Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speeches, the first before AIPAC on Monday and the second before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, drew praise from New Jersey officials.
Reps. Steve Rothman (D-9), Bill Pascrell (D-8), and Scott Garrett (R-5) stressed their agreement with Netanyahu that the onus is now on the Palestinian Authority to reject the annihilationist agenda of Hamas. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) and Robert Menendez (D) also issued statements following the speeches about the necessity, on the part of the Palestinians, to accept Israel’s right to exist.
Rothman, who attended the AIPAC policy conference and spoke at two breakout sessions on U.S.-Israel missile defense cooperation, said in a statement, “As … Prime Minister [Netanyahu] said, ‘It is time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say … ‘I will accept a Jewish state.’ Those six words will change history. They will make clear to the Palestinians that this conflict must come to an end. That they are not building a state to continue the conflict with Israel, but to end it. The enthusiastic applause by the U.S. Congress that welcomed these remarks reflects the vision we share with the Prime Minister on this issue.”
Pascrell, who attended the Monday evening dinner at which Netanyahu addressed AIPAC, said in a statement, “The prime minister has clearly defined his terms for peace in the Middle East that provides for a two-state solution with security. It will be up to the Palestinian Authority to decide how to respond to those terms, being that the U.S. and Israel both believe that a lasting peace cannot be imposed, only negotiated. I stand with the prime minister and the president of the United States in rejecting Hamas having any place in those negotiations.”
Lautenberg, who according to a number of sources received a hug and a kiss on the cheek from Netanyahu before the prime minister took the podium before Congress Tuesday, stated: “This past week we were reminded of the unique and unshakable bond that the United States and Israel share. Both President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu stressed that any path to peace in the Middle East starts with recognition of Israel’s right to exist, defend itself, and protect its people.”
Menendez, who attended the AIPAC conference, said in a statement, “Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress was a vital, energetic affirmation of U.S.-Israeli relations. The prime minister’s upbeat remarks clearly acknowledged Israel’s understanding of the shifting sands in the Middle East, and laid out a viable roadmap for a new opportunity for peace anchored in the security of Israel. But peace cannot be negotiated with a Palestinian Authority that includes Hamas, a terrorist organization that refuses to recognize the right of Israel to exist and calls for its destruction.”
Garrett also weighed in: “Like Prime Minister Netanyahu, I do not agree with President Obama’s suggestion that Israel revert back to the 1967 borders as a starting point for peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Nor do I agree with President Obama’s assertion that Israel can remain secure next to a contiguous Palestine.
“Israel’s right to defend itself and live under the protection of a safe and secure border is non-negotiable. The real starting point for negotiations must be a dual commitment by Palestinians to reject terror and then recognize Israel’s right to exist.”