Netanyahu Pledges Compromises For Peace In a speech to a joint meeting of Congress on Tuesday, the Israeli prime minister thanked U.S. lawmakers for their unswerving support and laid down a hard line on any new peace talks with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu Pledges Compromises For Peace

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From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Robert Siegel.


As NPR's David Welna reports, it was also a chance to lay down a hard line on any new peace talks with the Palestinians.

DAVID WELNA: Not a seat was empty in the House chamber today as Speaker John Boehner introduced the guest he'd invited nearly two months ago.

JOHN BOEHNER: I have the high privilege and distinct honor of presenting to you his Excellency, Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel.

WELNA: Looking at ease and almost at home, Benjamin Netanyahu hit things off from the start with a note of praise for his hosts, and solidarity.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: We stand together to fight terrorism. Congratulations, America. Congratulations, Mr. President, you got bin Laden. Good riddance.

WELNA: Netanyahu went on to praise the young people rising up against longstanding regimes in his part of the world, when he was suddenly interrupted by a heckler in the visitor's gallery.

NETANYAHU: Yet, as we share their hopes...


WELNA: The incident provided an opening for the Israeli leader to take a shot at Israel's enemies and praise its friends.

NETANYAHU: You can't have these protests in the farcical parliaments in Tehran or in Tripoli. This is real democracy.

WELNA: Netanyahu called on the U.S. to send what he called an unequivocal message to Iran that America will not permit that nation to develop nuclear weapons. Turning to Israel's ongoing standoff with the Palestinian people, he said a way must be found to forge a lasting peace.

NETANYAHU: I'm willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace. As the leader of Israel, it's my responsibility to lead my people to peace.

WELNA: Some Israeli settlements, he conceded, will end up beyond Israel's borders.

NETANYAHU: Now, the precise delineation of those borders must be negotiated. We'll be generous about the size of the future Palestinian state, but as President Obama said, the border will be different than the one that existed on June 4th, 1967. Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967.

WELNA: Netanyahu also declared the problem of Palestinian refugees would have to be resolved outside the borders of Israel. As for the city of Jerusalem, whose eastern half is claimed by Palestinians, Netanyahu drew a hard line.

NETANYAHU: Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.

WELNA: After the speech, the Israeli Prime Minister joined the five top Republican and Democratic congressional leaders in a show of solidarity before TV cameras. One of those leaders was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

NANCY PELOSI: Mr. Prime Minister, I think that it was clear from the response to your speech that our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, from both sides of the Capitol, believe that you advanced the cause of - peace.

WELNA: The display of bipartisan support for Netanyahu and Israel is nothing new on Capitol Hill. But as University of Chicago political scientist John Mearsheimer notes, it comes days after the Israeli leader publicly lectured President Obama about the 1967 borders.

JOHN MEARSHEIMER: The Republicans and the Democrats on Capitol Hill look like Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and President Obama looks like the odd person out.

WELNA: And longtime Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller doubts the cause of peace was advanced by Netanyahu's speech.

AARON DAVID MILLER: There was nothing new. He didn't intend to say anything new. Again, it was not a negotiator's speech for a Palestinian constituency, it was a politician's speech and a very effective one, I might add.

WELNA: David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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