FACT CHECK: Netanyahu speech ignores rival claims

AP News
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Posted: May 24, 2011 4:37 PM
FACT CHECK: Netanyahu speech ignores rival claims

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave an impassioned defense of his approach to peace during a speech to Congress on Tuesday. But the address reflected the world view of Israel's nationalistic right wing, one of several conflicting narratives that divide Israelis and Palestinians.

Here is a sampling of Netanyahu's claims along with those of the rival narrative.

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NETANYAHU: "You don't need to send American troops to Israel. We defend ourselves."

THE FACTS: Israel is a leading recipient of American foreign aid, including more than $1 billion in military assistance each year.

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NETANYAHU: "In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. We are not the British in India. We are not the Belgians in the Congo."

THE FACTS: While the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria, is promised to the Jewish people in the Bible, the international community considers the West Bank occupied territory. Israel captured the area in the 1967 Mideast war but has never annexed it. Its occupied status is underscored by the presence of tens of thousands of Israeli soldiers who protect Israeli settlements and control the movement of Palestinian residents in the name of security.

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NETANYAHU: "You don't need to export democracy to Israel. We've already got it."

THE FACTS: Israel does give its Arab minority full civil rights, including participation in elections. But Israeli Arabs suffer from systematic discrimination in housing and the workplace. Also, more than 2 million Palestinians living in the West Bank do not have Israeli citizenship and therefore cannot vote in Israeli elections.

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NETANYAHU: "The vast majority of the 650,000 Israelis who live beyond the 1967 lines reside in neighborhoods and suburbs of Jerusalem and greater Tel Aviv."

THE FACTS: Nearly all of these communities were built in the face of overwhelming international opposition and are considered illegal settlements by the world, including the U.S.

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NETANYAHU: "The Palestinian economy is booming. It's growing by more than 10 percent a year."

THE FACTS: The West Bank economy is indeed growing rapidly. But the World Bank has noted that the growth comes after years of contraction during fighting with Israel and has been fueled by huge amounts of foreign aid. It warns the growth is unsustainable unless Israel does more to encourage the Palestinian private sector.

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NETANYAHU: "Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of al-Qaida."

THE FACTS: While Hamas and al-Qaida have killed hundreds of people in religious holy wars, they have no connection, and Hamas has in fact come under criticism from the global terror network for being too moderate. Al-Qaida preaches global jihad. Hamas says its struggle is solely against Israel, not the West at large. In its Gaza stronghold, Hamas has violently clashed with smaller armed groups that claim inspiration from al-Qaida.

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Josef Federman can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/joseffederman