Oscar-Caliber Performance

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Benjamin Netanyahu wowed Congress Wednesday in a speech to both Houses that showed the Israeli Prime Minister to be on the same economic page as House Republicans. "It was an Oscar-caliber performance," says TIME's Eric Silver. "He played his audience beautifully." Taking his cue from both Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton, Netanyahu said that he would end the era of big government in Israel. Pursuing free market policies, Netanyahu said, would steer Israel towards true economic independence and allow it to be weaned off the $3 billion in annual U.S. assistance. Netanyahu's impassioned speech also touched on the issues of peace with security, his readiness to negotiate with Palestinians and the fact that Israel has no quarrel with any of its Arab neighbors that cannot be solved amicably. But Silver notes that his omissions say more than the rhetoric: "He didn't mention the Oslo peace agreement, he set no time for redeploying troops from Hebron or meeting with Arafat. Unlike his predecessor, he still speaks of Arafat as a terrorist and shows visible repugnance at the prospect of meeting him." Netanyahu also insisted that peace negotiations cannot proceed as long as terrorist attacks continue, saying that one of the pillars of peace is reciprocity. "But the Palestinians have kept their side of that bargain," says Silver. "Even Netanyahu has to admit that the Palestinians has been cooperating very effectively with Israel on security matters." For a Congress that has passed legislation mandating that the U.S. move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the highlight of the speech came when Netanyahu declared forcefully that Jerusalem will never again be divided. In an effort to encourage Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the Clinton administration has said that the status of Jerusalem should be settled in negotiations. -->