Netanyahu: Jerusalem is Not a 'Settlement'

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WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration's recent criticism of Israel has led some to suggest that the special bond between the U.S. and Israel is in jeopardy.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Tuesday that that's not the case. Netanyahu is in Washington, D.C. this week to rally American support for the Jewish state.

Obama administration officials have called the Israeli government's decision to build new homes in Jerusalem an obstacle to peace. However, Netanyahu says Palestinian extremism is the real problem -- and that his people are simply following in the footsteps of their forefathers.

Jerusalem Israel's Capital

"The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today," he said. "Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital."

That statement drew a standing ovation from the 7,500 pro-Israel activists gathered in Washington for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's policy conference. They were joined by hundreds of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.

The bipartisan show of support comes as the Obama administration applies unprecedented pressure on Netanyahu's government over the development of Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem.

Netanyahu -- who meets with the president and other U.S officials on Tuesday -- is standing firm.

"Everyone knows that these neighborhoods will be part of Israel in any peace settlement," he explained.

Focusing on Iran

Netanyahu offered to engage in direct negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and called on the Palestinians to recognize Israel's right to exist.

He wants Obama and the world to shift their immediate focus from the Palestinian issue to Iran, saying the Iranian regime's drive for nuclear weapons threatens Israel's survival.

"Israel expects the international community to act swiftly and decisively to thwart this danger. But we always reserve the right of self-defense," he said.

Netanyahu's strong speech was very well received by the AIPAC audience. But his real test will come Tuesday when he meets with Obama at the White House.

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Erick Stakelbeck

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Erick Stakelbeck is a sought after authority on terrorism and national security issues with extensive experience in television, radio, and print media. Stakelbeck is a correspondent and terrorism analyst for CBN News.  Follow Erick on Twitter @Staks33.