Echoes of US President Barack Obama's speech in Cairo resonated through Jerusalem's corridors Thursday, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called
a special consultation immediately after it was over.
In a historic address, the US president called for called for "a new beginning between the United States and Muslims", and urged a confrontation with violent extremism across
the globe as well as peace in the Middle East.
Obama made it a point to stress the "unbreakable bond" between Washington and Jerusalem, and that "Israel's right
to exist cannot be denied". But nevertheless, he added, "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop."
"(Obama) was right to say that extremism is the world's enemy," said Minister of Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman (Labor).
"The Israeli society – Jews and Arabs, religious and seculars – must find a way to embrace this sentiment and mirror it to the Palestinians. Two-states for two people is the solution we
are committed to."
Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi),
who tuned into the speech while touring the communities adjacent to Mount Hebron, was not as pleased: "Obama completely overlooked that fact that the Palestinians have yet to abandon terror. The Israeli government is not some overlapping excess of the US administration."
The relationship between Washington and Jerusalem is based on friendship and not on surrender, he added. "We have to draw the line when it comes to the natural growth of settlements."
Chaim Oron said that the Israeli government should be very satisfied with the speech, "which was laced with the kind of optimism we haven’t seen in a long time."
Opposition fellow Kadima was
quick to slam Netanyahu "for failing to see that the two-state solution is the only one that can guarantee Israel's existence as a Jewish state," as stated by Knesset Member Ze'ev Boim.
"The American president introduced a new approach. His leveled commitment to both the Israelis and the Palestinian was evident and he will have to take pragmatic moves to prove his words," said MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al).
As expected, the harshest criticism came from the settlers: "The State of Israel is paying the price for its leaders' defeatism," the Samaria and Binyamin Settlement Committee said in a statement. "Hussein Obama chose to affirm the brazen lies of the Arabs over the stammered Jewish truth.
"It is time for Netanyahu, like (former prime ministers) Menachem Begin
and Yitzhak Shamir, to stand as a proud right-wing leader and reject the doctored version of history Obama tried to dictate today."
Amnon Meranda, Roni Sofer, Efrat Weiss and Sharon Roffe-Ofir contributed to this report