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Wednesday May 11, 2011 9:48 AM (EST+7)
Israel's Netanyahu to address US Congress on May 24

Read more: Benjamin Netanyahu, US Congress, Congress, parliament, peace process, negotiations, US policy, US foreign policy

WASHINGTON, May 10 (Matt Spetalnick/Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address the US Congress on May 24 on a Washington visit that will cap a US-led diplomatic flurry seeking to advance stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

Netanyahu will deliver his speech to lawmakers four days after White House talks with President Barack Obama, whose relationship with the Israeli leader has sometimes been strained.

Obama's attempts to broker a Middle East peace deal have yielded little since he took office but he has insisted there is an urgent need to seize the opportunity created by political upheaval in the broader Arab world.

John Boehner, Republican speaker of the US House of Representatives who extended the invitation to Netanyahu, announced on Tuesday that Netanyahu would address a joint meeting of both chambers of Congress.

Some Israeli news reports have suggested Netanyahu could float new ideas on restarting peace talks, which broke down late last year in a dispute over continued Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank.

But Netanyahu, who heads a right-leaning, pro-settler coalition, has stopped short of saying he would present new peace proposals.

America and Israel are the closest of friends and allies, Boehner said in a statement. We look forward to hearing the prime minister's views on how we can continue working together for peace, freedom and stability.

Netanyahu's visit comes against a backdrop of Middle East upheaval that has unsettled many Israelis. He has condemned a new reconciliation deal between the mainstream Palestinian Fatah faction and its rival, the Islamist Hamas movement, saying it undermines peace prospects.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on April 12 that the Obama administration planned a new push to promote comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace in coming weeks.

But it remained unclear how hard Obama was willing to push Netanyahu for concessions. That could risk alienating Israel's strong base of support among the US public and in Congress as well as the influential pro-Israel lobby in Washington as Obama seeks re-election in 2012.

Obama's launch of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks last year went nowhere and he is under pressure to forge a new initiative or face the prospect of the Palestinians seeking the UN General Assembly's blessing for a Palestinian state in September.

Obama will host Jordan's King Abdullah on May 17 just three days before meeting Netanyahu at the White House.

(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Bill Trott)






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