May 24, 2011 – New York – AJC applauded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s eloquent and stirring reaffirmation of Israel’s commitment to achieve a permanent peace with the Palestinians.
“So I say to President Abbas: Tear up your pact with Hamas! 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,” declared Prime Minister Netanyahu.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu has delivered a crystal-clear message of peace and hope that should be embraced by the Palestinians and the wider Arab world,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “Israel is fully committed to achieving peace with the Palestinians, but that requires a credible Palestinian partner, who shares the goal. It was powerfully moving to see how warmly he was received by the U.S. Congress, emblematic of the unique and enduring partnership between the U.S. and Israel.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu, in his hour-long speech, reminded the world that six Israeli prime ministers since the 1993 Oslo Accords have been committed to establishing a Palestinian state, but the main obstacle to a final accord has been and remains the Palestinian refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state alongside it.
“I’ve stood before the Israeli people to say I accept a Palestinian state,” said Netanyahu. “It’s time for Mahmoud Abbas to stand before his people and say ‘I accept a Jewish state.’”
“Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke clearly in saying that the root of this conflict has always been and remains the intractability of the other side to recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish State,” said Harris.
Netanyahu acknowledged that true peace requires “painful compromises,” which, he said, he is prepared to make as long as the Palestinians are also prepared to act boldly.
“Israel will be generous on the size of a Palestinian state,” but it must take into account Israel’s demographic and security needs,” said Netanyahu, repeating President Obama’s pledge in recent days that the final negotiated border between Israel and a Palestinian state will be different from the line that existed on June 5, 1967.
“AJC stands with the Prime Minister in his call for “defensible” borders for the State of Israel. No return to the 1967 ‘borders’ (in actuality, the 1949 armistice lines) is possible, as this would render Israel potentially unable to defend itself when its narrowest point, which is heavily populated, would be just nine miles wide,” added Harris.
Netanyahu spoke admiringly of the decades-old peace treaties Israel signed with Egypt and Jordan, calling them models for creating peace between Israel and all her neighbors. “The peace with Egypt and Jordan has long served as an anchor of stability and peace in the heart of the Middle East,” he said.
But amid an increasingly unstable region, where turmoil has been raging across the Arab world, the Israeli leader said, “Israel is the one anchor of stability” in the Middle East.
Netanyahu said he “longs for a day when Israel will be one of many democracies in the Middle East” because “a Middle East that is truly democratic will be truly at peace.”
The prime minister spoke extensively about the looming threat of a nuclear Iran. While the radical Islamist regime threatens world security, for Israel specifically it is more dangerous since Iran denies Israel’s existence and the Holocaust, and threatens to obliterate Israel. “Leaders who spew such venom should be banned from every respectable forum on the planet,” said Netanyahu.
The Israeli leader decried “the lack of outrage” internationally in the face of calls for Israel’s destruction. “Those who dismiss it are sticking their heads in the sand,” he said.
“We must take calls for our destruction seriously,” said Netanyahu. “When we say ‘never again,’ we mean ‘never again.’”
“The Israeli leader hit a home run in Congress today,” said Harris. “Amidst all the uncertainty and dangers surrounding Israel, he once again, with clarity and conviction, spoke of Israel’s yearning for peace and its commitment to a viable two-state agreement with the Palestinians. More broadly, he held out hope for the spread of democracy, human dignity and prosperity in the troubled region, and Israel’s desire to help usher in this new era for the benefit of all.”