Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress today was punctuated with over two dozen standing ovations by members of the House.
One of Israel’s leading political commentators has described Netanyahu’s visit to the United States as having been an outstanding success in spite of the tensions with the US Administration over the issue of borders.
Both of Netanyahu’s speeches (at AIPAC and on Capitol Hill) were broadcast live on Israeli television and have been well received. However, the Kadima Party criticized his address to Congress saying that he “does not have a plan and doesn’t intend to reach an agreement.” Meantime, right-wingers were angered at the suggestion that Israel would be prepared to abandon settlements in the framework of a peace agreement.
That having been said, it is clear that the views expressed by Netanyahu are shared by a substantial proportion of Israelis.
An opinion poll released this evening on Israel TV showed that, were Israel to hold elections today, Likkud and Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party would control a third of the Knesset. Kadima is only slightly ahead of Yisrael Beiteinu, while Labour lags far behind with Ehud Barak’s fledgling Atsma’ut party not even achieving the minimum required to be represented in the next Knesset.
All of this would suggest that Netanyahu is the political voice of Israel today. While he and President Obama may not hit it off, there is clearly a great deal of support for his views on Capitol Hill.
Even if that may be reassuring, it nevertheless leaves most Israelis with a feeling that peace is not around the corner and that, given the popular uprisings in the Middle East and the Palestinian initiative to declare national independence this September, the future looks uncertain and there is little room for optimism.