Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took off from Washington Wednesday morning encouraged by his reception Tuesday at the US Congress.
“We’re not talking about a peace process anymore; we’re talking about a PR process,” Rob Malley, program director for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, told the New York Times.
Netanyahu told the House of Representatives Israel was prepared to make "painful" concessions of territory for peace, but that his government would not divide Jerusalem.
"The prime minister laid down the iron principles necessary for Israel's existence," said a source from Netanyahu's delegation to Washington. "He believes his Congress speech has historical significance in countering attempts to harm Israel's status."
Netanyahu received 29 rounds of applause from his enraptured audience, the kind of support Malley called "wall to wall", but he warned that it may be a "pyrrhic victory".
“None of this is going to help avert any of the dangers that the president mentioned in his Sunday speech, that Israel faces,” NYT cited Malley as saying.
"In the two years since Netanyahu cobbled together a rightwing coalition in Israel, and came up against an American president scrambling to improve his nation's image in the Muslim world, that smooth connection got awfully bumpy at times. I fear the impasse is only growing."
Netanyahu's written speech (Photo: AP)
'Public forum for rebuttal to Obama'
Michael Cohen, for Foreign Policy Magazine, wrote, "The idea that Congress would openly side with a foreign leader against the president of the United States seems too far-fetched to believe. Remarkably, however, something not dissimilar happened in Washington Tuesday.
"The speech's intention – with the full assistance and backing of the Republican leadership in Congress and implicit support of Democrats – was to give Netanyahu a public forum to offer a rebuttal to President Barack Obama's recent proposals for moving forward with the Arab-Israeli peace process," Cohen added.
"It is certainly appropriate for members of Congress to disagree with the president's foreign-policy agenda. But it's something else altogether to be appearing to work in concert with the leader of another country in trying to put the president on the defensive – and seeking to score a partisan political advantage in the process. By openly siding with Netanyahu against Obama and making Arab-Israeli peace a partisan issue, Republicans in Congress are at serious risk of crossing a dangerous line and in the process undermining US interests in the Middle East."
The Palestinian response to Netanyahu's speech was also unenthusiastic. Nabil Shaath, a senior Fatah official, called the former's plan to leave large chunks of Judea and Samaria in Israeli hands "a declaration of war".
"We have no other way but to continue our battle in the international arena, to continue to build our state. We have no peace partner," he said.
The foreign minister of Luxemburg, Jean Asselborn, was also critical, reiterating the European Union's support for US President Barack Obama, who called for Israel's return to the 1967 borders.
"If Israel continues its obstinacy," he told Der Spiegel, Europe will consider political sanctions.
"Netanyahu's refusal of peace based on the 1967 lines is arrogant," Asselborn said, especially in light of Obama's agreement that this return can include land exchanges. He added that Netanyahu was isolating Israel.
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