Majority Leader Eric Cantor escorted Netanyahu into the House Chamber to a room full of applause and loud cheers as Netanyahu shook hands, embraced and waved to those present.
“I am deeply moved by this warm welcome,” Netanyahu said. “I am deeply honored that you have given me the opportunity to address Congress for the second time.”
Netanyahu addressed a joint meeting Congress 15 years ago, saying he saw a lot of old friends and a lot of new friends from both political parties.
“Israel has no better friend than America and America has no better friend than Israel,” he said, adding that Israel is the one emblem of stability in the Middle East.
The Prime Minister started his remarks by addressing what he referred to as an “epic battle underway in the Middle East,” saying the region stands at a crossroads and has potential for freedom, liberty and true democracy rather than tyranny and oppression. Netanyahu hopes the countries surrounding Israel will take a path to liberty, as he believes true democracy is the only way to bring long term peace to the region, but said democracy is not paved by elections alone. His remarks noted that there must be a respect and dedication for the rule of law rather than men and that free speech must be upheld by governments rather than suppressed. Netanyahu upheld Israel as an example of that true democracy.
“Israel isn’t what is wrong about the Middle East. Israel is what is right about the Middle East,” he said.
Netanyahu said that governments like Iran's that continue to deny the holocaust and have called for the total destruction of the Jewish State should be exiled from participation in the United Nations and other international organizations. He said Iran specifically must continue to know that all options, including harsh sanctions and military intervention, are on the table in order to prevent the rogue nation from developing nuclear weapons, which he says would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and pose a fatal threat to Israel and the United States.
“We must take calls for destruction of our nation seriously,” he said. “When we say never again, we mean never again.”
Netanyahu acknowledged that the only way to gain stability moving forward is to develop lasting peace with the Palestinians. He called for two separate states, one Jewish and one Palestinian, pointing out his understanding that Israel will have to give up some Jewish ancestral land for peace. However, Netanyahu stressed that peace cannot ever be achieved unless Palestinian President Abbas denounces Hamas and recognizes Israel’s right to exist. He said peace has not been achieved because the Palestinians have not accepted the idea of a Palestinian State next to a Jewish State. Netanyahu said Israel has always accepted Palestinians’ right to exist.
“Israel is not a foreign occupier,” he said. “They [Palestinians] continue to educate their children to hate. They continue to name public squares after terrorists.”
Netanyahu made it clear he is willing to negotiate with the Palestinians for peace, but will not do so as long as the government in Palestine is backed by a terrorist organization, saying the leader of Hamas condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden while upholding bin Laden as a holy leader.
“Its time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say, ‘I will accept a Jewish state,” he said. “Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of Al Qaeda.”
Netanyahu said Israel will be the first State to welcome a Hamas-free Palestine into the United Nations if Abbas chooses to distance himself from the terrorist group and negotiate a real peace agreement.
Netanyahu swiftly rejected Obama’s mideast peace “solution” last week and re-iterated his stance that Israel cannot and will not go back to 1967 borders today, but did concede that Israel is willing to make painful compromises for peace.
“Jerusalem must never again be divided,” he said, adding that Jerusalem is the only place in the region where Christians, Jews and Muslims can worship peacefully. “Peace must be anchored in security.”
He also said a long term military presence along the Jordan River will be necessary to protect the peace and sovereignty of Israel and to prevent the smuggling of weapons into Palestine, as the United Nations has failed to do, resulting in the launch of over 12,000 rockets into Israel, adding that a peace settlement through the United Nations will not work.
“Peace must not be imposed, it must be negotiated,” he said. “Hamas is not a partner for peace.”
Throughout his remarks, Natanyahu repeatedly thanked America for her support and partnership, even in tough economic times.
“No one can guarantee our peace partners that are here today, will be here tomorrow,” he said.
Netanyahu was interrupted with standing applause 27 times and congratulated President Obama for killing Osama bin Laden.
“Thank you for ensuring that the flame of freedom burns throughout the world. May god forever bless the United States of America.”