WORLD -- May 24, 2011 at 10:12 AM ET
Netanyahu: No Return to 'Indefensible Boundaries of 1967'
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared before Congress Tuesday to deliver an address that comes on the heels of his meeting with President Obama, and their public disagreement over the president's call for a return to pre-1967 borders for Israel.
"Israel has no better friend than America, and America has no better friend than Israel," said Netanyahu, one of many references in his speech invoking the two nations' longstanding alliance.
"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," he said.
Netanyahu congratulated the president, and the American people, on the killing of terror leader Osama bin Laden.
Following Mr. Obama's major policy speech last week on the Arab world, Netanyahu said an "epic battle is now underway in the Middle East between tyranny and freedom ... we can all see that the ground is still shifting," and he praised the efforts of "millions of young people out there who are determined to change their future" in the Arab Spring.
"The Middle East stands at a fateful crossroads," he said.
Netanyahu touted Israel's democracy as a beacon for the region. "We long for the day when Israel will be one of many democracies in the Middle East, " he said. Netanyahu used the interruption of a heckler as an example of the kind of dissention that would be crushed in many Arab nations.
On Iran, he said "time is running out" to halt the development of nuclear weapons, and that both America and Israel face the threat of "a militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons." He praised American sanctions and other tough measures on Iran, saying history would "salute" America's response.
Netanyahu said he continues to support a two-state solution: "I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace ... it's not easy, because I recognize that in a genuine peace, we'll be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland." He laid a large share of the blame on Palestinians' resistance. "Our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state, it's always been about the existence of a Jewish state," he said, adding that "they continue to educate their children to hate, they continue to name public squares after terrorists."
He emphasized his stance that Israel will not return to the "indefensible" borders laid out in President Obama's speech: "This compromise must reflect the dramatic demographic changes that have occurred since 1967," and "under any realistic peace agreement" these areas must be incorporated "into the final borders of Israel," he said.
Netanyahu said that for peace to be possible, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah government must reject its pact with Hamas, which he called the "Palestinian version of al Qaida" and an entity that "remains committed to Israel's destruction."