Israeli Prime Minister Addresses Joint Session of Congress
Appearing before a joint session of Congress for the second time in 15 years, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said peace cannot be imposed at the United Nations, but instead must be negotiated. B’nai B’rith firmly endorses negotiations to achieve peace. Netanyahu urged the rejection of Palestinian plans to introduce a resolution declaring a Palestinian state at the United Nations in September. Netanyahu said such a process would circumvent negotiations and was unacceptable. Following proper negotiations and a peace agreement, Netanyahu promised that Israel would be the first to welcome a new Palestinian state into the United Nations system.
Addressing a broad range of issues, Netanyahu began by noting that “Israel has no better friend than the United States and America has no better friend than Israel,” and he said of the U.S. Israel relationship: “We stand together to defend democracy. We stand together to advance peace. We stand together to fight terrorism.”
“The prime minister was right in calling for the Palestinian Authority to ‘tear up’ its pact with Hamas,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel, calls for its destruction and calls for the murder of Jews worldwide, has no place in any talk of peace.”
Netanyahu said: “While Israel will be ever vigilant in its defense, we will never give up our quest for peace. We’ll give it up when we achieve it. Because we want peace, because we need peace.”
The prime minister issued a strong challenge to Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas when he said: “Abbas must do what I have done. I stood before my people and said ‘I will accept a Palestinian state.’ “It’s time for Abbas to say ‘I will accept a Jewish state.’ Those six words will change history.”
“The prime minster summed up the conflict eloquently when he noted that the conflict has ‘always been about the existence of a Jewish state. This is what this conflict is about,’” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “This gets to the heart of the matter that Israel has never had a full partner in its quest for peace.”
Netanyahu noted the problems with any calls to return to 1967 lines in stating: “Israel will not return to the indefensible borders of 1967.” The determination of borders that will afford Israel full peace and security cannot be understated. B’nai B’rith was also supportive of Netanyahu’s directly addressing the issue of return. He said that Jews from around the world have a right to immigrate to Israel and that the same must be true for Palestinians having the right to immigrate to a new state of Palestine. This means “the Palestinian refugee problem will be fixed outside the borders of Israel.”
The false hope of a Palestinian return has always served as an obstacle to peace negotiations and Netanyahu clearly stated the only viable alternative.
Regarding Israel’s capital, Netanyahu said “Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel,” a policy B’nai B’rith has always supported.