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Video: Netanyahu calls borders 'the meat and potatoes of peace'

  1. Closed captioning of: Netanyahu calls borders 'the meat and potatoes of peace'

    >>> capitol hill , israel 's prime minister was cheered over and over again during a speech to a joint session of congress today. benjamin netanyahu said israel is prepared to make painful compromises for peace with palestinians but will not, as president obama has called for, return to its borders before the '67 mideast war. nor he said will israel negotiate with terrorists by which he meant hamas.

    >> i believe we can fashion a brilliant future for our children, but israel will not negotiate with the palestinian government backed by the palestinian version of al qaeda . that we will not do. [ applause ]

    >> again, several standing ovations. late this afternoon, our chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell sat down in washington with netanyahu.

    >> reporter: president obama has said to you that you cannot afford any more delay, that with all of the upheaval, the changes in the arab world that israel is at risk of being isolated, of being left behind. what do you say to the president?

    >> i think the president shares with me and i share with him the desire to move the peace process forward. i said in congress that there is one way to move this thing forward. president abbas has to do what i did two years ago. i spoke to my people and i said, i will accept a palestinian state . i think the president -- president abbas has to says these words to his people. i will accept the jewish state . you know what, i will give him a break. five words. i accept the jewish state . i think if he says that then that will move the process forward. people will say, okay, we have a real peace partner and for real peace , we're willing to move and move quickly.

    >> reporter: why is it upheaval? isn't israel at risk of being isolated, of the u.n. taking action to declare a palestinian state ?

    >> the world is changing. we want to make sure when we make peace we not only have somebody that will recognize us. we want to be sure we have a secure border to defend ourselves, not only to defend the peace but to defend ourselves if peace unravels. i think we are seeing what is happening in syria. we are seeing what is happening in other places in egypt. we don't know whether our peace partners will be there tomorrow. i mean really tomorrow, not an abstract notion. so when we say we want mutual recognition and defensible borders for israel , that's really the meat and potatoes of peace .

    >> there was a moment in the oval office on friday. you and the president of the united states and some of your own supporters friends of israel said that you were lecturing him, that it went too far.

    >> reporter: i wasn't lecturing anyone. i was speaking about the basic things that israel requires to have peace and security and survival and the lead of an old nation. a great nation. i have the greatest respect for america and for the office of the presidency.

    >> by the way, andrea mitchell 's full interview with netanyahu of israel will air tomorrow on her msnbc show "the mitchell report ."

    >>

msnbc.com news services
updated 5/24/2011 1:42:39 PM ET 2011-05-24T17:42:39

In an address to a joint meeting of Congress, Israel's prime minister pledged to make "painful compromises" for peace with the Palestinians, but said he would not agree to any deal that threatens Israel's security or its identity as a Jewish state.

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Netanyahu, who received a rapturous reception from lawmakers on both sides of the political divide, said Israel wants and needs peace but repeated his flat rejection of a return to what he called the "indefensible" borders that existed before the 1967 Mideast war. He also restated Israel's refusal to entertain the return of millions of Palestinian refugees and their families to land in Israel. And, he maintained that Jerusalem, claimed by both sides as their capital, could not be divided.

"Israel will never give up its quest for peace," Netanyahu said, adding that he is "willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace."

"Now this is not easy for me. It's not easy, because I recognize that in a genuine peace we will be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland,'' he said, referring to the occupied West Bank.

Netanyahu tells Abbas: Ditch Hamas
In outlining his peace vision, Netanyahu said Israel would not negotiate with terrorists and urged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to rip up a power-sharing agreement that his moderate Fatah faction has signed with the militant group Hamas — which does not recognize Israel's right to exist — and shelve efforts to win U.N. statehood status unilaterally.

"I say to President Abbas 'Tear up your pact with Hamas and sit down and negotiate, make peace with the Jewish state.'"

"The Palestinian attempt to impose a settlement through the United Nations will not bring peace. It should be forcefully opposed by all those who want to see this conflict end," Netanyahu said.

In response to the speech, a spokesman for the Palestinian president said Netanyahu's vision for ending the conflict put "more obstacles" in front of the peace process.

"What came in Netanyahu's speech will not lead to peace," Nabil Abu Rdainah, the spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas, told Reuters.

Image: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joe Biden, John Boehner
Susan Walsh  /  AP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responds to the applause after he addressed a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 24, 2011. Vice President Joe Biden, left, and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, right, listen. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Another senior Abbas aide, Nabil Shaath, equated Netanyahu's parameters for a peace deal with "declaration of war" on the Palestinians.

Abbas is convening leaders of the PLO and his Fatah movement on Wednesday to decide on the next move.

Netanyahu also said Israel was prepared to be "generous" about the scope of the future Palestine, but it would have to be demilitarized and accept a long-term Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley, Netanyahu said.

He also called on Palestinians to see their future "homeland," rather than Israel, as the place to settle refugees from the 1948 war that found the Jewish state whose national identity is still challenged by many Arabs.

"It's time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say, 'I will accept a Jewish state'," Netanyahu said to applause.

"Those six words will change history. They will make it clear to the Palestinians that this conflict will come to an end," he said. "And those six words will convince the people of Israel that they have a true partner for peace."

'Good riddance' to bin-Laden
Israel, which enjoys strong bipartisan backing in Congress, has been rattled by President Barack Obama's support for drawing the future borders of a Palestinian state and a Jewish state on the basis of Israel's pre-1967 war frontiers. Obama has also called for a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, something that Netanyahu said is possible only in the very long term.

Story: 'We can't go back': Israeli PM rejects 1967 border proposal

Obama has not called for a return to the exact borders that Israel held before capturing east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the Six-Day War of June 1967. He, like the Palestinians, is open to land swaps so Israel can hold on to settlements it built after the 1967 war. Obama has not, however, offered proposals for how to return the two sides to the bargaining table. The Palestinians are refusing to come back as long as Israeli settlement construction continues.

Netanyahu congratulated the United States for killing al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, wishing him "good riddance" and making the case that America and Israel are paragons of democracy. Netanyahu dismissed early shouts from a female protester as evidence that freedom of speech is alive and well in the United States and is respected in both countries, while it is punished in Arab states now going through upheaval.

He also repeatedly thanked Congress for its support of Israel, which he said supports true democracy throughout the Middle East and wants peace with its Arab neighbors.

The Associated Press, Reuters and NBC News contributed to this report.

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