The U.S. Congress Cheers Netanyahu’s Claim That Israel Does Not Occupy The West Bank

Today, during his speech to a joint meeting of Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated himself for “publicly” committing Israel to the creation of a Palestinian state (with caveats) two years ago. He said it wasn’t easy, because it required giving up Jewish lands in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), which he claimed is not currently under occupation:

Two years ago, I publicly committed to a solution of two states for two peoples: A Palestinian state alongside a Jewish state.

I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace. As the leader of Israel, it is my responsibility to lead my people to peace. Now, this is not easy for me. It’s not easy because I recognize that in a genuine peace, we will be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland. You have to understand this, in Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers.

The West Bank is indeed under Israeli occupation. In fact, the West Bank is considered occupied territory under international law, something even former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon acknowledged in 2003. “You cannot like the word, but what is happening is an occupation — to hold 3.5 million Palestinians under occupation. I believe that is a terrible thing for Israel and for the Palestinians,” he said. And as Media Matters recently noted, even President Bush considers the West Bank to be under Israeli occupation. Yet, seconds after Netanyahu said “the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers” of the West Bank, the U.S. Congress erupted with a rousing standing ovation. Watch it:

“Virtually the entire US Congress is reflexively applauding everything a foreign leader says — no matter how controversial,” one observer on Twitter noted. Indeed, Herb Keinon at the Jerusalem Post noticed a similar trend during Netanyau’s speech:

Netanyahu could only dream of such a reception in Israel. Even his wife, Sarah, received a standing ovation when she entered the hall. The prime minister was applauded some 30 times, many of those accompanied by standing ovations.

It’s one thing for members of Congress to applaud foreign leaders, but it’s entirely another when they praise statements that are not based in fact, U.S. foreign policy or international law.

Cross-posted at the Wonk Room.