ABC News’ John R. Parkinson (@JRPabcDC) reports:
Following his address to the joint meeting of Congress today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the Congressional leadership for the invitation to come to the Capitol, and called the bipartisan quartet of leaders “steadfast friends” of Israel.
“I've known these friends of Israel a long time. They're true, steadfast friends,” Netanyahu told reporters of Sens. Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell and Reps. John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi and Eric Cantor. “I think you got that impression, I got that impression in the [House Chamber] where we've just come from, and I was delighted to see these anchors of the Israel-American alliance and the new faces that have been added. It's heartwarming.”
“We have a different feeling about the world, about our potential, about our defenses, when we have this solid American support from all parts of the American people. America supports us in our quest for peace; America helps our security; America wants a genuine peace; America opposes Hamas,” he added. “America joins us in demanding that Hamas's criminal organization release Gilad Shalit. Imagine, they're keeping our captive soldier in a dungeon for five years, and they're not letting the Red Cross visit him even once. America stands with us in our just demands to release our soldier; to stop terrorism; to have a real, durable and defensible peace. This is a great day for us.”
House Speaker John Boehner thanked Netanyahu for visiting and addressing Congress while remarking that he looked “forward to continuing to work together for peace, freedom and stability in the region.”
“We live in a time of instability in the Middle East and around the world, but the United States has no stronger ally than Israel. Our long-standing alliance is built on trust, and it's based on shared values of freedom and democracy,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “America has a critical leadership role to play in the Middle East, to advance freedom and democracy in the entire region. That is our historic and moral responsibility as a great and free nation, and we should never retreat from that role, and today we stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel and once again renew our historic partnership. The work of achieving a safe and secure Israel has never been easy, but the cause is right.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said it was “an honor…to join my colleagues in the leadership of the Congress to welcome you once again to the Capitol of the United States” and said that judging by the response to the prime minister’s speech, that Members on “both sides of the aisle, both sides of the Capitol believe that you advance the cause of peace.”
Reid and McConnell also both thanked Netanyahu for his speech, before Netanyahu singled out House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the lone Jewish House Republican.
“May I say that I was remiss in not mentioning an extraordinary friend of Israel and an extraordinary public servant, Eric Cantor,” Netanyahu said. “It's good to see you here, too, Eric, and thank you for that invitation.”
Cantor, R-Va., said the U.S. lawmakers all “heard today the tremendous challenges that the people of Israel face, the existential threat that they face, as do we, in the Middle East,” but noted that the speech amplified “the resounding bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel relationship remains strong and will continue.”
Netanyahu was then set to have dinner with the leaders, and later to meet with Jewish members of Congress before departing Washington Tuesday evening.