In a keynote speech to the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has again vowed not to withdraw to what he called the “indefensible” 1967 frontiers. “This conflict has raged for nearly a century because the Palestinians refuse to end it. They refuse to accept the Jewish state,” he said to applause from the more than 10,000-strong audience. “We can only make peace with the Palestinians if they are prepared to make peace with the Jewish state.”
Netanyahu added that there could be no negotiations with the Palestinians while Hamas continued to call for the destruction of Israel. He also said it is time to stop blaming Israel for the problems in the Middle East, which are rooted in the desire of people in countries all over the region for freedom, progress and a better life. Netanyahu declared that democracy in Israel was a model for those other countries to follow. He went on to emphasize the historically close relations his country has had with the United States.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu was scheduled to address a joint session of Congress, laying out his plans for peace in the Middle East.
The Israeli leader stood firm but continued to try to smooth over the feud with US President Obama, telling delegates that Obama had an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security and thanking him for funding Israel’s advanced missile interceptor system.
House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, was quick to assure the audience that the cause of Israel’s security had his “100 percent support.” Even Obama’s Democratic colleagues backed away from his positions. “No one should set parameters about borders, about building, about anything else,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told the gathering.
Several protesters interrupted Netanyahu’s speech, saying that to deny the plight of the Palestinians was “unacceptable,” but they were drowned out by the cheers of the many delegates as they were marched out of the hall by security. “Do you think they have these protests in Gaza?” Netanyahu asked in response.
EU foreign ministers back Hamas-Fatah reconciliation
Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of the European Union have welcomed the recent Fatah-Hamas reconciliation pact. In a statement adopted by the 27 EU countries on Monday, the ministers say that intra-Palestinian reconciliation behind President Mahmoud Abbas was an important element for the unity of a future Palestinian state and for a two-state solution. “Reconciliation should also be in the long-term interest of Israel by helping to engage all parties in a process leading to a sustainable peace agreement. The EU welcomes that Palestinian reconciliation has led to the cessation of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip and insists on the need for a permanent truce,” said the joint declaration.
In a reference to Hamas, the ministers said a future Palestinian government should uphold the principle of non-violence and remain committed to achieving a two-state solution and to a negotiated peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “accepting previous agreements and obligations, including Israel’s legitimate right to exist.” Europe’s engagement with a new Palestinian government would be based on its adherence to such policies and commitments, they added.