Monday, October 12, 2009

Netanyahu at Knesset opening session: Our right to self defense is under assault; says 'Ready to work hard for peace'

(Jpost). "The right for a Jewish state and the right to self defense are two of the basic principles of our people. These two elements are interwoven: Without a state of our own we cannot defend ourselves and without the right to self defense, we cannot run our own country," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the opening of the Knesset's winter session on Monday.

The prime minister was referring to the recently published Goldstone Commission report on Israel's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza last winter. "These basic rights are under continuous assault, gaining momentum since the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead. We must repel this onslaught," Netanyahu said.

"We never claimed the rules of war do not apply to us," at which point Balad MK Jamal Zahalka began heckling him. Zahalka only calmed down after he was threatened with expulsion from the plenum by Knesset Chairman Reuven Rivlin.

Netanyahu said in response to the Arab MK's calls, "At the UN the Israeli prime minister was received with more politeness than by some of the Knesset members." MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) called out, "Don't educate us."

Netanyahu defended his predecessor former prime minister Ehud Olmert, as well as opposition leader and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni over their decision to send IDF troops to the battlefield in Gaza. "Israel will not allow its leaders to be prosecuted at The Hague. We reject this absurd state of affairs."

The prime minister went on to talk about the peace process, mentioned his Bar-Ilan speech, and stressed that "we are willing to work hard for peace," adding that he expects the same willingness from the Palestinian Authority.

Netanyahu called on heads of the Palestinian Authority to tell their people the truth. "Without recognizing the State of Israel as the Jews' state we won't be able to reach peace. This is also the time for leaders of the region's Arab countries to tell their people the truth, that the State of Israel is not Islam's enemy."

He reiterated his call to the Palestinians to launch immediate peace negotiations. "I have already said that I am not setting any preconditions for peace talks with the Palestinians. We are working so that our joint efforts with US President Obama's administration will lead to their swift resumption.

Despite the lack of cooperation on the Palestinian side, Netanyahu stressed, "We must not lose hope. We seek peace in a sober, realistic way, in a way which is not detached from reality, but connected to reality.

As expected, Netanyahu said that the top priority in terms of security was the Iranian nuclear threat. "In the past few months, the real face of Iranian tyranny is being revealed: A regime supporting terror and building hidden facilities for the production of nuclear weapons. President Obama recently reiterated his commitment to prevent Iran from obtaining such a weapon."

He also mentioned a series of other issues on the agenda, including strengthening the economy, improving education and the war on violence. "We must return security to our streets now, and reduce the differences between the periphery and center now," he said.

The prime minister concluded by saying, "There is one thing which helps us deal with the challenges successfully: The recognition of the State of Israel as the only home of our people, the Jewish people. The Jews have no other state, and we seek no other state. With God's help, we will work to bring security, prosperity and peace to Israel. With God's help, this is how it will be forever. Shana Tova."