For the second time in his political career, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint session of the United States Congress on Tuesday.
To say the least, he found a receptive audience. Both Republicans and Democrats cheered Netanyahu and interrupted his speech more than 20 times with standing ovations.
Called by some, the “speech of his life,” Netanyahu first made common cause with the Congress and America:
"Israel has no better friend than America and America has no better friend than Israel. We stand together to defend democracy. We stand together to advance peace. We stand together to fight terrorism.
Congratulations, America. Congratulations, Mr. President: You got Bin Laden. Good riddance! In an unstable Middle East, Israel is the one anchor of stability. In a region of shifting alliances, Israel is America's unwavering ally. Israel has always been pro-American. Israel will always be pro-American.”
He also defended the Jewish state against recent attempts to delegitimize Israel and its place in the region. He declared, “Israel is not what is wrong about the Middle East; Israel is what's right about the Middle East.”
He spent a substantial portion of his speech addressing the danger of a nuclear Iran which he called “a clear and present danger to the world.” “When I last stood here, I spoke of the consequences of Iran developing nuclear weapons. Now time is running out. The hinge of history may soon turn, for the greatest danger of all could soon be upon us: a militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons.”
He noted Iran denies the Holocaust when six million Jews were killed and yet now calls for Israel’s destruction.
He added, “Now, as for Israel, if history has taught the Jewish people anything, it is that we must take calls for our destruction seriously.”
On the Palestinian front, Netanyahu said he would be willing as Israel’s leader to make “painful compromises,” a euphemism for giving up land. He said this would mean forsaking some of Israel’s ancestral homeland, the land of the patriarch Abraham, King David and the prophet Ezekiel.
He might find the most opposition to this concept than any other here back in Israel. For example, Danny Danon, a Likud member, said Netanyahu would return to Israel and find “there is no majority for abandoning the land of Israel.”
But while he accepted the notion that some land would be ceded to the Palestinians in negotiations, he said there would be no compromise on Jerusalem:
”And as for Jerusalem, only a democratic Israel has protected the freedom of worship for all faiths in the city. Throughout the millennial history of the Jewish capital, the only time that Jews, Christians, and Moslems 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.”
But one of the biggest reactions from the Congress was when Netanyahu challenged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after Abbas has signed a unity agreement with the Islamic terrorist group Hamas:
“But peace can only be negotiated with partners committed to peace, and Hamas is not a partner for peace. Hamas -- Hamas remains committed to Israel's destruction and to terrorism. They have a charter. That charter not only calls for the obliteration of Israel, it says: 'Kill the Jews everywhere you find them.'
So I say to President Abbas: Tear up your pact with Hamas! Sit down and negotiate. Make peace with the Jewish state.”
He added, "It's time for President Abbas to stand before his people and to say 'I will accept a Jewish state.’ Those six words will change history... Those six words will convince Israel that they have a true partner for peace."
It was a historic speech, but whether history will change remains to be seen. You can watch the entire speech here.