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Monday, March 22, 2010

Netanyahu firm on tonight's speech: "Jerusalem is not a settlement.It is our capital.". Mentions Obama only once.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is delivering a defiant reply to the White House in a speech to the pro-Israel group AIPAC this evening, responding to American attempts to damp down their harsh words with an insistence on Israel's right to construct housing in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu, who apologized for the announcement of new housing in Jerusalem during Joe Biden's visit ten days ago, does not reprise his apology, according to prepared remarks. Instead, he reminds the White House that the new housing -- though a thumb in the eye -- did not actually violate any commitment he'd made, as any settlement freeze always excluded Jerusalem.

"The connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel cannot be denied.The connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem cannot be denied," Netanyahu says. "The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 year ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today.Jerusalem is not a settlement.It is our capital."

"Everyone knows that these neighborhoods will be part of Israel in any peace settlement.Therefore, building them in no way precludes the possibility of a two-state solution," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu returned in his speech to familiar themes: The historic assaults on the Jewish people, his theoretical desire for Palestinian independence, and the sole fault of Palestinian leaders in preventing it.

"Peace requires reciprocity .It cannot be a one-way street in which only Israel makes concessions. Israel stands ready to make the compromises necessary for peace. But we expect the Palestinian leaders to compromise as well," he says.

Netanyahu concluded with a short tribute to the American-Israeli relationship, mentioning President Obama once and thanking him, and Congress, for military cooperation.

But his speech also included a clear rebuttal to Israelis and American Jews who have pleaded with him to mend his relationship with the White House.

"The future of the Jewish state can never depend on the goodwill of even the greatest of men. Israel must always reserve the right to defend itself," Netanyahu says.

Read his full prepared remarks here.

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