Netanyahu Invited to Give Mideast Peace Speech Before U.S. Congress

Premier reportedly procured the invitation to speak before Congress due to the support of Republican officials; speech seen as response to Obama's planned Mideast policy speech.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will give a Mideast peace policy speech in front of U.S. Congress in late May, Haaretz learned on Thursday, in an attempt to counter a speech expected to deal with U.S. Mideast policy by President Barack Obama.

The office of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner confirmed the report, saying Boehner's will invite Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress during a visit to Washington next month.

Benjamin Netanyahu Bar Ilan
Michael Kremer

U.S.-led peace talks, launched six months ago with the goal of striking a final deal by September 2011, broke down shortly after they began over Israeli construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians demanded a freeze in both areas, which the Palestinians claim for a state, along with the Gaza Strip.

Israel refused to yield to that demand, insisting that previous rounds of talks took place while settlement construction was under way, such a precondition was unprecedented, and the issue should be settled in negotiations.

Faced with growing criticism of Israel's inaction in the face of stalled peace talks with the Palestinians, Netanyahu aides had announced earlier this year the premier's intention to provide a general outline of Israel's Mideast peace policy.

On Thursday it was announced that the premier received official invitation to speak before Congress due to the support of Republican congressmen, and following several weeks in which he and his staff had been attempting to procure such an invitation.

Netanyahu is expected to speak at the same week in which he is scheduled to address the AIPAC conference due to take place on May 22.

His address is expected to serve as a sort of response to an upcoming Mideast policy speech by Obama.

Earlier this year, the prime minister assured German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he intended to launch a new peace plan that would be a continuation of his Bar-Ilan University speech, given in June 2009, in which he agreed to the establishment of a Palestinian state, the official revealed.

"I intend to make a new speech about the peace process in two to three weeks," Netanyahu reportedly told Merkel.

Foreign Ministry officials, also referring to the possibility of an upcoming Mideast policy speech, told Haaretz the premier "had recently begun talking about a second Bar-Ilan speech."

A non-government source told Haaretz at the time that Netanyahu and his advisers were working on a speech that would outline an alternative to the interim agreement with the Palestinians, similar to Lieberman's plan.

That initiative, which Haaretz reported on a month ago, consists of establishing a Palestinian state within temporary borders on about 50 percent of the West Bank.