ABC's Jonathan Karl (@jonkarl) reports:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before a joint meeting of Congress had all trappings of a State of the Union address by a president with sky-high approval ratings.
Speaking to a packed House chamber with Speaker Boehner and Vice President Biden over his shoulders, Netanyahu was repeatedly interrupted by applause – including more than 20 standing ovations.
One of his biggest applause lines was aimed directly at President Obama.
“Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967,” Netanyahu said, prompting a big standing ovation.
Later he added: “Israel on the 1967 lines would be only 9 miles wide. So much for defensible borders.”
As Netanyahu himself pointed out, the President has not called on Israel to return to the exact 1967 borders. The President has said that a peace agreement should be “based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps."
Nevertheless, Netanyahu's speech – and the thunderous bi-partisan response – was a clear challenge to the idea of using the 1967 boundaries – with or without “swaps” — as a basis for a peace deal.
Netanyahu also got big ovations with hard-line statements on two other perennial sticking points to Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements: No right of return for Palestinian refugees, insisted, and “Jerusalem will never again be divided. Israel must remain the united Capital of Israel.”
Netanyahu arguably got an warmer reception than President Obama received during his last state of the union and certainly a warmer reception than he’d receive at the Knesset. When the speech was over, he lingered for a while at the podium as it seemed he didn’t want to leave.
*UPDATE: President Obama got 25 standing ovations from Congress during his 2011 State of the Union address. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got 29 today.