Bibi Netanyahu's unprecedented second appearance before the U.S. Congress was widely applauded by member of Congress who couldn't stop getting to their feet. It was less well received in some other corners, the Oval Office for one if it had a corner, according to Joe Klein writing in Time:
Of all the petty annoyances, misdemeanors and felonies of public life, there is none that Barack Obama detests more than to have his words twisted or oversimplified. It is a big part of his frustration with the media; it is a bigger part of his disdain for the talk-show wing of the Republican Party. And so it wasn't hard to imagine smoke jetting from the President's ears as Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, willfully misinterpreted Obama's statement about the need to renegotiate Israel's borders — in Obama's presence, in the Oval Office on May 20. The President had said that a two-state solution, which Netanyahu alleges to support, should be based on the pre-1967 borders, with mutually agreed-upon land swaps that would enable Israel to incorporate the vast majority of its — dare I say— illegal settlements into its territory while giving over equal amounts of Israeli turf to the Palestinians.
This is not a groundbreaking proposition. In the arcane world of Middle East peace negotiations, it is the equivalent of saying many Jews and Arabs eat hummus....But Netanyahu did an astonishing thing: he chose to ignore the part about the land swaps. He also chose to ignore some significant, and rather hard-line, statements of principle that Obama made in his May 19 speech on Middle East policy ... Instead, in a most condescending manner, Netanyahu chose to lecture the President on a position that he knew Obama hadn't taken — a return to the "indefensible" pre-1967 borders.
Why on earth would Bibi Netanyahu choose to be so boorish and provocative? Because he can be. He has the U.S. Congress in his pocket, a fact made obvious by the applause tsunami that attended his speech to a joint session ... But Netanyahu's offensive also had an important tactical effect: Israel's continued, illegal construction of settlements on Palestinian lands — an impediment to peace every bit as great as the Palestinian refusal to truly acknowledge Israel's existence — took a distinct backseat during the week of dueling speeches. Netanyahu was playing offense so he didn't have to play defense.
Netanyahu knows American politics. The ease and eloquence of his address to Congress were stunning evidence of that. And so he must have been aware of the political impact of his cheesy gambit: he has now, overtly, tossed his support to the Republicans in 2012. Mitt Romney was able to say that Obama had "thrown Israel under the bus." Given his congressional support, Netanyahu may be able to get away with playing so bold a hand — but it is inappropriate behavior for an American ally, and you can bet that Obama won't forget it.
While the U.S. media did not generally share Klein's displeasure with the Israeli prime minister's misrepresentation of the president's position, some outlets even noted their deep approval for the presidential dissing, Israeli media was more critical of the prime minister's Washington whirlwind: Here's Gordon Levy in Haaretz speaking of Netanyahu's congressional performance:
It was an address with no destination, filled with lies on top of lies and illusions heaped on illusions. Only rarely is a foreign head of state invited to speak before Congress. It's unlikely that any other has attempted to sell them such a pile of propaganda and prevarication, such hypocrisy and sanctimony as Benjamin Netanyahu did yesterday.
The fact that the Congress rose to its feet multiple times to applaud him says more about the ignorance of its members than the quality of their guest's speech. An Israeli presence on the Jordan River - cheering. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel - applause. Did American's elected representatives know that they were cheering for the death of possibility? If America loved it, we're in big trouble.
Meanwhile a day after Netanyahu's speech offering "painful concesssions" for peace, ground was broken for new Jewish housing in East Jerusalem. “The Israeli government is implementing its vision for the destruction of a two-state solution presented by Prime Minister Netanyahu to the American Congress,” said Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Ereka. “This settlement is not only another obstacle to returning to negotiations, but it also raises tensions, institutionalizes discrimination, and brings those with extremist beliefs in close proximity to Palestinian residential areas.”