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Middle east

Netanyahu to give 'speech of his life' to US Congress

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-05-24

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to sketch his vision of Israeli-Palestinian peace to US Congress, after reopening a dispute with President Barack Obama over the shape of a future Palestinian state.

AFP - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will give "the speech of his life," when he addresses the US Congress later Tuesday, Israeli media commentators said, previewing the key address.

The speech comes at the tail-end of a tense visit to Washington for the Israeli premier, who has held talks with US President Barack Obama and addressed America's largest Israel lobby group AIPAC.

The trip began with a spat, after Obama called for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal based on the lines that existed before the 1967 Six Day War.

Netanyahu immediately and harshly rejected that call, and has used the trip to reiterate that he considers those lines "indefensible," a claim he is expected to repeat in his address to a joint session of the US Congress.

Aluf Benn, writing in the left-leaning Haaretz daily, said the speech would be "the formative event of his term, if not his entire political career."

Netanyahu has hinted that his address to Congress would outline a new peace proposal, intended to head off Palestinian plans to seek United Nations recognition for a unilateral declaration of statehood.

Benn said the speech offered Netanyahu "a rare opportunity to reboot his leadership."

"Just a few months ago, he appeared to be directionless. Now, people are hanging on his every word," he wrote.

Eli Bardenstein, writing in Maariv, also termed Netanyahu's address the "speech of his life," saying it would have "a decisive impact on future negotiations with the Palestinians."

Bardenstein said Netanyahu would stress Israel's opposition to a recent Palestinian unity deal between Fatah and Hamas, and would emphasise that Israel will not negotiate with a government that includes the Islamist group.

The Israeli premier will also demand Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state as a precondition to new talks and insist that Palestinian refugees will not be allowed to return to Israel, he wrote.

But while commentators agreed on the importance of the speech, and the attention it was likely to receive, some questioned whether Netanyahu would offer anything that could move forward the stalled peace process.

Direct talks between the two sides have been on hold since late September 2010, grinding to a halt shortly after they began when an Israeli partial settlement freeze expired.

Netanyahu declined to renew the freeze, despite international pressure, and the Palestinians have said they will not negotiate while Israel builds on land they want for a future state.

Nahum Barnea, writing in Yediot Aharonot, made reference to widely-distributed photos of Netanyahu and his wife touring Washington sites, including the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King gave his "I have a dream" speech.

"I would be pleased to know what Binyamin Netanyahu's dream is, and whether there is any connection between his dream and the complex reality in which seven and a half million Israelis live," he wrote.

Nehemia Shtrasler, writing in Haaretz, said the speech would be no more than "bluff and deception."

"The truth is simple and down-to-earth: Netanyahu is not ready for any agreement, any concession, any withdrawal. As far as he's concerned, it's all the Land of Israel... All the rest is just words."

Date created : 2011-05-24


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