Netanyahu: Palestinians must accept Jewish state

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Palestinians to be “genuinely committed” to peace and democracy, starting foremost with the public acceptance of a Jewish state.

Speaking before the United States Congress Tuesday, Netanyahu said the benefits of peace have always been clear, but that leaders have been uncompromising in the need to first recognize Israel’s legitimacy as a sovereign state.

“So far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state if it meant accepting a Jewish State alongside it,” he said. “This is what this conflict is all about.”

Netanyahu challenged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to change this by publicly declaring complete commitment to peace with Israel.

“It’s time for President Abbas to stand before his people and to say ‘I will accept a Jewish state,'” Netanyahu continued. “Those six words will change history. Those six words will convince Israel that they have a true partner for peace.”

Netanyahu also thanked Congress and President Barack Obama for their “steadfast commitment to Israel’s security.” He emphasized that the United States will always be a friend of Israel.

“There are many who condemn Israel for protecting itself. Not you. Not America,” he said.

The joint address to Congress comes less than a week after President Obama publicly called on Israel to use its 1967 borders as a starting point for renewed peace negotiations.

Netanyahu ackowledged that “painful compromises” must be made on his country’s behalf in order to achieve any real peace agreement.

“Israel will be generous on the size of a Palestinian state, but will be very firm on where we put the border with it,” he said.

The Israeli leader also stressed the importance of Jerusalem to his country’s foundation, saying that Israel cannot return to “the indefensible borders of 1967.”

“Jerusalem must never again be divided,” Netanyahu said to applause. “Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.”

Sounding the Alarm on Iran

Netanyahu painted a picture of a future reformed Middle East that’s “genuinely democratic,” but warned there are country’s like Iran who are still against any idea of freedom for all.

“An epic battle is now underway in the Middle East between tyranny and freedom,” he stressed.

“Time is running out,” Netanyahu added. “The hinge of history may soon turn [with] a militant Islamic Iranian regime armed with nuclear weapons.”

Netanyahu said increased sanctions must continue against Iran, and the international community must take Iran’s threat seriously.

Netanyahu received a total of 26 standing ovations during his speech. But everyone in the room wasn’t in support of him.

A female heckler interrupted Netanyahu shortly after starting his speech. The chamber resonated with “boos” against the protester, then a round of applause for the Israeli diplomat.

“You know, I take it as a badge of honor — and you should too — that in our free society you can have these protests,” Netanyahu quipped. “This is real democracy.”

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