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Netanyahu to AIPAC: ‘Jerusalem Is Not a Settlement’

If Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s message to the AIPAC conference was one of reconciliation with Israel while nudging it toward the peace process, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s was one of praise for the U.S.-Israel relationship while embracing the peace process in only the vaguest terms.

After a slow warm-up, Netanyahu threw some elbows at the Obama administration over the Jerusalem settlements dust-up. “Jerusalem is not a settlement, it’s our capitol,” Netanyahu said, to thunderous applause, causing him to chuckle. “All these neighborhoods are within five minutes of the Knesset. They are an inextricable part of modern Jerusalem. Everyone knows these neighborhoods will be part … of a final peace settlement.”

What about the Palestinians? “We don’t want to rule them. … We want them as neighbors. … Israel is unjustly accused of not wanting peace with the Palestinians. Nothing could be further from the truth. My government has consistently shown its commitment to peace.” He reiterated his call for precondition-less negotiations: “President Abbas, come and negotiate peace.” Yet Mahmoud Abbas and other moderate Palestinians have frequently cited Israel’s settlement construction as a bad-faith action hindering the process.

“Peace requires reciprocity. It cannot be a one-way street in which Israel makes all the concessions and the Palestinians make none,” Netanyahu said. “Israel stands ready to make the compromises for peace, but we expect the Palestinians to compromise as well, to do their part. But there’s one thing I will never compromise on, and that one thing is Israel’s security.” Accordingly, Netanyahu vowed to retain “an Israeli presence on the eastern border of a future Palestinian state,” a condition Palestinian leaders have never accepted.

Netanyahu hopes Israel’s technological advancement can benefit the rest of the world, including by helping it coming up with a substitute for gasoline. “I am confident than in pursuing these goals, we have the support of the United States of America, the greatest nation on earth,” Netanyahu said, commending Obama for his continuing military support to Israel. “I am certain that Israel and America will always stand together.”

If you were hoping for any sort of detail about what exactly Netanyahu offered Clinton as a signal of his commitment to peace, you didn’t get that from this speech.

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