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US Congress sides with Netanyahu over Obama


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech before the US Congress on Tuesday, May 24, 2011, was seen by most Israelis as a resounding success, and as a rejection of President Barack Obama's policy speeches over the previous few days.

Speaking before a joint gathering of the House of Representatives and Senate, Netanyahu reiterated that Israel will not return to its 1967 borders, as Obama had insisted it must do for the sake of peace. The Israeli leader also adamantly restated Israel's position that Jerusalem must not be divided.

Netanyahu's strong statements won no fewer than 29 rounds of applause (26 of them standing ovations) from the lawmakers, despite the fact that he was seen to be defying the Americans' own president.

Writing for Foreign Policy Magazine, analyst Michael Cohen noted that "the idea that Congress would openly side with a foreign leader against the president of the United States seems too far-fetched to believe. Remarkably, however, something not dissimilar happened in Washington Tuesday."

Cohen said congressional leaders, both Republican and Democrat, had consciously provided Netanyahu with the most visible of public podiums from which to rebutt Obama's peace policies.

In the end, Netanyahu said nothing new in his congressional speech. Rather, he reminded the American government - the primary driving force behind the Middle East peace process - why a final status peace deal has yet to be signed - namely, because the Palestinians continue to seek Israel's ultimate demise and are teaching their children to hate the Jews.

Israeli cabinet secertary Zvi Hauser told Israel Radio that what the speech also did was put the ball firmly in the Palestinians' court. "Ninety percent of the conflict will be resolved" if Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas simply recogizes Israel as the Jewish state, Hauser noted, echoing Netanyahu's own demands.

Netanyahu's political opponents to the left of Israel's political spectrum were less pleased. Many Israelis wrongly believe that America's political system is like their own, and so become needlessly concerend that US aid to Israel is being endangered when Netanyahu plays Congress against the White House. They do not understand that only Congress can permanently cancel US aid to Israel.

The Palestinian leadership responded predictably by saying Netanyahu's speech was a "declaration of war."