Netanyahu Meets Congress

An hour or so ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke before Congress on the state of the peace process and what’s needed to move forward. Netanyahu reiterated that “Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967.” Though, he said, Israel is prepared to be “generous on the size of the Palestinian state” and recognizes that it will have to make “painful compromises” and give up “parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland,” the Israeli government will stand firm on the need to amend the 1967 boundaries. He also called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to tell his people that he will accept a Jewish state, much as Netanyahu said he will accept a Palestinian one (formed after negotiations and not by a Fatah-Hamas union that declares statehood at the UN in September). Congress responded with repeated rounds of applause.

But not everyone was convinced. Matthew Yglesias over at Think Progress is confused about Netanyahu’s plans. The Israeli leader, he says, made a clear case for Palestinian equality within a Jewish state, but threw a curveball, arguing that he’s actually for a two-state solution after all. Under Netanyahu’s system, “The Palestinian state won’t include the demographically Palestinian portions of Jerusalem, and the only military in the Republic of Palestine will be an Israeli force. That would be a funny sort of state,” argues Yglesias.

Yglesias also got into a real-time back and forth on Twitter, or maybe more of a talking past each other, with John Podhoretz over the one-state solution and citizenship. Yglesias asked, “Jerusalem Palestinians prefer to be citizens of Palestine. Why shouldn't they be given what they want?” which Podhoretz said was wrong, citing a poll. Yglesias wondered, “So your idea is permanent statelessness? how about for people who weren't adults in '67?” While Podhoretz maintained, “My idea is that Jerusalem is the eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish state.”

Others focused out the Congress factor, where Netanyahu faced a much more welcoming crowd than he found at the White House. David Frum quipped, “That wasn't Netanyahu speaking. That was Congress speaking.” And The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg was not surprised, writing “nothing really new here. Bibi reminding Obama that Congress is unconditional in support of Israel.” Sen. Rand Paul, incidentally, seemed to be holding a protest and declined to attend, opting to spend the time alone on the Senate floor.

National Review’s The Corner meanwhile lauded Netanyahu for doing “a very good job” and moving “the debate where it needs to go,” chastising Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for being unwilling to “even sit down and talk with Israelis face to face.” And Commentary’s Contentions called Netanyahu’s speech “gutsy”: “Rather than being cowed by the administration’s pressure play, Netanyahu’s assertion of Israel’s rights and security illustrated something that his country’s critics don’t seem to understand: the American people back Israel.” That means, according to Jonathan Tobin, that Netanyahu can now head home with the support of Congress and the knowledge that he can withstand European and American pressure.