The facts and fictions of Netanyahu's address to Congress
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes claims about the West Bank, Arab citizens of Israel and the Jewish people's historic biblical connection to Israel - are these hollow statements or political truths?
Here is some of what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Congress on Tuesday - and what he failed to mention:
Netanyahu to Congress: "The vast majority of the 650,000 Israelis who live beyond the 1967 lines reside in neighborhoods and suburbs of Jerusalem and Greater Tel Aviv."
Netanyahu presented a figure to Congress, according to which 650 thousand Israelis live over the Green Line (1967 borders). This is an inflated figure, based on a report published by the Israeli Civil Administration on June 30, 2009, at the height of the settlement freeze.
In reality, 304,569 people live in West Bank settlements. Netanyahu himself admitted in his speech that this inflationary figure includes suburbs of Jerusalem that are over the Green Line.
Seeing as the prime minster chose to include these suburbs as part of his "over-the-Green-Line" census, the Palestinians could conceivably demand that Israel freeze construction in these neighborhoods as well.
"Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel's Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights."
When making this claim, Netanyahu failed to mention the "loyalty oath" blitz of Yisrael Beiteinu, that afforded preferential admission to civil service positions for those who served in the Israel Defense Forces and demanded that those seeking citizenship pledge allegiance to a "Jewish democratic" state. What about the law granting town councils the prerogative to selectively admit members into their communities?
These examples all appear in a report compiled by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel that deemed the current Knesset "the most racist in state history"
"We're not the British in India. We're not the Belgians in the Congo. This is the land of our forefathers, the land of Israel, to which Abraham brought the idea of one god, where David set out to confront Goliath, and where Isaiah saw his vision of eternal peace."
Netanyahu was trying to show Congress how close West Bank lands are to the hearts of the Israeli people. "In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers," the prime minister told Congress. He used the story of David and Goliath to illustrate the bond between the people of Israel and the territories. However, the biblical battle took place in the Ella Valley, which is near Beit Shemesh – well within the Green Line.
"So far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it."
Netanyahu made it clear in his address that the Palestinians are unwilling to recognize the existence of the State of Israel, adding that six Israeli prime ministers have successively recognized the importance of establishing a Palestinian state.
However, Netanyahu did not bring up the fact that up until recently he himself refused to recognize the need for the establishment of a Palestinian state, making this admission for the first time a mere two years ago in his Bar Ilan speech.
"Fifteen years ago…I stood here and I said that democracy must start to take root in the Arab world."
This is true and accurate. In 1996, years before the fall of authoritarian dictatorships in the Middle East, he called for a regional shift toward democracy, saying "it is time for the states of the Middle East to put the issues of human rights and democratization on their agenda. Democratization means accepting a free press and the right of a legal opposition to organize and express itself. It's very important for the opposition to be able to express itself, Mr. Speaker. I've just learned and will accord that same right, as you know. This is democracy. To be able to disagree, to express our disagreements, and sometimes to agree after disagreements. It means tolerance. And it means an inherent shift away from aggression toward the recognition of the mutual right to differ."
"I'll admit," he added in his 1996 address, "the Middle East as a whole has not yet effected this basic shift -- this change from autocracy to democracy. But this does not mean that we cannot have peace in this region, peace with non-democratic regimes. I believe we can. It's a fact that we've had such peace arrangements."
"I remember what it was like before we had peace. I was nearly killed in a firefight inside the Suez Canal -- I mean that literally -- inside the Suez Canal."
Was Netanyahu almost killed on the Suez Canal? This is not the first time the prime minister has mentioned this incident that took place during his service in the elite IDF Sayeret Matkal unit in the 70's.
At the time, he and his fellow unit members penetrated the canal as part of a mission in Egypt. Egyptian forces recognized the Israeli unit, shooting at and hitting the boat that Netanyahu was aboard.
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