Navigate to News section

Netanyahu Speaks to Congress

Another live-blog? Another live-blog

Marc Tracy
May 24, 2011
Prime Minister Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of Congress.(C-SPAN)
Prime Minister Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of Congress.(C-SPAN)

As Prime Minister Netanyahu addresses (watch here) a joint meeting of both Houses of Congress while President Obama is off in Europe, he can accept an extremely warm reception. The question is whether his speech will be more like last night’s, at the AIPAC Conference, which was essentially cheer-leading, or whether, as has been rumored for months, he will layout an actual plan or platform, or make real news. Only three other foreign leaders have addressed Congress more than once: Yitzhak Rabin, Nelson Mandela, and Winston Churchill.

12:09 “And may God forever bless the United States of America.” Looks to be it.

12:08 Calls on Abbas to “tear up” his agreement with Hamas.

12:07 Calls Hamas “the Palestinian version of Al Qaeda.” That’s actually false: The Palestinian version of Al Qaeda are the Gaza Salafists, who don’t much like Hamas, but which Hamas always has to move toward.

12:05 “Peace can only be negotiated with partners committed to peace. And Hamas is not a partner committed to peace.” Also Palestinian state must be de-militarized. He’s cribbing from the Obama playbook!

12:01 Casts disengagement from Gaza and southern Lebanon as something that brought thousands of rockets from Hamas and Hezbollah. In part blames U.N.

12:00 “And as for Jerusalem: Only a democratic Israel has protected the freedom of worship for all faiths in the city.” “The only time Jews, Christians, and Muslims could worship freely, could have unfettered access to their holy sites, has been during Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem. Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.”

11:59 “The Palestinian refugee problem will be solved outside the borders of Israel.”

11:58 Bibi pledges a generously sized Palestinian state with very strict borders meant to ensure security as well as to include most of the settlers near the Green Line.

11:57 “In any real peace agreement, in any peace agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel’s borders. Now the precise delineation of those borders must be negotiated.” “As President Obama said, the borders will be different from the ones in 1967.” It is worth pointing out, yet again, that Obama said this Thursday as well.

11:56 Compromise must account for the vast majority of 650,000 Israelis living beyond the Green Line. Another word for this is “mutually agreed swaps.”

11:54 “It’s time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say, ‘I will accept a Jewish state.’”

11:53 Email from Move Over AIPAC reports that the protester was a 28-year-old American woman of Israeli descent associated with CODEPINK who shouted “Stop Israeli war crimes!”

11:53 “In recent years, the Palestinians twice refused generous offers.”

11:52 “Why has peace not been achieved? Because so far the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state if it meant establishing a Jewish state alongside it.” “It’s always been about the existence of a Jewish state.”

11:51 Wants Palestinians to be “neither subjects nor citizens” of Israel. Take that, far-right maximalist Likudniks! Also praises economic progress and wishes Prime Minister Fayyad a speedy recovery, to applause.

11:48 I’m kidding, but also not: Isn’t admitting that a Palestinian state means giving up territory a cession of a bargaining position? But it’s okay when he does it?

11:47 “The Jewish people are not foreign occupiers.”

11:47 “We must also find a way to form a lasting peace with the Palestinians.” Mentions that he is on-record as supporting two states. “I am willing to make painful compromises.”

11:46 Ah, translation into peace stuff. Cites Egypt and Jordan. “I remember what it was like before peace. I was nearly killed in a firefight in the Suez Canal. I mean that literally: Inside the Suez Canal.” Oh right, Israel’s leaders are all army people. They are quite a different country. “Too many Israelis have lost loved ones. I lost my brother.” Indeed.

11:44 “We are a nation that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust. When we say never again, we mean never again!” Applause. “Israel always reserves the right to defend itself.” Applause.

11:42 Praise for President Obama for pursuing sanctions at U.N. (guess he’s not all bad) becomes a call for keeping the specter of military action alive. “The more Iran believes that all options are on the table, the less the chance for confrontation.”

11:41 “History will salute you, America!”

11:40 On official Iranian Holocaust denial. “People who spew such venom should be banned from every respectable forum on the planet.”

11:39 Casting Iranian nuclear problem as a threat to the United States, in terms of nuclear terrorism.

11:38 “Now, time is running out.” Iranian nuclear program.

11:37 An interesting question is where he stands on the Arab uprisings. He professes love of democracy, but democracy in those countries will not always be pro-Israel. He seems to be doing a decent enough balancing act.

11:35 “Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East. Israel is what is right about the Middle East!” That line comes from last night.

11:34 Acknowledges “courageous Arab protesters.” “We’re proud in Israel that over one million Arab citizens in Israel have been enjoying these rights for decades.”

11:33 “There was a great English writer a century ago: George Eliot. It was a she.” This is true, and she is better than all three Brontes combined, incidentally. Anyway I assume this quotation is from Daniel Deronda.

11:32 His utter lack of an accent never seeks to amaze, even though you know that he spent some time growing up here and worked on the Hill in the early Seventies.

11:30 “I take it as a badge of honor,” is his reply. “You can’t have these protests in the farcical parliaments in Tehran and Tripoli.” (Nor the non-existent one in Saudi Arabia? “This is real democracy!”

11:29 Heckler! We heard “End Israeli occupation!”

11:26 “Congratulations Mr. President, you got Bin Laden. Good riddance!” Seems like an easy crowd-pleaser, until you remember that Hamas felt quite differently.

11:25 “I see a lot of old friends of Israel here, and a lot of new friends: Democrats and Republicans alike!” (Ahem.)

11:24 “I’m deeply moved by this warm welcome.” Notes that he has addressed Congress before, in 1996. Gets chummy with Biden: “Remember when we were the new kids in town?” Getting chummy with Biden will never go you wrong.

11:23 Introduced by Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who invited him. Vice President Biden is behind him as head of the Senate.

11:20 Sustained, minutes-long standing ovation.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.