WASHINGTON (AP) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the U.S. Congress on Tuesday that he was willing to make "painful compromises" for peace with the Palestinians, for the first time explicitly saying some West Bank settlements would find themselves outside Israel's final borders.
But he tacked on a list of oft-stated conditions that have been unacceptable to the Palestinians. A senior Palestinian official immediately rejected Netanyahu's peace outline as a "declaration of war."
Speaking before a warmly receptive joint meeting of Congress that showered him with more than two dozen sustained standing ovations, Netanyahu said Israel wants and needs peace but repeated his flat rejection of a return to what he called the "indefensible" borders that Israel had before the 1967 Mideast war.
He also restated Israel's refusal to repatriate millions of Palestinian refugees and their families to homes in Israel that they lost in fighting over the Jewish state's 1948 creation.
Netanyahu maintained anew that contested Jerusalem could not be shared with the Palestinians, who want the eastern sector of the holy city as capital of their hoped-for state. And he insisted that Israel maintain a long-term military presence on what would be the eastern border of a Palestinian state.
"Israel will never give up its quest for peace," Netanyahu said, adding that he is "willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace."
But he that said Israel would not negotiate with terrorists and urged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to rip up a power-sharing agreement that his moderate Fatah faction has signed with the militant group Hamas, which does not recognize Israel's right to exist.