Israel is willing to make “painful compromises” to achieve peace with the Palestinians, even if that requires Israel to hand over the land the Palestinians need to build a future state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Congress on Tuesday.
Even though Netanyahu earlier sharply dismissed President Barack Obama’s proposal for Israel to withdraw to the borders that existed before Israel gained the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 war, Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel is willing to make some, but not all, sacrifices for its longtime friend.
“Israel has no better friend than America, and America has no better friend than Israel. We stand together to defend democracy,” Netanyahu told a friendly and enthusiastic audience at a joint meeting of Congress.
“Now this is not easy for me. It’s not easy, because I recognize that in a genuine peace we will be required to give parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland.”
While Netanyahu still holds that Israel will not return to the “indefensible lines of 1967,” the prime minister said the “precise delineation” of the borders must be negotiated between Israelis and the Palestinians.
“We will be very generous on the size of a future Palestinian state,” Netanyahu said in his 45-minute speech. “But … the border will be different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.”
Netanyahu said that it is now up to the Palestinians to decide if they want to recognize the Jewish state and negotiate. Fatah, the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, recently agreed to cooperate with Hamas, a U.S-deemed terrorist organization that questions Israel’s right to exist.
“Tear up your pact with Hamas!” the right-wing leader said. “Sit down and negotiate! Make peace with the Jewish state! And if you do, I promise you this: Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations. It will be the first to do so.”
Palestine is hoping to become a U.N. member from the General Assembly in a September vote.
Although congressional leaders greeted the Israel leader warmly and congressional members gave him frequent standing ovations, Netanyahu was interrupted during his speech by a woman from the group Code Pink, who shouted “No more occupation—end Israeli war crimes.”
Netanyahu turned the protest into an opportunity to make his case.“You can’t have these protests in the farcical parliaments of Tehran and Tripoli,” Netanyahu said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “This is real democracy.
However, that part of Netanyahu’s speech was cut from Israel’s official transcript of Netanyahu’s remarks.