Opinion: Debate: Was Netanyahu’s speech to Congress a step in the right direction for peace?

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quite the charmer as he flattered and thanked the U.S. in a speech to Congress on Tuesday. But did he adequately address how Israel might forge peace with the Palestinians? He said he was willing to make painful compromises, but he also laid out a lot of ground rules that didn’t make him appear all that flexible.

Jonathan S. Tobin of Commentary said the speech was a triumph.

During the course of an eloquent and brilliant speech that laid out Israel’s desire for peace as well as the threats that face it, Netanyahu was interrupted with standing ovations from the assembled Congress over 50 times. The cheers were not mere form; they were a genuine expression of the heartfelt support that huge majorities of both parties in both chambers feel for Israel. The speech was a triumph that can well be compared to the applause earned by Winston Churchill when he spoke to Congress as a wartime ally. It didn’t just highlight the bonds between Israel and America but the willingness of this Congress to view Netanyahu personally as a special friend of the American people.

Debra DeLee, president and CEO for Americans for Peace Now, disagreed, saying the speech was a step backward.


Prime Minister Netanyahu was today granted a podium that few world leaders receive. He had the chance to demonstrate to the world that, contrary to many people’s expectations, he grasps the urgency of the moment. Unfortunately for Israel, he did not rise to the occasion. […] Israel desperately needs peace with the Palestinians -– to secure Israel’s future as a Jewish state and a democracy, to protect Israeli security, and to head off a confrontation at the United Nations in September. Unfortunately, rather than laying out his promised new vision of peace, Netanyahu stayed mainly on the well-worn path of grandstanding, blame-laying, and fear-mongering. Rather than embracing the opportunity offered by President Obama to work together to get peace efforts back on track, Netanyahu offered little more than disingenuous words of support for peace.


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--Alexandra Le Tellier