Netanyahu to be invited to address US Congress

AFP , Friday 15 Apr 2011

Republican US House Speaker plans to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress during his visit next month

Republican US House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday he planned to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress during his visit here next month.

"It will be a great honor for Congress to welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu next month as part of his official visit to the United States," Boehner, an ardent defender of staunch US ally Israel, said in a statement.

"America and Israel are the closest of friends and allies, and we look forward to hearing the Prime Minister's views on how we can continue working together for peace, freedom, and stability," said Boehner.

Netanyahu delivered his first speech to a joint session of the US Congress on 10 July 1996, becoming the fourth Israeli prime minister to enjoy that particular honor.

Boehner's office said he would formally invite Netanyahu once the US Congress approves a resolution calling for a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives.

The move came as US President Barack Obama struggled with ways to revive stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after a wave of Arab uprisings crowded the agenda in the last few months.

In a speech on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged Washington's "active" leadership in solving the decades-old conflict as she said the status quo between the Israelis and Palestinians is "unsustainable."

A State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, said Clinton sought to counter skeptics about chances for peace after she helped relaunch negotiations last September only to see them stall within weeks.

"It's not necessarily a new push (for peace)... but rather a redoubling of our efforts.... We're aware that some wonder whether there is any hope for progress," Toner told reporters.

"We're committed to this process and that we'll make sure we commit the energy necessary to see it fulfilled," he added.

Toner acknowledged that the parties had agreed to a September 2011 deadline to settle core differences.

The core issues are security for Israel, the boundaries of a future Palestinian state, the status of the disputed city of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees.

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