WASHINGTON — Addressing an enthusiastic joint session of Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that he was willing to make "painful compromises" to reach a comprehensive peace with Palestinian Arabs, but only if they agreed to live with a Jewish state whose territory included the suburbs of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
In a 45-minute speech punctuated by 29 standing ovations — an unusually high number for a foreign leader before Congress — Netanyahu repeated his assertion that "Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967," which President Obama said in a major speech last week should be the starting point of peace negotiations.
The spirit of Obama's remarks reflected the positions of former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. But Obama's overt call for using the 1967 lines — adjusted by mutually agreed land swaps — was controversial, especially when Netanyahu publicly upbraided Obama in the White House Oval Office the next day. On Tuesday, Netanyahu repeated his stand, but this time in front of a warm, appreciative bipartisan audience of American lawmakers.
After the speech, congressional leaders of both parties made it clear that they were firmly allied with Israel's prime minister.
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"Today we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel and once again renew our historic partnership. The work of achieving a safe and secure Israel has never been easy, but the cause is right," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, as he stood outside his office flanked by other congressional leaders and Netanyahu.