, said they trusted Ms. Hochul, the county clerk of Erie County, to protect Medicare…. – NYT, 5-24-11
  • GOP loss a Medicare message?: Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul won a House special election in western New York on Tuesday, a Democratic triumph in a conservative district that many consider a referendum on House Republicans’ efforts to reform Medicare.
    With 91 percent of precincts reporting, Hochul had 48 percent of the vote. State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, a Republican, had 42 percent, while independent candidate Jack Davis ran a distant third with 9 percent.
    The seat in New York’s 26th District became vacant when Rep. Christopher Lee, R-N.Y., resigned after revelations that he had sent shirtless pictures of himself to a woman with whom he had been corresponding on Craigslist. Seattle Times, 5-25-11
  • Democrat Wins U.S. House Race That Focused on Medicare, AP Says: Kathy Hochul was elected to a vacant U.S. House seat in western New York, the Associated Press said, following a campaign that became a referendum on a Republican plan to privatize Medicare.
    With 84 percent of the vote counted in the special election, the AP tally showed Hochul with 48 percent to 42 percent for Republican Jane Corwin and 8 percent for Buffalo- area industrialist Jack Davis, running on the Tea Party ballot line.
    The race was closely watched for its implications on national politics, including the 2012 presidential campaign. The campaign provided the first electoral test on the Medicare issue and, in a sign of its potential importance, national party groups and their independent allies helped finance a barrage of local television ads and automated telephone calls to households…. – Bloomberg, 5-24-11
  • Democrat Kathy Hochul wins upstate New York race: Democrat Kathy Hochul drew on voter discontent over Republican plans to revamp Medicare to score an upset win on Tuesday in a special election to represent a conservative upstate New York congressional district.
    Hochul defeated Republican Jane Corwin in a three-way race that also included self-described Tea Party candidate Jack Davis. The outcome did not affect Republican control of the House of Representatives.
    “Tonight the voters were willing to look beyond the political labels and vote for a person, and vote for message that they believe in,” Hochul told cheering supporters minutes after taking a phone call from Corwin, a state assemblywoman. “We can balance the budget the right way, and not on the backs of our seniors,” said Hochul, the Erie County clerk. “We had the issues on our side.”
    President Barack Obama, who is visiting Britain, issued a statement congratulating Hochul on her victory. “Kathy and I both believe that we need to create jobs, grow our economy, and reduce the deficit in order to outcompete other nations and win the future,” Obama said…. – Reuters, 5-24-11
  • Democrat Wins House Seat Third Candidate Roils New York Race in Traditionally GOP Area; Medicare Issue Studied as Factor:A Democrat on Tuesday won election to a congressional seat from a traditionally Republican district in western New York, according to Associated Press tallies, an outcome that will be studied for clues to how voters are viewing the budget battles in Washington.
    Republican candidate Jane Corwin had endorsed a plan passed by House Republicans last month to overhaul Medicare, drawing sharp criticism from her Democratic rival, Kathy Hochul.
    Ms. Hochul was leading Ms. Corwin, 48% to 43%, with 66% of the vote tallied shortly after 10 p.m. eastern time, AP reported.
    The news service declared the winner to be Ms. Hochul. She is currently the Erie County clerk.
    Republicans outnumber Democrats in the district, and voters gave former Rep. Chris Lee, a Republican, 68% of the vote in November.
    The district also supported Republicans John McCain for president in 2008 and President George W. Bush in 2004.
    While the outcome was complicated by a third-party candidate, members of Congress are sure to study the results for the role that the Medicare proposal may have played in the race…. – WSJ, 5-24-11
  • Democrat Hochul wins N.Y. special election: Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul won a House special election in western New York on Tuesday night, a Democratic triumph in a conservative district that many consider a referendum on House Republicans’ efforts to reform Medicare.
    With three-quarters of precincts reporting, Hochul had 48 percent of the vote. State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin (R) had 42 percent, with independent candidate Jack Davis running a distant third with 8 percent.
    Democrats contended that the race in New York’s 26th Congressional District — which the GOP had held since the 1960s — became competitive through their efforts linking Corwin to the House Republican plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program.
    That plan, spearheaded by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.), has already been the subject of plenty of debate in Washington, where Republicans seek deep cuts and debt-reduction measures…. – WaPo, 5-24-11
  • Kathy Hochul wins NY congressional race: Democrat Kathy Hochul scored an upset and won a special election to represent New York’s 26th congressional district on Tuesday, defeating Republican Jane Corwin.
    Hochul, the Erie County clerk, declared victory in the conservative upstate district with just over 70 percent of the vote tallied.
    The election was held to fill the seat vacated in February by Republican Chris Lee, who resigned after shirtless photos he sent to a woman he met on Craigslist were published on the Internet…. – Reuters, 5-24-11
  • Julian E. Zelizer: N.Y. race for House seat a preview of 2012?: Next week voters in New York’s 26th Congressional District will go to the ballot box to replace Rep. Christopher Lee, who resigned after a scandal involving a photo of himself shirtless that he sent to a woman he met online.
    Like other special elections in the last two years, the rumble in the 26th has drawn the attention and resources of both national political parties. What would have ordinarily been a local race is seen as having big implications for 2012.
    Until April, few Democrats thought this race was worth contesting. The 26th is one of the most conservative districts in New York, presumably a safe Republican seat. But then something happened. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin released his budget plan, which included a drastic overhaul of Medicare and Medicaid. Many of his GOP colleagues, fearing trouble on the campaign trail, distanced themselves from the plan as soon as the details were released.
    In New York, Democrats pounced. The party has been able to generate substantial support for its candidate, Kathy Hochul, by connecting the dots between New York, Washington, and Wisconsin. Her ads have hammered away at her Republican opponent, Jane Corwin, for endorsing Ryan’s proposal and supporting “a budget that essentially ends Medicare.” She also supports, they add, reductions in Social Security benefits.
    The National Republican Congressional Committee has responded with a familiar refrain, calling Hochul a champion of the kind of big government liberalism that it says has run rampant in Washington. A recent television spot argued that Hochul, as well as independent Jack Davis, was on the same page as former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
    The race is allowing both parties to test their arguments for 2012. Republicans are counting on Americans to share the party’s antipathy to the federal government and support proposals to lower the federal deficit. This anti-government ethos has been a guiding ideal for GOP candidates since Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in 1980….
    The results in the special election may help the parties determine what their strategy should be in the 2012 elections. If Hochul wins, we can expect Democrats to focus on specifics in the upcoming months, telling voters what Democrats’ programs provide them and what Republicans hope to take away.
    If Republicans can hold this seat, they may be emboldened to continue calling for radical cuts in the federal budget and warning of the dangerous road on which Democrats have embarked. Which argument sticks in this special election will give both parties some sense of where voters stand after the heated budget battles of the past few months…. – CNN, 5-23-11
Advertisements

Political Buzz May 24, 2011: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu Gives Speech to Joint Meeting of US Congress

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel spoke to a joint meeting of Congress in Washington on Tuesday.

IN FOCUS

  • FACT CHECK: Netanyahu speech brushes over conflicting views of Mideast realityWaPo, 5-24-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • To Friendly Crowd, Netanyahu Repeats Criteria for Peace: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu capped off a turbulent visit to Washington on Tuesday with a speech to a more sympathetic audience in Congress than he found at the White House, promising peace negotiations aimed at “a far-reaching compromise” with the Palestinians but setting several significant limits on what Israel would accept.
    He said that to reach a deal, Palestinians must agree to live with a Jewish state that would include areas in the suburbs of Jerusalem and around Tel Aviv.
    Jerusalem, he said, “will never be divided,” and Israel’s army would remain along the Jordan River.
    While some land where Israelis have settled would lie outside its final borders, he said, the borders would not be identical to those of 1967 and before, which he once again called indefensible. Palestinian refugees and their descendants, he said, would have to find their homes outside these borders, limiting their right of return to old homelands — long a sticking point.
    “I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace,” he said, adding that it would not be easy, because “in a genuine peace, we will be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland.”… – NYT, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu Gives No Ground in Congress Speech: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, broadly laying out the Israeli response to President Obama’s peace proposals, called on the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, on Tuesday to accept what Mr. Netanyahu framed as a tenet: that Palestinians will not get a right of return to Israel. In so doing, he made clear that he was giving no ground on the major stumbling blocks to a peace agreement.
    “I stood before my people and said that I will accept a Palestinian state; it’s time for President Abbas to stand up before his people and say, ‘I will accept a Jewish state,’ ” Mr. Netanyahu said to cheers from a hugely friendly crowd of Democratic and Republican lawmakers gathered in the House chamber of the Capitol.
    “Those six words will change history,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “With those six words, the Israeli people will be prepared to make a far-reaching compromise. I will be prepared to make a far-reaching compromise.”… – NYT, 5-25-11
  • Netanyahu’s speech sets high bar for resumption of peace talks: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu invited Palestinians back to the bargaining table Tuesday with a speech before Congress that promised “painful” Israeli concessions in exchange for peace but also outlined a tough negotiating stance that was immediately rejected by key Palestinian officials.
    One aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called Netanyahu’s proposals a “declaration of war against the Palestinians.”
    Netanyahu’s vision for Middle East peace drew thunderous ovations from U.S. lawmakers who cheered his prescription for a two-state solution that he said would lead to a “viable, independent and prosperous” Palestinian state. The speech culminated a dramatic several days in U.S.-Israeli relations, including a major speech on the Mideast by President Obama on Thursday, a charged visit between the two presidents on Friday and numerous quieter contacts between officials of the two nations.
    Netanyahu, one of a handful of foreign leaders to appear twice before joint sessions of Congress, laid out a vision for a peace agreement with the Palestinians that he said would include a “far-reaching compromise” and generous land concessions by Israel… – WaPo, 5-25-11
  • Netanyahu addresses Congress in historic speech: PM willing to give up parts of Israel but ‘Jerusalem must never be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.’
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the United States Congress Tuesday in a much-anticipated speech following a turbulent visit to Washington.
    While the PM spoke about various issues, the focus of his address was clearly on the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, especially the security.
    “We must find a way to forge a lasting peace with the Palestinian people,” said Netanyahu who lauded Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a viable partner in peace, but not under the current conditions of their pact with Hamas.
    “Hamas is not a partner for peace. Hamas remains committed to Israel’s destruction,” Netanyahu stated. “Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of al-Qaeda.”
    Should the opportunity to negotiate peace with the PA arise, Netanyahu made it clear that “Israel will be generous with the size of the Palestinian state” but will not sacrifice security. “Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967,” he said adamantly before adding, that it needs “unique security arrangements because of its unique size.”
    Netanyahu repeated what he told the AIPAC conference earlier in the day, that the State of Israel is not the root of the Middle East’s problem.
    “Israel’s not what’s wrong with the Middle East. Israel is what’s right about the Middle East,” he said to a cheering audience.
    “Israel has no better friend than America and America has no better friend than Israel,” he said while also thanking Obama for his great commitment to the security of Israel.
    “The Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. We’re not the British in India, or the Belgians in the Congo. This is the land of our forefathers… no distortion of history will deny the 4,000 year-old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.”
    Netanyahu did not waste this opportunity to take a jab at the United Nations during this public address, saying that, should a peace agreement be reached “Israel will be the first country to welcome a Palestinian state as a member of the United Nation.” Shalom Life, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu at Congress: Jerusalem Must Remain Undivided: Israel is the only country that has guaranteed freedom of all faiths in Jerusalem, which must remain undivided, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Congress Tuesday.
    Interrupted by repeated by standing ovations, he also thanked the United States for helping Israel reach its defense capabilities despite the “tough” economy.
    There is no need for the United States to send troops to Israel because “we defend ourselves,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said.
    Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu noted in his opening remarks that the “ground is still shifting” in the Middle East and that the uprisings in the Muslim countries represent people’s demands for liberty. He said that of 300 million Arabs, the only ones who are “truly free” are citizens of Israel.
    He continued, “Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East. Israel is what is right about the Middle East.”
    After one person interrupted his speech briefly, the Prime Minister said that the United States is a “real democracy” unlike “farcical” regimes of Iran and elsewhere.
    He was welcomed with a standing ovation and three minutes of applause…. – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-24-11
  • PM Netanyahu Calls Congressional Leaders “Steadfast Friends” of Israel: Following his address to the joint meeting of Congress today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the Congressional leadership for the invitation to come to the Capitol, and called the bipartisan quartet of leaders “steadfast friends” of Israel.
    “I’ve known these friends of Israel a long time. They’re true, steadfast friends,” Netanyahu told reporters of Sens. Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell and Reps. John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi and Eric Cantor. “I think you got that impression, I got that impression in the [House Chamber] where we’ve just come from, and I was delighted to see these anchors of the Israel-American alliance and the new faces that have been added. It’s heartwarming.”
    “We have a different feeling about the world, about our potential, about our defenses, when we have this solid American support from all parts of the American people. America supports us in our quest for peace; America helps our security; America wants a genuine peace; America opposes Hamas,” he added. “America joins us in demanding that Hamas’s criminal organization release Gilad Shalit. Imagine, they’re keeping our captive soldier in a dungeon for five years, and they’re not letting the Red Cross visit him even once. America stands with us in our just demands to release our soldier; to stop terrorism; to have a real, durable and defensible peace. This is a great day for us.”… – ABC News, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu to Congress: Ready to make painful compromises, but Jerusalem will not be divided: The prime minister was welcomed to the U.S. Congress by a long standing ovation, after which he praised the U.S. for their strong ties and shared values with Israel…. – Haaretz, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu: Militant Islam threatening the world: Israel’s prime minister, in an address to Congress on Tuesday, held out the threat of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, saying the only time Iran halted its nuclear program was when it feared such an attack.
    Benjamin Netanyahu did not go so far as to say Israel would carry out such an assault. But he told Congress that militant Islam was threatening the world and urged the U.S. never to allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
    “The more Iran believes that all options are on the table, the less the chance of confrontation,” Netanyahu said.
    Netanyahu has said before that Iran won’t curb its nuclear ambitions unless it thinks it is threatened with military action…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu receives warm reception in Congress: Lawmakers from both sides of the American political divide are giving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a rapturous congressional reception, with frequent and sustained standing ovations.
    In his speech to a joint session of Congress, Netanyahu congratulated the United States for killing Osama bin Laden, wishing the al-Qaida leader “good riddance” and making the case that America and Israel are paragons of democracy. He dismissed early shouts from a female protester as evidence that freedom of speech is alive and well and respected in both countries, while it is punished in Arab states now going through upheaval…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • Why such a warm reception for Benjamin Netanyahu at US Congress?: Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu drew a line in the sand Tuesday during his speech to the US Congress, regarding future borders with any new Palestinian state. The applause was enthusiastic.
    The moment many US lawmakers were waiting for came toward the end of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech Tuesday to a joint session of Congress. “Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967,” he said, to a vigorous burst of cheers and applause.
    With that, Mr. Netanyahu may have demonstrated that the American Congress stands with Israel, and not with President Obama, on the matter of a starting point for resuming peace talks with the Palestinians – if and when such negotiations ever do resume.
    That, perhaps, does not come as a huge surprise, given the shared Judeo-Christian tradition and shared democratic values. But there’s also the pro-Israel lobby, long one of the most effective on Capitol Hill. Since 1990, pro-Israel groups have contributed more than $97 million to congressional candidates – 67 percent to Democrats and 33 percent to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington. Some 38 lobbyists are registered on pro-Israel campaigns, spending more than $8.6 million to lobby Congress and the White House since Mr. Obama took office…. – CS Monitor, 5-24-11
  • U.S. Jewish groups united in support of Netanyahu’s speech to Congress: In speech before a joint meeting of Congress, Netanyahu stresses strong U.S.-Israel ties and their joint interests of protecting democracy and peace.
    Jewish American groups were overwhelmingly united in their praise for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before the joint meeting of Congress on Tuesday, stressing their support for his clear call for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish State and commitment to peace…. – Haaretz, 5-24-11
  • Congress gives Netanyahu enthusiastic support down the line: Addressing an enthusiastic joint session of Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that he was willing to make “painful compromises” to reach a comprehensive peace with Palestinian Arabs, but only if they agreed to live with a Jewish state whose territory included the suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
    In a 45-minute speech punctuated by 29 standing ovations — an unusually high number for a foreign leader before Congress — Netanyahu repeated his assertion that “Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967,” which President Barack Obama said in a major speech last week should be the starting point of peace negotiations.
    The spirit of Obama’s remarks reflected the positions of former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. But Obama’s overt call for using the 1967 lines — adjusted by mutually agreed land swaps — was controversial, especially when Netanyahu publicly upbraided Obama in the White House Oval Office the next day. On Tuesday, Netanyahu repeated his stand, but this time in front of a warm, appreciative bipartisan audience of American lawmakers.
    After the speech, congressional leaders of both parties made it clear that they were firmly allied with Israel’s prime minister…. – McClatchy Newspapers 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu’s make-or-break speech to Congress: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, long criticized for being passive and reactionary, is under pressure to exhibit the Zionist legacy of risk-taking and initiative in his address to Congress today….
    Four days after publicly spurning President Obama’s vision for ending the Israeli-Arab conflict, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure from supporters and critics alike to present an alternative plan for peace as he addresses a joint session of US Congress.
    In the shadow of regional change, Mr. Netanyahu has been attacked for taking a passive, reactive stance that favors his own political survival over meaningful progress with the Palestinians. Now, with Palestinians gaining momentum on a United Nations vote to establish a Palestinian state without Israel’s approval, his country faces a growing threat of isolation and attacks on its legitimacy.
    Many see Netanyahu’s speech today as an opportunity to take the diplomatic initiative, tapping into an Israeli legacy of risk-taking, initiative, and creativity that stretches from the country’s founding fathers to today’s technology entrepreneurs. That spirit – summed up in Zionist leader Theodore Herzl’s phrase, “If you will it, it is no dream” – has been seen in everything from preemptive military attacks to a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip…. – CS Monitor, 5-24-11
  • Conn. rabbi to give opening prayer at US House session; was invited by Conn. Rep. Himes: A Connecticut rabbi will be visiting Capitol Hill to give the opening prayer before a U.S. House of Representatives session.
    Jeremy Wierderhorn is scheduled to deliver the invocation Tuesday at the invitation of U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, a Democrat from Greenwich. Wierderhorn is rabbi of The Conservative Synagogue of Westport, Weston and Wilton.
    His prayer to open the House session takes place on the same day that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress.
    Wierderhorn has been rabbi at The Conservative Synagogue since 2008, and previously was rabbi of a temple in Henderson, Nevada…. – AP, 5-24-11

QUOTES

  • Full Text: Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Address to a Joint Meeting of the United States CongressTranscript, 5-24-11
  • Bibi to Congress: No compromise on Jerusalem, refugees or Jordan River presence: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that any peace deal with the Palestinians must grant Israel a military presence along the Jordan River, exclude repatriation of Palestinian refugees to Israel and leave Jerusalem as Israel’s united capital.
    However, the Israeli leader said in his address to a joint meeting of Congress on Tuesday, some Jewish settlements in the West Bank would fall outside Israel’s borders in a final peace deal.
    Netanyahu did not appear to offer anything new by way of substance for his vision of peace with the Palestinians, saying Israel “would be very generous” about the size of the Palestinian state but providing few details.
    “Israel needs unique security arrangements, because of its unique size,” Netanyahu said.
    On the dispute over Jerusalem, which he vowed would remain Israel’s undivided capital city, he said, “With creativity and with good will, a solution can be found.”
    “Palestinians from around the world should have the right to immigrate, if they so choose, to the Palestinian state,” he said. “The Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel.”
    “It’s absolutely vital that a Palestinian state be demilitarized,” Netanyahu said, “and it’s absolutely vital that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River.”
    The Israeli prime minister had an informal delivery, cracking several jokes and twice turning around to address Vice President Joe Biden. When a heckler interrupted Netanyahu at one point, Congress tried to drown her out with a standing ovation, much as the pro-Israel crowd at the annual banquet of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee did for the prime minister the previous evening.
    “This is real democracy,” Netanyahu said after the heckler had been removed from the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives.
    Netanyahu repeated some lines from the night before, when most of Congress joined the crowd at the AIPAC gala. “Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East,” Netanyahu said both days. “Israel is what is right about the Middle East.”
    On the Palestinian issue, Netanyahu said, “I’m willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace.” He called the West Bank the Palestinians’ homeland, but rejected the notion that it belongs to them alone.
    “In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers,” Netanyahu said, referring to the West Bank. “This is the land of our forefathers, the land of Israel to which Abraham brought the idea of one God.”
    “Our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Netanyahu said. “It’s always been about the existence of a Jewish state. That’s what this conflict is about.”
    “I stood before my people and said I will accept a Palestinian state,” Netanyahu said. “It’s time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say: I will accept a Jewish state.”
    As for the contours of a future Palestinian state, Netanyahu indicated that large settlement blocs would become part of Israel, along with “other areas of critical strategic and national importance,” but that, “in any real peace agreement, in any peace agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel’s borders.”
    He said, “We recognize that a Palestinian state must be big enough to be viable, to be independent, to be prosperous.”
    “Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967,” Netanyahu said…. – JTA, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu to Congress: Ready to make painful compromises, but Jerusalem will not be divided: The prime minister was welcomed to the U.S. Congress by a long standing ovation, after which he praised the U.S. for their strong ties and shared values with Israel.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened his speech at the United States Congress on Tuesday by reiterating Israel’s strong ties with the U.S., saying “Israel has no better friend than the U.S. and the U.S. has no better friend than Israel.”
    The prime minister’s speech was briefly disrupted by a heckler, who was quickly escorted out by security. Netanyahu said about the heckler, “I appreciate that protesting is allowed” adding “this is the real democracy.”
    Netanyahu rejected those that call Israel a “foreign occupier”, saying that no one could deny the “4,000 year old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.”
    “Why has peace eluded us?” the prime minister posed as he began to discuss the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. “Because so far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it.”
    “I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historical peace. As the leader of Israel, it is my responsibility,” he said.
    “Now, this is not easy for me. It’s not easy, because I recognize that in a genuine peace we will be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland,” he said.
    Netanyahu said that Israel “will not return to the indefensible borders of 1967.” “Israel will be generous on the size of a Palestinian state, but will be very firm on where we put the border with it,” Netanyahu said.
    “It’s time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say, ‘I will accept a Jewish state’,” Netanyahu said to applause.
    “Those six words will change history. They will make it clear to the Palestinians that this conflict will come to an end,” he said. “And those six words will convince the people of Israel that they have a true partner for peace.”
    “Tear up your pact with Hamas and sit down and negotiate, make peace with the Jewish state,” he said. “The Palestinian attempt to impose a settlement through the United Nations will not bring peace, it should be forcefully opposed by all those who want to see this conflict end,” he said. “Peace cannot be imposed, it must be negotiated.”… – Haaretz, 5-24-11
  • House Speaker John Boehner: “We live in a time of instability in the Middle East and around the world, but the United States has no stronger ally than Israel. Our long-standing alliance is built on trust, and it’s based on shared values of freedom and democracy. America has a critical leadership role to play in the Middle East, to advance freedom and democracy in the entire region. That is our historic and moral responsibility as a great and free nation, and we should never retreat from that role, and today we stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel and once again renew our historic partnership. The work of achieving a safe and secure Israel has never been easy, but the cause is right.”
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: It was “an honor…to join my colleagues in the leadership of the Congress to welcome you once again to the Capitol of the United States” and said that judging by the response to the prime minister’s speech, that Members on “both sides of the aisle, both sides of the Capitol believe that you advance the cause of peace.”
  • House Majority Leader Eric Cantor: Netanyahu singled out House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the lone Jewish House Republican. “May I say that I was remiss in not mentioning an extraordinary friend of Israel and an extraordinary public servant, Eric Cantor,” Netanyahu said. “It’s good to see you here, too, Eric, and thank you for that invitation.”
    Cantor, R-Va., said the U.S. lawmakers all “heard today the tremendous challenges that the people of Israel face, the existential threat that they face, as do we, in the Middle East,” but noted that the speech amplified “the resounding bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel relationship remains strong and will continue.”
  • Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.): Participated in a meeting featuring Netanyahu and Jewish lawmakers after the Israeli’s speech to Congress, said that making Israel a partisan issue would only damage the Jewish state in the end. He credited Netanyahu for “dialing back” the tension in his speeches, noting his praise in his speech to Congress for bipartisan support of Israel.
    “He tried to bring it back and get this thing off the table as a football,” Ackerman told JTA. “This should not be a wedge issue; there are huge consequences.”
  • Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee: Obama had created an opportunity by staking out Middle East policy that so clearly differentiated from Netanyahu’s.
    “It’s in our strategic interest as Americans to support Israel, and deviations from that position do not square with voters in our country. That’s what we’re going to be singing from the mountaintops for the next 17 months. We’re going to be making a strong play for Jewish voters in 2012, I can tell you that. We just did an eight-city tour in Florida, and we’re going to go back to Florida — we’re not going to let any stone unturned.” –
  • Bibi in Congress: The “wave” and the critical extemporization: There were more than two dozen standing ovations, but not all standing ovations are the same. Most of the ovations brought the entire House to its feet, immediately.
    A few, though, operated like waves: One party would rise and applaud and hoot and holler, and the other party would have a “might as well” reaction and –a little more slowly — also rise and applaud.
    (Republicans, from Netanyahu’s perspective, were on the left side of the chamber, and Democrats were on the right.)
    Here’s an example of a line that prompted GOP-to-Democrat wave (i.e., the Republicans were more enthusiastic)… – JTA, 5-24-11
  • Text of Rabbi Wiederhorn’s Prayer:
    Following is the text of the prayer delivered today by Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn of The Conservative Synagogue of Westport, Weston, and Wilton, before the U.S. House of Representatives:
    Dear God, source of all strength, compassion and peace.
    We know that our time on this earth is preciously short, so please, open our eyes to the beauty of the world around us.
    Remind us that each person we encounter is created in your image. Provide us with the integrity, wisdom, and patience to listen to those with whom we do not agree and learn from those who we might otherwise not hear.
    Protect the courageous men and women who put their lives in danger each day so that our children can live safely and without fear.
    Comfort us today as we mourn with the people of Missouri following the tragic loss of life brought upon by the devastating forces of nature.
    And, finally, bless our leaders and advisers, including the dedicated men and women of this United States Congress, who assiduously seek to protect our sacred democratic values at home and abroad.
    May you grant them the vision to look ahead to our future without forgetting the lessons of our past.
    Amen. –
    Westport Now, 5-24-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • GOP wooing Jewish voters, donors in wake of Obama’s Israel border: GOP activists are confident that they’ll gain additional votes and donations from the Jewish community following President Barack Obama’s call for Israel to retreat to territory along its pre-1967 border, with “mutually agreed swaps,” in any final peace settlement with Palestinian Arabs.
    “My friends in the Republican Jewish Coalition are ecstatic at the crossover they’re having from independent-minded Jews,” GOP consultant Karl Rove told The Daily Caller.
    “Most Jews are Democrats because they vote on the basis of domestic policies,” said Ari Fleischer, a former press secretary for George W. Bush. But, he added, “those who are more inclined to vote on international affairs are more likely to be independent and they tend to vote Republican,” he said. They’re also the people who are more likely to be alarmed by Obama’s new stance, he said. “That’s where the damage was done,” he said.
    The GOP’s share of the Jewish community’s vote in presidential elections rose steadily from the 1990s until 2008, when Obama pushed the GOP’s share back down to 21 percent. The GOP pulled only 9 percent of the community’s vote in 1992, 16 percent in 1996, and 25 percent in 2004.
    These shares of the national vote are important in swing-state Florida, which has an unusually large Jewish community, Fleischer said. In 2012, “if Republicans get only 20 percent [of the vote], it is harder to win Florida, but if Republicans get 25 percent of the Jewish vote, it is likely they’ll win Florida,” he said…. – Daily Caller, 5-25-11
  • Democrats join Republicans in questioning Obama’s policy on Israel: Top Democrats have joined a number of Republicans in challenging President Obama’s policy toward Israel, further exposing rifts that the White House and its allies will seek to mend before next year’s election.
    The differences, on display as senior lawmakers addressed a pro-Israel group late Monday and Tuesday, stem from Obama’s calls in recent days for any peace deal between Israel and Palestinians to be based on boundaries that existed before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, combined with “mutually agreed swaps” of territory.
    Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) and other Democrats appeared to reject the president’s reference to the 1967 lines in his latest attempt to nudge along peace talks, thinking that he was giving away too much, too soon.
    White House officials say Obama’s assertion did not reflect a shift in U.S. policy. But the president’s comments touched a nerve among pro-Israel activists, drew a rare Oval Office rebuke from Is­raeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and instantly became a litmus test in domestic American politics.
    Now Obama — whom critics often accuse of employing a play-it-safe governing style in which he waits for others to take the lead — is largely isolated politically in raising the issue of boundaries…. – WaPo, 5-24-11
  • Ed Koch: The Difference Between Obama’s and Bush’s Positions on Israel: The issues in all of the discussions on peace between the Israelis and Palestinians have revolved around three major controversial matters: Jerusalem, with the Palestinians demanding their capital be in that city; demanding a return of all Palestinian refugees and their descendants now numbering 4.5 million to the state of Israel; and the lines of the new state.
    The two pre-Netanyahu prime ministers offered to share the capital of Jerusalem, giving to the Palestinian state that part of East Jerusalem in which Muslims now live, retaining for Israel that part of East Jerusalem in which 250,000 Jews now live and retaining about three percent of the West Bank in which about 300,000 Jews live. And most critical, requiring all Palestinian refugees seeking to return to be resettled in the new state of Palestine. The Palestinian leaders, Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, turned down the offers on every occasion. Also, neither Arab leader has been willing to state that they would recognize Israel as a Jewish state — they having a Muslim state — if and when an agreement creating two states was entered into.
    And that is the nub of the disagreement in my opinion. In my opinion, Palestinians and their Arab allies have no intention of ever accepting a Jewish state in their midst. Many in the Muslim world believe that every square inch of Israel belongs to Islam and will someday be theirs; they have no intention of accepting the existence of a Jewish state. At best, they will accept a temporary truce with an entity called Israel which they will whittle away at, later overwhelm and absorb in the future.
    There are those who will say, how does President Obama’s reference to boundaries in his statement of May 19, 2011 differ from that proposed by President Bush. Both referred to the 1967 lines. President Bush added language referring to the facts on the ground, a reference to the 250,000 Jews living in East Jerusalem and 300,000 living on the West Bank. As the Times of January 11, 2008 reported, “By endorsing compensation for refugees, Mr. Bush sided, at least indirectly, with an Israeli view that the return of Palestinians to Israel was unacceptable since it would change the identity of Israel as a Jewish state. Similarly, he endorsed the notion of Israel as ‘a homeland for the Jewish people,’ and ‘Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people.'”… – Huff Post, 5-24-11
  • For Obama, Bibi tensions subside, political problems begin: That Israel problem President Obama had with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? Old news. That Israel problem Obama has with Congress? And with his party? That’s just beginning.
    In two successive speeches — one to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Monday and another to a joint meeting of Congress the following day, Netanyahu had nothing but praise for the U.S. president.
    The friendly notes struck by the prime minister were all the more remarkable in light of how Republicans — and even some Democrats — were rushing to emphasize their differences with Obama on Israel policy…. – JTA, 5-24-11
  • Obama’s undue pressure on Israel?: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to speak to Congress at a time when his policies are more popular there than at the White House, POLITICO reports this morning.
    Members of both parties of Senate and the House, have criticized President Obama’s call for the borders of Israel return to that from before the Six-Day War of 1967, with mutually agreed upon land swaps with the Palestinians. Last night, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rebuked Obama’s use of his Middle East speech to address possible aspects of a deal, saying “the place where negotiating will happen must be at the negotiating table – and nowhere else.”
    Is the Obama administration putting too much undue pressure on Israel? – Politico Arena, 5-24-11
  • Tevi Troy Senior Fellow, the Hudson Institute; Former Deputy HHS secretary: Majority Leader Reid’s pro-Israel speech at AIPAC, followed immediately by Speaker John Boehner’s equally supportive statement, shows that Obama’s position on Israel is unpopular in both parties and on both sides of the Capitol. The joint rebukes should encourage Obama to rethink how to approach the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. – Politico Arena, 5-24-11
  • Tevi Troy: Bibi 4, Obama 1: Cliff May is right about the Netanyahu speech. It was a strong speech, and Congress warmly, even rapturously received Netanyahu, with 30 standing ovations by my count sitting in the House Gallery. The recent disagreement with the White House over President Obama’s Thursday speech if anything made the congressional welcome even friendlier than it would have been otherwise.
    Netanyahu’s speech was the capstone on the complex five-act play that took place in Washington this past week, one in which Netanyahu scored a decisive 4–1 victory. Act One took place last Thursday, in the form of Obama’s speech at the State Department. If Obama was expecting huzzahs from the Arab world for his speech, he certainly didn’t get them, and the president himself seemed to have been caught by surprise by the strong negative reaction from the pro-Israel side. Still, the Obama speech hit Netanyahu & Co. hard, and has to be seen as a loss for Netanyahu.
    But Obama inexplicably chose to give the speech on the eve of Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, which gave Netanyahu an opportunity to reply at their joint press appearance on Friday. In the tense, on-camera exchange of views, Netanyahu seemed to take Obama on a visit to Hebrew school, telling him the basic realities of existence in the tough neighborhood of the Middle East…. – National Review, 5-24-11
  • Alex Joffe: Say no to right of return Op-ed: Bibi challenges Obama to tell Palestinians forthrightly that right of return won’t happen: In the escalating crisis between the US and Israel, the issues of borders has gotten the most attention. By adopting the 1967 borders with territorial swaps as the starting point for negotiations, US President Barack Obama has explicitly shifted US policy. Previous presidents have recognized that the 1967 borders were untenable for Israel and that adjustments would be made, especially the incorporation of settlement blocs.
    Now, by specifying both the starting point for border adjustments and the precise size of Israel that will result from negotiations, Obama has adopted part of the Palestinian position.
    But while the borders issue has rightly outraged most Israeli commentators, in his public statement to the press after his meeting with Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lobbed a grenade directly at the American role in the Middle East “peace process.” He made it clear that Palestinian “refugees” will never exercise their mythical “right of return” to previous places of residence in Israel, but added, “I think it’s time to tell the Palestinians forthrightly it’s not going to happen.”
    This was a challenge issued directly to President Obama who in his own remarks explicitly stated that the refugee issue would come, along with Jerusalem, at the end of the negotiations. Instead, Netanyahu demanded that Obama tell Palestinians that one of their most cherished myths will never come to pass. The statement must have struck fear into the hearts of Palestinian leaders but appears to have passed over the heads of Obama and his Middle Eastern advisors, as well as most pundits. But now that Netanyahu has put the issue front and center, in Obama’s presence, sooner or later someone will ask him or his administration about Palestinian ‘refugees.” What will he tell them?
    If Israelis are enraged about the issues of borders on purely pragmatic terms, namely the indefensibility of the 1949 armistice lines that left Israel a mere nine miles wide, the “right of return” is part of the central ethos of Palestinian society. A week does not go by when a Palestinian leader, from Fatah or Hamas, does not loudly promise Palestinians that they will be able to undo 63 years of history and return to what is now Israel…. – YNet News, 5-24-11

Full Text: Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Address to a Joint Session of the United States Congress

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

Speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a Joint Meeting of the United States Congress

May 24, 2011

ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו נואם בפני הקונגרס האמריקאי בוושינגטון. צילום: אבי אוחיון לע”מ

I am deeply honored by your warm welcome. And I am deeply honored that you have given me the opportunity to address Congress a second time.

Mr. Vice President, do you remember the time we were the new kids in town?

And I do see a lot of old friends here. And I do see a lot of new friends of Israel here. Democrats and Republicans alike.

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.

My friends, you don’t need to do nation building in Israel. We’re already built. You don’t need to export democracy to Israel. We’ve already got it. You don’t need to send American troops to defend Israel. We defend ourselves. You’ve been very generous in giving us tools to do the job of defending Israel on our own. Thank you all, and thank you President Obama, for your steadfast commitment to Israel’s security. I know economic times are tough. I deeply appreciate this.

Support for Israel’s security is a wise investment in our common future. For an epic battle is now unfolding in the Middle East, between tyranny and freedom. A great convulsion is shaking the earth from the Khyber Pass to the Straits of Gibraltar. The tremors have shattered states and toppled governments. And we can all see that the ground is still shifting. Now this historic moment holds the promise of a new dawn of freedom and opportunity. Millions of young people are determined to change their future. We all look at them. They muster courage. They risk their lives. They demand dignity. They desire liberty.

These extraordinary scenes in Tunis and Cairo, evoke those of Berlin and Prague in 1989. Yet as we share their hopes, but we also must also remember that those hopes could be snuffed out as they were in Tehran in 1979. You remember what happened then. The brief democratic spring in Iran was cut short by a ferocious and unforgiving tyranny. This same tyranny smothered Lebanon’s democratic Cedar Revolution, and inflicted on that long-suffering country, the medieval rule of Hezbollah.

So today, the Middle East stands at a fateful crossroads. Like all of you, I pray

that the peoples of the region choose the path less traveled, the path of liberty. No one knows what this path consists of better than you. This path is not paved by elections alone. It is paved when governments permit protests in town squares, when limits are placed on the powers of rulers, when judges are beholden to laws and not men, and when human rights cannot be crushed by tribal loyalties or mob rule.

Israel has always embraced this path, in the Middle East has long rejected it. In a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted, Israel stands out. It is different.

As the great English writer George Eliot predicted over a century ago, that once established, the Jewish state will “shine like a bright star of freedom amid the despotisms of the East.” Well, she was right. We have a free press, independent courts, an open economy, rambunctious parliamentary debates. You think you guys are tough on one another in Congress? Come spend a day in the Knesset. Be my guest.

Courageous Arab protesters, are now struggling to secure these very same rights for their peoples, for their societies. We’re proud that over one million Arab citizens of Israel have been enjoying these rights for decades. Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights. I want you to stop for a second and think about that. 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.

Fifteen years ago, I stood at this very podium, and said that democracy must start to take root in the Arab World. Well, it’s begun to take root. This beginning holds the promise of a brilliant future of peace and prosperity. For I believe that a Middle East that is genuinely democratic will be a Middle East truly at peace.

But while we hope and work for the best, we must also recognize that powerful forces oppose this future. They oppose modernity. They oppose democracy. They oppose peace.

Foremost among these forces is Iran. The tyranny in Tehran brutalizes its own people. It supports attacks against American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. It subjugates Lebanon and Gaza. It sponsors terror worldwide.

When I last stood here, I spoke of the dire consequences of Iran developing nuclear weapons. Now time is running out, and the hinge of history may soon turn. For the greatest danger facing humanity could soon be upon us: A militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons.

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.

A nuclear-armed Iran would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. It would give terrorists a nuclear umbrella. It would make the nightmare of nuclear terrorism a clear and present danger throughout the world. I want you to understand what this means. They could put the bomb anywhere. They could put it on a missile. It could be on a container ship in a port, or in a suitcase on a subway.

Now the threat to my country cannot be overstated. Those who dismiss it are sticking their heads in the sand. Less than seven decades after six million Jews were murdered, Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust of the Jewish people, while calling for the annihilation of the Jewish state.

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.

But not you. Not America. You have acted differently. You’ve condemned the Iranian regime for its genocidal aims. You’ve passed tough sanctions against Iran. History will salute you America.

President Obama has said that the United States is determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. He successfully led the Security Council to adopt sanctions against Iran. You in Congress passed even tougher sanctions. These words and deeds are vitally important.

Yet the Ayatollah regime briefly suspended its nuclear program only once, in 2003, when it feared the possibility of military action. That same year, Muammar Qadaffi gave up his nuclear weapons program, and for the same reason. The more Iran believes that all options are on the table, the less the chance of confrontation. This is why I ask you to continue to send an unequivocal message: That America will never permit Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

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.

My friends, while Israel will be ever vigilant in its defense, we will never give up on our quest for peace. I guess we’ll give it up when we achieve it. Israel wants peace. Israel needs peace. We’ve achieved historic peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan that have held up for decades.

I remember what it was like before we had peace. I was nearly killed in a firefight inside the Suez Canal. I mean that literally. I battled terrorists along both banks of the Jordan River. Too many Israelis have lost loved ones. I know their grief. I lost my brother.

So no one in Israel wants a return to those terrible days. The peace with Egypt and Jordan has long served as an anchor of stability and peace in the heart of the Middle East.

This peace should be bolstered by economic and political support to all those who remain committed to peace.

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.

We’ve already seen the beginnings of what is possible. In the last two years,

the Palestinians have begun to build a better life for themselves. Prime Minister Fayad has led this effort. I wish him a speedy recovery from his recent operation.

We’ve helped the Palestinian economy by removing hundreds of barriers and roadblocks to the free flow of goods and people. The results have been nothing short of remarkable. The Palestinian economy is booming. It’s growing by more than 10% a year.

Palestinian cities look very different today than they did just a few years ago. They have shopping malls, movie theaters, restaurants, banks. They even have e-businesses. This is all happening without peace. Imagine what could happen with peace. Peace would herald a new day for both peoples. It would make the dream of a broader Arab-Israeli peace a realistic possibility.

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.”

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.

This compromise must reflect the dramatic demographic changes that have occurred since 1967. The vast majority of the 650,000 Israelis who live beyond the 1967 lines, reside in neighborhoods and suburbs of Jerusalem and Greater Tel Aviv.

These areas are densely populated but geographically quite small. Under any realistic peace agreement, these areas, as well as other places of critical strategic and national importance, will be incorporated into the final borders of Israel.

The status of the settlements will be decided only in negotiations. But we must also be honest. So I am saying today something that should be said publicly by anyone serious about peace. In any peace agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel’s borders. The precise delineation of those borders must be negotiated. We will be very generous on the size of a future Palestinian state. 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.

We recognize that a Palestinian state must be big enough to be viable, independent and prosperous. President Obama rightly referred to Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, just as he referred to the future Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people. Jews from around the world have a right to immigrate to the Jewish state. 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.

As for Jerusalem, 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.

This is the peace I plan to forge with a Palestinian partner committed to peace. But you know very well, that in the Middle East, the only peace that will hold is a peace you can defend.

So peace must be anchored in security. In recent years, Israel withdrew from South Lebanon and Gaza. But we didn’t get peace. Instead, we got 12,000 thousand rockets fired from those areas on our cities, on our children, by Hezbollah and Hamas. The UN peacekeepers in Lebanon failed to prevent the smuggling of this weaponry. The European observers in Gaza evaporated overnight. So if Israel simply walked out of the territories, the flow of weapons into a future Palestinian state would be unchecked. Missiles fired from it could reach virtually every home in Israel in less than a minute. I want you to think about that too. Imagine that right now we all had less than 60 seconds to find shelter from an incoming rocket. Would you live that way? Would anyone live that way? Well, we aren’t going to live that way either.

The truth is that Israel needs unique security arrangements because of its unique size. Israel is one of the smallest countries in the world. Mr. Vice President, I’ll grant you this. It’s bigger than Delaware. It’s even bigger than Rhode Island. But that’s about it. Israel on the 1967 lines would be half the width of the Washington Beltway.

Now here’s a bit of nostalgia. I first came to Washington thirty years ago as a young diplomat. It took me a while, but I finally figured it out: There is an America beyond the Beltway. But Israel on the 1967 lines would be only nine miles wide. So much for strategic depth.

So it is therefore absolutely vital for Israel’s security that a Palestinian state be fully demilitarized. And it is vital that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River. Solid security arrangements on the ground are necessary not only to protect the peace, they are necessary to protect Israel in case the peace unravels. For in our unstable region, no one can guarantee that our peace partners today will be there tomorrow.

And when I say tomorrow, I don’t mean some distant time in the future. I mean — tomorrow. Peace can be achieved only around the negotiating table. The Palestinian attempt to impose a settlement through the United Nations will not bring peace. It should be forcefully opposed by all those who want to see this conflict end.

I appreciate the President’s clear position on this issue. Peace cannot be imposed. It must be negotiated. But it can only be negotiated with partners committed to peace.

And Hamas is not a partner for peace. Hamas remains committed to Israel’s destruction and to terrorism. They have a charter. That charter not only calls for the obliteration of Israel, but says ‘kill the Jews wherever you find them’. Hamas’ leader condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden and praised him as a holy warrior. Now again I want to make this clear. Israel is prepared to sit down today and negotiate peace with the Palestinian Authority. I believe we can fashion a brilliant future of peace for our children. But Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of Al Qaeda.

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.

My friends, the momentous trials of the last century, and the unfolding events of this century, attest to the decisive role of the United States in advancing peace and defending freedom. Providence entrusted the United States to be the guardian of liberty. All peoples who cherish freedom owe a profound debt of gratitude to your great nation. Among the most grateful nations is my nation, the people of Israel, who have fought for their liberty and survival against impossible odds, in ancient and modern times alike.

I speak on behalf of the Jewish people and the Jewish state when I say to you, representatives of America, Thank you. Thank you for your unwavering support for Israel. Thank you for ensuring that the flame of freedom burns bright throughout the world. May God bless all of you. And may God forever bless the United States of America.

Israel Political Brief May 23, 2011: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu Gives Speech at AIPAC — AIPAC Roundup

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

IN FOCUS

  • Reporters’ Notebook: AIPAC 2011: The centerpiece of AIPAC’s annual conference, the gala banquet, is a little like the Oscars: The room is full of celebrities, speeches are interspersed with emotional video montages, the highlight that everyone’s waiting for comes at the end, and the main event is followed by exclusive after-parties.
    There are a few differences, too, of course. Instead of Hollywood’s elite, it’s the political elite that shows up. This year, 67 members of the U.S. Senate and 286 members of the House of Representatives came, along with a smattering of Obama administration officials, Knesset members and diplomats from around the world. Former NBA All-Star Allan Houston helped emcee the evening.
    At the after-parties, instead of inebriated celebs showing off their evening gowns, or what’s under them, Newt Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) hosted parties in conference rooms with kosher brownies and chocolate chip cookies, and the buzz was about the next presidential election.
    And unlike the Oscars, the AIPAC dinner is a little less exclusive: As long as you pay your registration fee, you get a seat at a table. This year as every year, the dinner for 10,000 — approximately 1,500 of whom were bumped to a satellite ballroom — marked the world’s largest single kosher meal. The menu? Stuffed Cornish hen…. – JTA, 5-24-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • Netanyahu to Present Vision for Peace to Congress: Israel’s prime minister said he will present his vision for a secure Israeli-Palestinian peace when he addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Tuesday morning.
    Speaking at the annual banquet dinner of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee late netanyahu youtubeMonday night in Washington, Benjamin Netanyahu told the crowd of 10,000, “Peace between Israelis and Palestinians is a vital need for us. Peace would be the realization of a powerful and eternal dream. But it is not a panacea for the endemic problems of the Middle East.”
    Netanyahu blamed the Palestinians for the failure to realize peace, saying, “This conflict has raged for nearly a century because the Palestinians refuse to end it. They refuse to accept the Jewish state.”
    While other speakers at Monday’s gala dinner referenced President Obama’s call last week and Sunday for the pre-1967 lines to serve as the basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Netanyahu did not address that issue. Rather, he stressed some of the points Obama noted in his own speech to AIPAC on Sunday that were welcomed by the largely Jewish audience, including the president’s “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security.
    “He spoke of that commitment not just in front of AIPAC, but in two speeches heard throughout the Arab world,” Netanyahu said of Obama. “And President Obama has backed those words with deeds. I know these are tough economic times. So I want to thank the president and Congress for providing Israel with vital assistance so that Israel can defend itself by itself.”… – Virtual Jerusalem Post, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu: Israel cannot return to 1967 borders: Israel’s prime minister promised to present his vision for an Israeli-Palestinian peace in a speech before U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday, but vowed his country would not return to mid-1967 borders that he termed “indefensible.”
    Benjamin Netanyahu made this pledge in an address Monday to thousands of pro-Israel American Jews and U.S. lawmakers. His speech drew roaring cheers and standing ovations, a sign of the powerful backing he enjoys in the U.S. as the White House pressures him to do more to renew stalled Mideast peacemaking.
    The warm reception Netanyahu enjoyed at the gala dinner of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee contrasted sharply with the contentious quality of some of his recent exchanges with President Barack Obama precisely over border issues…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • Left-wing hecklers interrupt Netanyahu’s speech to AIPAC: Activists interrupt the prime minister’s address to the pro-Israel advocacy group and criticize his policies toward the Palestinians.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C. on Monday night was interrupted by left-wing protesters who heckled him and criticized his policies toward the Palestinians.
    Protesters from the group Move Over AIPAC, at least some of whom say they are Jewish, stood up, held up banners and made statements criticizing Israeli defense policies…. – Haaretz, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu Says Israel Will Not Return To 1967 Borders: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu says his government will not agree to return Israel to the borders it held before 1967’s Six Day War.
    In a speech to pro-Israel lobbyists for the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington on May 23, Netanyahu repeated his position that such territorial lines are “indefensible” for current-day Israel. He said he would make this clear in a speech to the U.S. Congress on May 24.
    “Tomorrow, in Congress, I will describe what a peace between a Palestinian state and the Jewish state could look like,” Netanyahu said. “But I want to assure you of one thing: It must leave Israel with security, and therefore Israel cannot return to the indefensible 1967 lines.”… – Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, 5-24-11
  • Netanyahu gets his turn to talk to American pro-Israel lobby: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gets his chance Monday night to address the main U.S. Jewish lobby when he speaks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in the wake of U.S. President Barack Obama’s remarks to the group the day before.
    Obama on Sunday sought to tamp down any controversy over his remarks last week that Israeli- Palestinian negotiations should start from pre-1967 borders and include land swaps. The proposal, a longstanding formulation in peace talks that Obama for the first time expressed as official U.S. policy, was immediately rejected by Netanyahu as unrealistic and prompted criticism from political opponents back home.
    Now Netanyahu will have the final word on the issue, at least for now. He sounded more conciliatory toward Obama after the U.S. president sought to reassure the vital U.S. Jewish lobby on Sunday of his administration’s commitment to Israel’s security while also making clear his desire to kick-start the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at a time when the entire Middle East landscape is changing amid the so-called Arab Spring demonstrations…. – CNN, 5-23-11
  • Netanyahu speech eyed for sign of U.S.-Israel rift: When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses Congress on Tuesday, many will be watching to see whether he escalates a war of words with the White House over how to make peace in the Middle East.
    Netanyahu has a mostly sympathetic ear in Congress, where few lawmakers in either party speak up for the Palestinians, hewing to decades of close U.S.-Israeli ties.
    But the Israeli prime minister has had a rocky relationship with President Barack Obama, and last week said the president’s vision of a Palestinian state based on the borders of 1967 could leave Israel “indefensible.”
    Obama articulated that vision on Thursday in a major policy speech on the Middle East. His position essentially embraced the Palestinians’ view that the state they seek in the West Bank and Gaza should largely be drawn along lines that existed before the 1967 war in which Israel captured those territories and East Jerusalem.
    On Sunday Obama seemed to ease Israeli anger somewhat when he made clear that the Jewish state would likely be able to negotiate keeping some settlements as part of a land swap in any final deal with the Palestinians.
    Netanyahu voiced appreciation for those comments, and some analysts think Netanyahu will not further escalate the quarrel with Obama in his remarks to Congress on Tuesday.
    “Netanyahu will most likely try to tone down any perceived differences between his position and the president’s, because his disagreements with President Obama have become counterproductive for both and ultimately undermine Israel’s own interests,” said Haim Malka, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
    But Republicans in Congress, including House leaders, are not about to drop their criticism of the Democratic president’s newly articulated Mideast vision.
    House Republican Leader Eric Cantor said Monday that Obama’s comments on Middle East borders left “most Americans … just questioning what kind of strategy there is. It doesn’t make sense to force a democratic ally of ours into negotiating with now a terrorist organization” about land swaps…. – Reuters, 5-23-11
  • Bibi present, Jewish groups debate partisanship: A bipartisan meeting with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Blair House today included moments of sharply partisan tension, sources in the room said.
    As Jewish Democrats stressed the need for a united, bi-partisan American conversation on Israel, the chief of a Jewish Republican group reserved the right to attack Democrats who stray from the pro-Israel line in an unusually frank exchange before a foreign leader.
    “The [Republican Jewish Coalition] and [National Jewish Democratic Council] argued between them,” Israeli Embassy spokesman Jonathan Peled said. “The Prime Minister stressed bipartisanship … and the importance of keeping Israel a bipartisan issue, as has always been the case.”…
    But the meeting came at a moment of high tension between Netanyahu — and his American Republican alies — and President Barack Obama, with many Republicans in no mood to cede political ground on the charged question of Israel. Obama this week sought to lay out an American baseline for future negotiations…. “Several people in the room, on both sides of the aisle, discussed that Israel cannot become a partisan political issue, that if it becomes so then no one wins and Israel loses,” said Jonathan Beeton, Wasserman Schultz’s communications director. – Politico, 5-23-11
  • Benjamin Netanyahu Has Private Sit Down With Bipartisan Group Of Israel Advocates, Lawmakers: In a relatively rare sign of bipartisan collaboration on the Israel-Palestine conflict, a group of Democratic and Republican advocates and several lawmakers sat down with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday for a midday briefing.
    The meeting — which was planned nearly a week ago but remained unknown to the press — featured officials with both the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) and the National Democratic Jewish Council (NJDC), two groups often at polar ends of the debate over U.S. policy in the the Middle East. Additionally, an aide familiar with the meeting told The Huffington Post that Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel — two of the highest-ranking Jewish members of Congress — were present. Wasserman Schultz’s office confirmed her attendance.
    “It’s safe to say that the conversation taking place in the room is about the bi-partisan support for Israel,” said the aide.
    “While we don’t see eye to eye with the leadership of the Republican Jewish Coalition on many domestic policies, when it comes to the need for a powerfully strong U.S.-Israel relationship, on this we agree,” read a statement from Marc R. Stanley, chairman of the NJDC and David A. Harris, president and CEO of the NJDC. “We welcome this opportunity to place partisanship aside and discuss ways we can work together to help our close ally Israel — just as we strive every day to keep Israel from being used as a partisan wedge issue in the political arena. As we’ve said repeatedly, the stakes are too high for such antics.”… – Huff Post, 5-23-11
  • At AIPAC, effort to shift focus back to agenda: Iran, foreign aid, Capitol Hill relationships: Let’s get past this U.S.-Israel relationship thing, so we can get on with important stuff, like the U.S.-Israel relationship.
    That seemed to be the message this week at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
    With a record 10,000 people and both the U.S. and Israeli leaders in attendance — plus 67 U.S. senators and 286 members of the U.S. House of Representatives at the gala dinner on Monday night — this AIPAC parley was the biggest and in many ways the most impressive ever.
    After the bickering last week between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, AIPAC leaders were keen to focus on what they had hoped would be the headline-makers for this conference: Yanking the public’s attention back to Iran after months of distraction by the so-called Arab Spring, and bludgeoning the Palestinian Authority with the threat of isolation if it presses forward with its inclusion of Hamas and its quest for statehood recognition at the United Nations in September.
    The other agenda item for the AIPAC crowd was trying to make sense of how to foster support for Israel in a U.S. electorate that is changing more rapidly and dramatically than it has in generations…. – JTA, 5-23-11
  • Palestinian Vote at U.N. Looms Over U.S.-Israel Rift: Though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly clashed with President Barack Obama on Friday, the Israeli leader still needs American help on a looming test: a proposed United Nations vote on a resolution to recognize Palestinian statehood.
    The vote at September’s U.N. General Assembly, would be mostly symbolic, and carry little legal weight. But passage—which is expected if the resolution proceeds to a vote—would be a very visible show of Israel’s isolation on the international stage.
    It could also undercut the dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process—a focus of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy—by removing the promise of statehood as a motivating force. And it would give the Palestinians more leverage if talks do resume.
    Mr. Netanyahu told Mr. Obama, in front of the media in the Oval Office on Friday, that the president’s call for peace talks based on Israel’s borders before it gained new territory in 1967, with negotiated land swaps, was a nonstarter.
    Mr. Netanyahu’s stance and combative tone won praise from his hard-line political supporters in Israel, who had been unnerved by a speech this month in which Mr. Netanyahu articulated a more moderate view of a peace settlement. Many in Israel, who see the wave of Arab revolutions empowering new parties hostile to their country, say now isn’t the time for concessions.
    Yet as Mr. Obama began a six-day European tour Monday, some critics said Mr. Netanyahu’s aggressive stance could undermine the Obama administration’s efforts to lobby European leaders to vote against Palestinian statehood.
    “There is panic in Israeli government political circles about the U.N. resolution in September and the U.N. is an arena where Israel has almost zero influence,” said Yossi Alpher, a former Mossad officer who was an adviser to former Prime Minister Ehud Barak. “Netanyahu and his aides have got to be saying to themselves, ‘Can I depend on American support after lecturing the U.S. president in the Oval Office?'”… – WSJ, 5-23-11
  • Bibi and Sara take DC PM leads wife on romantic sunset stroll through US capital ahead of Congress, AIPAC speeches: After meeting with leaders of the American Jewish community Sunday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, clad in sportive attire, went on a sunset stroll through Washington DC.
    The Prime Minister’s Office stated that during the one hour and a half outing, the couple walked by historical landmarks that include Former US Presidents Lincoln and Jefferson Memorial sites and the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
    “The prime minister and his wife discussed the history of the United States during their stroll, and from time to time stopped to look at the scenery and the river. When they reached the Jefferson Memorial, the prime minister recited by heart the US Declaration of Independence,” the Prime Minister’s Office wrote in a statement…. – YNet News, 5-23-11
  • US-Israel lobby ‘hopeful’ but wary of Arab Spring: The head of US-Israel lobby AIPAC hailed Monday the “green shoots of democracy” pushing out Arab autocrats, but Israel’s American supporters remain wary of the impacts of uncertain popular uprisings.
    Howard Kohr, executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, told thousands of delegates that while recent months have brought the most dramatic change in the region since the Jewish state’s founding in 1948, they are also jeopardizing Israel’s entire security framework.
    “The fact is, this most hopeful time of change in the region is at the same time one of the most challenging periods in Israel’s history.”
    For decades, he said, Israel has been the region’s lone democracy “in a sea of dictatorships,” with peace and war constantly in the balance.
    This year, the AIPAC Policy Conference — which drew US President Barack Obama as keynote speaker Sunday and will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later Monday — gathers “at a moment of great transition and hopeful anticipation.”
    “We should all celebrate the genuine green shoots of democracy in the Arab world,” Kohr said…. – AP, 5-23-11
  • Is Obama charting a new course on Israeli-Palestinian issues?: President Obama knew he had some damage control to do when he took the podium before thousands of Israel supporters on Sunday morning at the opening plenary of the annual AIPAC conference.
    But he wasn’t offering any apologies for his speech three days earlier that called for “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” to serve as the basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
    Rather, Obama offered mostly reassurances and clarifications. He also issued a blunt warning that doing nothing undermines U.S. efforts to fend off Israel’s diplomatic isolation and the Palestinians’ plan to obtain recognition of statehood at the United Nations in September.
    It’s unclear if Obama’s maneuvering will do anything to stanch the Palestinian statehood effort or the campaign to isolate Israel. But either way, Obama said, Israel and its supporters should not be alarmed by his remarks about the 1967 lines: All he did was go public with a well-established formula, he said, one that “by definition” means “the parties themselves — Israelis and Palestinians — will negotiate” a new border taking into account “new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides.”
    However, a close reading of what Obama said and left unsaid in his two recent speeches hints at a few significant ways that Obama’s approach to resolving the conflict may differ from that of his predecessors. But scant on details, his remarks also raise more questions than they answer…. – JTA, 5-23-11
  • Israelis Protest Against Obama: Israeli protesters demonstrated against President Obama’s recent statements on Israel and the Palestinians in front of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.israelis protest obama
    Donning symbolic nooses around their necks and holding banners reading “Israel Won’t Commit Suicide,” some 100 protesters from My Israel, an organization representing settlers and hard-line groups, gathered Sunday outside the embassy to protest Obama’s recent declarations on his vision for a future Palestinian state.
    The protesters gathered at the same time that Obama addressed AIPAC in Washington at the pro-Israel lobby’s annual conference.
    “We support America, but we can say to you Obama, you are wrong,” Ayelet Shaked, one of the event’s organizers, told the crowd…. – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-23-11
  • Israelis protest Obama policies at embassy in Tel Aviv: Israeli protesters demonstrated against President Obama’s recent statements on Israel and the Palestinians in front of the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv.
    Donning symbolic nooses around their necks and holding banners reading “Israel Won’t Commit Suicide” some 100 protestors from My Israel, an organization representing settlers and hard-line groups, gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv Sunday to protest President Obama’s recent declarations on his vision for a future Palestinian state.
    The protesters gathered at the same time Obama addressed AIPAC.
    “We support America, but we can say to you, Obama you are wrong,” Ayelet Shaked, one of the event’s organizers, told the crowd.
    “In your speech you abandoned a friend. You betrayed the only true democracy in the Middle East (and) America’s only friend and ally, Israel,” she said, referring to the president’s new Mideast policy speech delivered at the U.S. State Department on May 19 in which he outlined a future Palestinian state according to pre-1967 lines combined with mutually-agreed upon land swaps.
    In a statement, the My Israel group described Obama’s new policy as requiring “exaggerated concessions from Israel without requesting Palestinians give up the right of return.” – JTA, 5-23-11
  • Netanyahu ‘pleased’ with Obama’s AIPAC address:
    PM’s aides describe speech as ‘befitting,’ say Obama’s clarifications about 1967 borders particularly pleasing. ‘I’m determined to work with president Obama to find a way to reignite the peace process,’ Netanyahu says
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s associates were satisfied by US President Barack Obama’s clarifications during his address to pro-Israel lobby AIPAC in Washington, Sunday. Netanyahu and his aides reportedly watched Obama’s AIPAC speech at Blair House – the president’s official guest house….
    “I share the President’s wish to promote peace and I appreciate his past and present efforts to achieve this goal. I am determined to work with President Obama in order to find ways to resume the peace negotiations. Peace is a vital necessity for us all,” Netanyahu said.
    Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni, who was present at the AIPAC speech, said that the two-state solution was first and foremost an Israeli interest. “Israel must lead in partnership with the US… the world looks up to the US’ relationship with Israel, so the message coming out of Washington these days is very important,” she said. – YNet News, 5-22-11
  • Netanyahu says he’s determined to work with Obama on peace: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he “appreciated” President Obama’s speech to AIPAC and that he is “determined to work together” with the president to advance peace.
    “I join in the president’s desire to advance peace, and I appreciate his past and present efforts to achieve this goal,” Netanyahu said in a statement issued after Obama addressed the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference.
    “I am determined to act together with President Obama to find ways to renew the peace negotiations,” he said. “Peace is a fundamental need for us all.”…. – JTA, 5-22-11
  • Canada Rejects ’67 Intervention, Unless Israel Agrees: Canada refuses to join the United States in calling for Israel to return to 1949 Armistice borders, the Ottawa Globe and Mail reported Monday.canda israel support
    At a briefing ahead of the G8 summit that is about to begin in France, federal Canadian officials said the basis for the negotiations must be mutually agreed upon by Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
    “What the government of Canada supports is basically a two-state solution that is negotiated,” a senior federal official said. “If it’s [the] border, if it’s other issues, it has to be negotiated, it cannot be unilateral action.”
    When the officials were “pressed by reporters,” the Globe and Mail said, they explained that “both the Israelis and the Palestinians have to decide on their bottom lines, which the Israelis have said will not include a return to the 1967 border.”
    An official who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “If the two parties are of the view that this is a starting point, that is fine for them.”
    Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s director of communications, Dimitri Soudas, added that Canada’s position continues to be the search for a two-state solution. “No solution, ultimately, is possible without both parties sitting down, negotiating and agreeing on what that final outcome will look like,” he said…. – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-23-11

QUOTES

  • Full Text: Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech at AIPAC 2011: …Let me stress one thing. Peace between Israelis and Palestinians is a vital interest for us. It would be the realization of a powerful and eternal dream. But it is not a panacea for the endemic problems of the Middle East. It will not give women in some Arab countries the right to drive a car. It will not prevent churches from being bombed. It will not keep journalists out of jail.
    What will change this? One word: Democracy – real, genuine democracy. And by democracy, I don’t just mean elections. I mean freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly, the rights for women, for gays, for minorities, for everyone. What the people of Israel want is for the people of the Middle East to have what you have in America, what we have in Israel – democracy. So it’s time to recognize this basic truth. Israel is not what’s wrong with the Middle East. Israel is what’s right about the Middle East.
    My friends, we want peace because we know the pain of terror and we know the agony of war. We want peace because we know the blessings peace could bring – what it could bring to us and to our Palestinian neighbors. But if we hope to advance peace with the Palestinians, then it’s time that we admitted another truth. This conflict has raged for nearly a century because the Palestinians refuse to end it. They refuse to accept the Jewish state.
    Now, this is what this conflict has always been about. There are many issues linked to this conflict that must be resolved between Israelis and Palestinians. We can, we must, resolve them. But I repeat: We can only make peace with the Palestinians if they’re prepared to make peace with the Jewish state…. – Transcript, 5-23-11
  • Livni: 2-state solution good for Israel: Israel’s opposition leader tells AIPAC two-state solution vital for Jewish State, not anti-Israeli. Only way to avert clash between Israel’s Jewishness, democracy is to ensure Jewish majority, she says
    Give peace a chance: The two-state solution is good for Israel and is the only way to maintain a state that is both Jewish and democratic, Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni told the AIPAC conference in Washington Monday.
    “It is not an anti-Israeli policy – it is vital for Israel’s interests,” she said.
    The “only way” to avert a clash between Israel’s Jewishness and democracy is to maintain a Jewish majority in the country, the opposition leader stressed, urging the government to take action to that effect.
    “Inaction is not an option,” Livni stressed, adding that when Israel speaks clearly, the world “hears our voice.”
    “If we won’t shape our future – others will do it for us,” she warned.
    She also noted that peace with Hamas would be impossible to achieve, as the group represents “religious ideology and there is no way to solve religious conflict.” – YNet, 5-24-11
  • Speaker Boehner Reaffirms U.S. Support for “Safe and Secure Israel,” Calls for Well-Defined U.S. Nat’l Security Goals: On the eve of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to the joint meeting of Congress Tuesday morning, House Speaker John Boehner is set to deliver an address to AIPAC Monday night, where he will reaffirm America’s support for a “safe and secure” Israel, while rejecting the notion that the U.S. is “too pro-Israel,” calling that suggestion an obstacle to peace in the region.
    “The work of achieving a safe and secure Israel has never been easy, but the cause is right, and let me tell you—that cause has my one hundred percent support,” Boehner, R-Ohio, pledges according to a copy of his prepared remarks obtained by ABC News. “Israel has demonstrated time and again it seeks nothing more than peace with its neighbor. In a negotiation, both sides need to make serious compromises. And like every prime minister before him, Prime Minister Netanyahu knows this and accepts it.”
    Boehner will also call on the White House and Congress to provide a better understanding of U.S. national security policies and goals in order to alleviate any concern from allies about where America’s priorities stand.
    “Some people complain that the United States is too pro-Israel. Let me tell you what I think: Doubts about what America stands for – and who America stands with – slow the search for peace and stability,” Boehner is set to say. “The president and the Congress should work together so that the American people –and our friends, and yes, our enemies– understand our national security policies and our goals. And so that our allies, allies like Israel, have no cause to doubt that we will be with them through thick and thin.”
    Boehner also will speak to the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, noting that Iranian officials have undoubtedly “taken notice of how the United States has responded to Libya –versus how it has responded to North Korea,” and suggesting that anyone who doubts the Iranian regime’s quest for nuclear weapons is “awfully optimistic.”
    According to Boehner, the top solution to the Iranian threat is a political uprising by the people of Iran, similar to those taking place across the region the past few months.
    “Looming over the entire region is, of course, the Iranian regime and the threat it poses to the there and in the wider world,” Boehner warns. “The best remedy for that threat to the world is if the people of Iran rise up and replace that regime, just as the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt have been replaced—and as we all hope those in Libya and Syria will be as well, so that the peoples of those countries can escape from tyranny into freedom.”
    “We should make it clear—clearer than it has been for the last two years—that America is on the side of those who yearn and struggle for their freedom,” Boehner adds. “That is our historic and moral responsibility as a great and free Nation and we should never apologize or be ashamed of that role.”
    Boehner says that the Arab Spring marks “an overdue rejection of corruption and police states” while the people “battle for the region’s political identity.”
    “Will they now build governments that respect human life and dignity, that uphold human rights, and where the people rule?” Boehner asks, “Or will we see women and religious minorities repressed and fundamental rights abridged.”… – ABC News, 5-23-11
  • Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate majority leader: Did not mince words in rejecting Obama’s prescription for negotiations based on the 1967 lines with swaps. “No one should set premature parameters about the borders, about building, about anything else,” he said in his speech to AIPAC.
  • AIPAC chief: Obama should not be even-handed toward Israel and Palestinians: Day after U.S. president clarifies vision of Palestinian state within 1967 borders, director of pro-Israel lobby urges Jerusalem and Washington to avoid any public display of diplomatic crisis, as it would likely be exploited by Israel’s enemies.
    AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr said Monday that U.S. President Barack Obama should not take an even-handed approach to the Middle East conflict, as it puts Israel at a disadvantage.
    “Part of being an honest broker is being honest,” Kohr said in an address to AIPAC, a day after Obama spoke to the pro-Israel lobby and clarified his remarks regarding his vision for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, adding “that honesty “should not be confused with even-handedness”.
    “In a world which is demonstrably on the side of the Palestinians and Arabs – where Israel stands virtually alone – the United States has a special role to play,” said the AIPAC director. “When the United States is even-handed, Israel is automatically at a disadvantage, tilting the diplomatic playing field overwhelmingly toward the Palestinians and Arabs.”
    The AIPAC leader also said that no settlement imposed on the Palestinians or on Israel could succeed. “When neither party owns the plan or has responsibility to accept it, that plan is doomed to fail,” he added….
    “If Israel’s foes come to believe that there is diplomatic daylight between the United States and Israel, they will have every incentive to try to exploit those differences and shun peace with the Jewish state,” warned the AIPAC director.
    He also said that Netanyahu was “ready and willing” to negotiate for peace with the Palestinians, but that it was up to the other side to make a positive step forward.
    “There is still time for a Palestinian leader to be bold and creative: to turn back from the current dead end; to reject Hamas; to reject the international path; to reject the road to unilateral recognition at the United Nations and instead to embrace the chance to sit down with Israel to negotiate a real peace,” said Kohr.
    “To say to those who profess to stand for peace: There can be no end to strife for the Palestinian people unless their leaders pursue a partnership in peace with Israel,” he added. – Haaretz, 5-23-11
  • Sarah Palin: Barack Obama’s Disregard for Ally’s Security Begs Clarity: As I noted on Judge Jeanine Pirro’s show this weekend, I reject President Obama’s idea that Israel must cede back its territories to the 1967 line. Will we now be in the habit of telling our allies what their borders should be? Should Prime Minister Netanyahu suggest we return to our 1845 borders before the annexation of the southwest of the United States during the Mexican-American War? Should we give back parts of Texas, New Mexico, and California?
    But the problem is even deeper. In both his State Department speech and his speech yesterday at AIPAC, President Obama made some seemingly specific comments about the Palestinian state that he wants to see created. He either misspoke or he has even more dangerous plans for our friends in Israel than he is publicly admitting.
    In the State Department speech, President Obama said that he wants the borders of Palestine and Israel to “be based on the 1967 lines” (in other words, with both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as part of the new Palestinian state) and that he wants a Palestine that is a “sovereign and contiguous state” (emphasis added). The Merriam–Webster dictionary defines “contiguous” as “being in actual contact: touching along a boundary or at a point; of angles, adjacent; next or near in time or sequence; touching or connected throughout in an unbroken sequence,” like the “contiguous United States” which obviously excludes Alaska and Hawaii.
    But the 1967 lines do not include a “contiguous” Palestine. (See the map here.) So what does he mean? The President proposes “mutually agreed [land] swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.” Is linking Gaza and the West Bank with a road the “secured border” he has in mind? Or is he suggesting something more? Is it not possible he’s suggesting that the only way you can create a “contiguous” Palestinian state with “secured” borders is by carving Israel in half? Clarification on this point is of paramount importance, Mr. President.
    In fact, that leads me to another even bigger geographic problem with the President’s remarks. As the British newspaper The Independent points out, there is further confusion because President Obama said, “The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine.” As The Independent asks: “How does that square with the pre-1967 borders? Was the President implying that the new improved Israel will border neither Jordan nor Egypt, as it does now? Would Palestine’s contiguous territory come at the expense of Israel’s? Would Israel get the Gaza Strip and the Mediterranean and Palestine get the Negev and a Red Sea port?”
    Is that what you have in mind, Mr. President? Do you not want an Israeli border with Egypt? You need to clarify what you mean. Diplomacy requires precision and you are causing enormous anxiety for some and making commitments to others that you might not be able to keep.
    It has long been the dream of radicals like Noam Chomsky to create a “contiguous Palestine.” True, President George W. Bush spoke ambiguously of a “contiguous” Palestinian state, but he never defined it geographically with borders the way President Obama has, and he had the security of our ally Israel in mind more than our current President. President Obama has in essence boxed Israel in without regard for the facts on the ground and without appreciating the fact that Israel looks across the negotiating table and sees the terrorist organization Hamas in alliance with Fatah. Israel has demonstrated in the past that it is willing to negotiate fairly with a genuine partner in peace. Just look at the treaty it maintains to this day with Egypt. All of this should have been considered and the President’s words should have been carefully measured so as to help and not hinder the peace process. Unfortunately, his words have caused confusion and distressed our ally. – Sarah Palin, Facebook, 5-23-11
  • Miri Regev: Land of Israel is ours: Knesset Member Miri Regev offers Netanyahu her version of speech for Congress… – YNet News, 5-24-11
  • Lieberman: Netanyahu’s stance on 1967 borders reflects viewpoint of most Israelis: During a Yisrael Beiteinu party meet, the foreign minister says that negotiating for the Palestinian right of return means the de facto elimination of Israel.
    Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman voiced support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stance expressed during his trip to the United States, saying on Monday that Netanyahu’s viewpoints “reflect those of most of Israeli society.”
    In comments to the press in the U.S. on Friday, the prime minister told U.S. President Barack Obama that Israel cannot go back to the “indefensible’ 1967 borders, claiming they are not feasible in light of today’s security and demographic reality.
    “There is no need to turn every disagreement into drama.” He added, referring to the apparent tension, that the situation wasn’t “the apocalypse.”
    “Israel is ready to conduct peace negotiations at any given moment, but without pre-conditions” Lieberman said about stalled talks with the Palestinians.
    “Anyone who wants to conduct negotiations with us is welcome,” the foreign minister said. “All those who defend the Palestinian right of return needs to know consciously or unconsciously, that the intention is the de facto elimination of Israel.”
    Lieberman continued to emphasize that there would be no negotiations on the Palestinian right of return, “not even one refugee.”…. – Haaretz, 5-23-11
  • AIPAC likes Obama’s clarification on ’67 lines: The American Israel Public Affairs Committee said it “appreciated” President Obama’s clarification that he did not expect Israel to return to its 1967 lines.
    “In particular, we appreciate his statement that the U.S. does not expect Israel to withdraw to the boundaries that existed between Israel and Jordan in 1967 before the Six-Day War,” the pro-Israel lobby said in a statement released after Obama delivered a speech Sunday to its annual policy conference.
    Some pro-Israel groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee praised the May 19 speech for its pro-Israel remarks, while others like the Zionist Organization of America and the Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned the reference to 1967 lines. AIPAC was notably silent. In its statement after his speech to the group Sunday, AIPAC also said it appreciated Obama’s posture on Hamas and Iran.
    “We also commend President Obama for his explicit condemnation of Hamas as a terrorist organization and his recognition that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a group that denies its fundamental right to exist,” AIPAC said. “We also welcome the president’s reaffirmation of his longstanding commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”… – JTA, 5-22-11
  • Gene Simmons Slams Obama, the UN: KISS rock star, Israeli-born Gene Simmons, tells the CNBC Christian network that U.S. President Barack Obama “has no idea of what the world is like.” He also calls the United Nations “the most pathetic body on the face of the earth.”
    Jane Wells interviewed Simmons on CNBC and asked him what he thinks of President Obama, for whom Simmons voted and now regrets it. He answered, “If you have never been to the moon, you can’t issue policy about the moon. For the president to be sitting in Washington D.C. and saying, ‘Go back to your ’67 borders in Israel’ – how abut you live there and try to defend an indefensible border – nine miles wide?”
    “On one side, you got hundreds of millions of people who hate your guts. On the other side you got the Mediterranean. Unless you control the Golan Heights, it is an indefensible position. it is a nice idea, [but] when you grow up, you find out that life is not the way you imagine it.
    “President Obama means well – I think he actually is a good guy, He has no idea of what the world is like because he does not have to live there.”… – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-23-11
  • Obama pre-1967 borders remark recalls Carter-Rabin kerfuffle: President Obama gave an internationally televised speech yesterday outlining United States Middle East policy. The address was largely lauded by American Jewish institutions, but raised some eyebrows while addressing the future borders of a Palestinian state, especially from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is in Washington today, and had responded that the pre-1967 lines are “indefensible.”
    In 1977, while U.S. attention was focussed on Israel’s borders with several Arab nations — though not about Palestinian state — a similar exchange over borders took place between the leaders of Israel and the U.S. – JTA, 5-23-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Gary Rosenblatt: An Insider’s Look At AIPAC Conference: Just Me And 10,000 Other Attendees: …My mantra, and futile complaint about Jewish public events, is “less is more.” But it never works that way. And truth to tell, the AIPAC conference is not geared to pleasing the media, nor should it be. It’s aimed at its delegates and does a terrific job of educating them about the issues through a variety of speakers at breakout sessions and of firing them up to be passionate, effective lobbyists – in Washington and back home.
    As for the prime minister’s remarks, I wrote about them in my column this week.
    I would just add that the crowd responded very effectively when five people heckled him – one at a time and a few minutes apart. Each time someone shouted out against Israeli policy, the delegates rose to their feet in applause of the prime minister, drowning out the protester. (Note to planners of this fall’s General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America.)
    What leaves me worried, though, was the mood of anger and fear among AIPAC delegates stemming from President Obama’s State Department speech – particularly the line about the pre-1967 war boundaries being a starting point for negotiations – and revved up by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s repeated insistence that those borders are “indefensible.”
    It seemed like Netanyahu purposefully responded in a confrontational way, initially and again Monday night. So it was not surprising to see some pro-Israel groups labeling Obama “the new Arafat” and putting out ads asserting that the President had called for Israel to “retreat” to the pre-`67 lines.
    It’s an emotional and dangerous over-reaction that could undermine the very theme of the AIPAC conference: “Best Together” in referring to the U.S. and Israel…. – The NY Jewish Week, 5-24-11
  • Obama’s Israel anorexia Op-ed: Just like anorexics, will US president realize error of his ways only after it’s too late?: I hate the fact that Israel’s appearance has been manipulated to that of the occupier, of the oppressor, the warmonger. None of that is true. Israel was created to be the homeland and safe haven for Jews in a world that has consistently and historically tried to destroy us. I am not happy with my knowledge, that the ultimate goal of our enemies is the destruction of Israel, the Jewish people, and afterward Western society. But unfortunately it is true, even if it’s not politically correct to say in today’s world….
    I would love to have the world applaud Israel’s bold steps for peace. Ignoring that the bold steps already taken at Oslo, in Lebanon, and Gaza did not get accolades, only further criticism on Israel and two wars, with the reality of two more coming soon.
    How long after a pullout to the 1967 borders will the Arabs, and soon after the world, insist on ending the “occupation” in other “territories” like Jaffa and Haifa? And how soon will we be told that there cannot be peace until the Palestinian country can defend itself with an army and defensive weapons? Of course, transporting weapons freely between Gaza and “mainland” Palestine is a basic right.
    I wonder, in the not so far off doomsday scenario, after Israel no longer exists; or maybe after Europe is Judenrein, will Obama, Blair and other lovers of peace realize that the goal was never about peace? Maybe after several more attacks on the US and the West will it become clear?
    The satisfaction of getting Obama to admit from deep in his protective bunker that he was mistaken is insignificant beyond belief compared to the cost. Of course, it is irreversible….
    Until there is a time when there is a real partner in peace and co-existence, Israel will have to suffer as the cruel, inflexible, unreasonable, uncompromising nation we are being portrayed as.
    We do not have the luxury of proving we are right. But maybe we can survive long enough until there is a real cure…. – YNet News, 5-24-11
  • Will Obama’s Israel stance really cost him Jewish support?: …There is one crucial difference between 2008 and 2012, of course: This time around, the eventual GOP nominee won’t be dumb enough to pick someone like Sarah Palin as Veep. The pick of Palin, observers concluded, drove older, swing-voting Jewish voters into the Obama camp and limited any damage he risked among that constituency.
    But even lacking a Palin factor, it’s hard to believe that Obama’s Israel stance will really cost him a meaningful level of Jewish support. I don’t doubt that in the wake of Obama’s speech, Democratic operatives are “scrambling to mollify the Jewish community,” as Reuters reports. It would be folly for Dems to take Jewish support for granted. But my bet is is that the vast majority of Jews will reject the line that Obama’s position is somehow an existential threat to Israel and will side with people like Abraham Foxman and Jeffrey Goldberg, who see Obama’s stance as an articulation of longtime U.S. policy and even see his overall approach as pro-Israel. Stay tuned for the next polling and the next financial disclosure reports. Should be very interesting. – WaPo, 5-23-11
%d bloggers like this: