U.S. visit ‘important’ and Americans supportive, Netanyahu says


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called his visit to Washington "important," and said he found "broad American support for Israel’s fundamental claims."

Netanyahu made his comments upon his return to Israel following a visit to Washington, where he addressed both houses of the U.S. Congress as well as an audience of 10,000 at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference, and met at the White House with President Obama.

"We found broad American support for Israel’s fundamental claims, especially the recognition of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people, and the need for secure borders and the complete repudiation of Hamas," Netanyahu said.

"The great majority of people in Israel are united around the broad diplomatic outline that I proposed in the U.S. The time has come for the Zionist parties to unite around these principles. The time has also come for the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel’s just claims."

Netanyahu’s outline included a military presence along the Jordan River of a demilitarized Palestinian state, excluded repatriation of Palestinian refugees to Israel and leaving Jerusalem as Israel’s united capital. He also said that Israel would give up some settlements under a peace agreement.

Mark Toner, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, told reporters Wednesday that Netanyahu’s warm welcome by Congress showed that "Israel is a close partner with the United States." Toner said that the "rousing reception that Prime Minister Netanyahu received in addressing Congress was in keeping with the strong relationship that many in this government, in this administration and on the Hill feel towards Israel."

He also said that the United States would work to get the Israelis and Palestinians back to face-to-face negotiations, where they could discuss the principles that Obama outlined in his Middle East policy speech last week at the State Department. 

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