WASHINGTON - White House spokesman Jay Carney expressed satisfaction with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Congress address and
his commitment to peace. The White House is satisfied with the commitment Netanyahu expressed for the two-state vision, Carney said.
Ben Rhodes, a senior official in the US National Security Council who is currently touring Europe with President Barack Obama, also praised Netanyahu's speech. He noted that he himself would not equate Hamas with al-Qaeda but could not help agree with the comparison.
Netanyahu gets standing ovation in Congress (Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO)
Senator John McCain tweeted "Just left strong speech by Israeli PM Netanyahu. America stands with Israel and always will."
Netanyahu declared "Israel will be generous about the size of the Palestinian state" but stressed he will not accept the right of return, will not divide Jerusalem and will insist on military presence along the Jordan River.
Netanyahu demanded that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas tear up the pact with Hamas and make peace with the Jewish state, in which case Israel will be the first to recognize a Palestinian state.
He called on the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish state and noted that "in any real peace agreement some settlements will end up beyond Israel's borders."
Abbas's spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina responded to
the speech by saying that Netanyahu statements in Congress present obstacles to peace.
Former chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat rejected the prime minister's statements and said that "talking about peace under Netanyahu's terms is a waste of time."
He added that the PA will not accept a scenario in which Israel will not return to the 1967 borders and stressed that the Palestinian state's capital will be Jerusalem.
Netanyahu's speech also drew criticism from some quarters in Israel. Jewish settlers reacted angrily to Netanyahu's willingness to cede parts of the West Bank, while the centrist opposition said Netanyahu offered nothing new to promote peace efforts with the Palestinians.
Dani Dayan, head of the West Bank settlers' council, said he "really did not like" Netanyahu's admission that some settlements will be outside Israel's final borders. "I console myself with it being theoretical because of course nothing will grow from this move," he told Israel's Channel 2 TV.
Speaking on the same program, Shaul Mofaz, a member Kadima, said Netanyahu "just said over and over again that he doesn't intend to do anything, he does not have a plan and doesn't intend to reach an agreement."
He warned that Netanyahu is "bringing us toward conflict" and said Israel would be best off holding new elections.
Netanyahu at Congress (Photo: Reuters)
Kadima faction chair MK Dalia Itzik was not content, either. "While the audience consisted of the members of the American Congress, his words were directed towards the members of the Coalition and the Knesset," she noted. "The historic speech turned out to be not more than a reiteration of his old statements, this time in first rate English."
Other politicians, however, lauded the presentation.
"The prime minister made a historic speech in Congress, presenting the historical and fundamental rights of the State of Israel in a clear and precise manner," said Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein. "His positions gained wall-to-wall support at the Congress and the Senate."
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz congratulated Netanyahu on a successful performance. "The prime minister brought much honor to the state; it is good that he came out and sharpened the matters," he said.
Arab politicians were obviously displeased with the Netanyahu's remarks, especially those that touched upon the democratic nature of Israel.
"The prime minister misled the members of Congress when he spoke about the rights of the Arab minority, and made a false presentation, said MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al).
"There is not one field where equality exists between Jews and Arabs," Tibi added. "The repeated applause for Netanyahu is an expression of a double standard and of flattery by those who think that giving Arabs food, drink and wages means democracy and equality.
"After this speech, the Congress members might mistakenly conclude that we're living in the thriving Switzerland, and not in Tayibe, which is trudging in place," he said.
Tibi also slammed the conditions that Netanyahu posed for the peace process. "The prime minister is leading to a dead end which will be disastrous for everyone, including the Israeli public," he said. "Netanyahu's conditions are unacceptable, which is why the request to the UN is unavoidable. Netanyahu's word games aren't new, and they are a semantic trick that aims to perpetuate his rightist coalition. They push the arrangement farther away, instead of bring it closer."