Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finished off his recent visit to Washington by giving a mini State-of-the-Union-style speech in front of a joint session of Congress this afternoon. Although Bibi's earlier interaction with the White House ranged from nasty to confrontational, landing somewhere around incredibly awkward, Congress couldn't have been happier to see him. According to the AP, Bibi was treated to a "rapturous congressional reception, with frequent and sustained standing ovations." Perhaps the warm welcome was because Netanyahu said Israel would be willing to make some "painful compromises" — demonstrating a more open stance toward President Obama's less-than-radical proposal to create a Palestinian state based on Israel's pre-1967 borders with land swaps.
Or perhaps, as the New York Times conjectures,
With elections coming up next year, lawmakers appeared eager to demonstrate their support for Israel as part of an effort to secure backing from one of American politics’ most powerful constituencies, American Jews.
Netanyahu acknowledged that "in a genuine peace, we will be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland." Then he went over a number of compromises Israel would not be willing to make, such as that Jerusalem "will never be divided," and that Israel's army would remain along the Jordan River. While Netanyahu conceded that some Israeli settlements will lie outside the final borders, he once again called sticking to the pre-1967 borders "indefensible" and said Palestinian refugees and descendants would have to find their homes outside Israel's new borders, limiting their right of return to their homeland.
At least one member of Congress wasn't clapping — or even listening. Tea party freshman Rand Paul, "staging what appeared to be a silent protest of America's foreign aid to Israel," opted instead to shuffle through papers on his desk. But don't mistake Paul's protest as anti-Zionist. Actually, it's more xenophobic. Earlier this year, he came under fire from both sides of the aisle for proposing cutting all U.S. foreign aid.
Netanyahu Repeats Stiff Criteria for Peace [NYT]
Netanyahu receives warm reception in US Congress [AP via MSNBC]
Rand Paul skips Netanyahu address [Politico]
Earlier:The Netanyahu–Obama Relationship Is Not Going to Get Less Awkward Any Time Soon