WASHINGTON – Israel’s prime minister promised to present his vision for an Israeli-Palestinian peace in a speech before U.S. lawmakers today, but vowed his country would not return to mid-1967 borders that he termed “indefensible.”
Benjamin Netanyahu made this pledge in an address Monday to thousands of pro-Israel American Jews and U.S. lawmakers. His speech drew roaring cheers and standing ovations, a sign of the powerful backing he enjoys in the U.S. as the White House pressures him to do more to renew stalled Mideast peacemaking.
The warm reception Netanyahu enjoyed at the gala dinner of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee contrasted sharply with the contentious quality of some of his recent exchanges with President Barack Obama precisely over border issues.
His planned address today to a joint meeting of Congress, where Israel enjoys strong bipartisan backing, could similarly remind Obama, ahead of his re-election bid, of the political price he might pay if he tries to push Netanyahu too hard.
In that speech, Netanyahu said, he will “outline a vision for a secure Israeli-Palestinian peace.”
But in language that suggested he was not going to take a conciliatory pose, he promised to “speak the unvarnished truth.”
“This conflict has raged for 100 years because the Palestinians refuse to end it. They refuse to accept a Jewish state.”
A peace agreement, he said, must assure Israel’s security: “Israel cannot return to the indefensible 1967 borders,” he declared, rekindling the dispute with Obama in a possible effort to placate territorial hard-liners in his government.