WASHINGTON - "As the world faces monumental challenges, I know that Israel and America will face them together," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, opening his speech before the American Israel Public Affairs committee Monday, after a meeting with US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.
The prime minister reiterated his stance on construction in Jerusalem, and told his audience of some 8,000 pro-Israel activists, "The connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel cannot be denied. The connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem cannot be denied.
The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 year ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today. Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital."
He continued to say, "In Jerusalem, my government has maintained the policies of all Israeli governments since 1967, including those led by Golda Meir, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin. Today, nearly a quarter of a million Jews, almost half the city’s Jewish population, live in neighborhoods that are just beyond the 1949 armistice lines. All these neighborhoods are within a five-minute drive from the Knesset. They are an integral and inextricable part of modern Jerusalem. Everyone knows that these neighborhoods will be part of Israel in any peace settlement. Therefore, building them in no way precludes the possibility of a two-state solution."
As an example to the Jewish people's link to Jerusalem, he told his audience of a signet ring he has in display in his office: "The ring was found next to the Western wall, but it dates back some 2,800 years ago, two hundred years after Kind David turned Jerusalem into our capital city. The ring is a seal of a Jewish official, and inscribed on it in Hebrew is his name: Netanyahu. His name was Netanyahu Ben-Yoash."
Netanyahu then mentioned the Holocaust, and the price the Jewish people had to pay: "Ultimately, two of history's greatest leaders helped turn the tide. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill helped save the world. But they were too late to save six million of my own people."
He stressed that "the future of the Jewish state can never depend on the goodwill of even the greatest of men. Israel must always reserve the right to defend itself."
'Can't impose peace'
The conference was a major show of pro-Israel power, and was attended by almost half of the members of Senate. At one point, two women from the Code Pink anti-war group disrupted the prime minister's speech, causing him to stop for a few seconds. The demonstrators were quickly removed form the hall.
He also urged the Palestinians once again to resume negotiations: "President Abbas, come and negotiate peace." However, he stressed that be cannot be forced on the parties: "Of course, the United States can help the parties solve their problems but it cannot solve the problems for the parties. Peace cannot be imposed from the outside. It can only come through direct negotiations in which we develop mutual trust."
Netanyahu then detailed the obstacles the Palestinians have placed in the way of renewing peace talks, and described the mitigating steps his government has taking in hopes of bringing both parties back to the negotiations table. He pointed out the removal of "hundreds of roadblocks, barriers and checkpoints in the West Bank. As a result, we have helped spur a fantastic economic boom there. Finally, we announced an unprecedented moratorium on new Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria."
Addressing the Iranian threat, Netanyahu said, "In recent decades the hatred of the Jews has reemerged with increasing force, but with an insidious twist. It is not merely directed at the Jewish people but increasingly at the Jewish state. In its most pernicious form, it argues that if only Israel did not exist, many of the world's problems would go away."
He noted that "Iran’s rulers say, 'Israel is a one bomb country.' The head of Hezbollah says: 'If all the Jews gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.'"
In an attempt to explain Israel's security predicament to his audience, Netanyahu said, "Imagine the entire United States compressed to the size of New Jersey. Next, put on New Jersey's northern border an Iranian terror proxy called Hezbollah which fires 6,000 rockets into that small state. Then imagine that this terror proxy has amassed 60,000 more missiles to fire at you. Now imagine on New Jersey’s southern border another Iranian terror proxy called Hamas. It too fires 6,000 rockets into your territory while smuggling ever more lethal weapons into its territory."