Wednesday, November 18, 2009

PM demands the opposition to behave in a "respectful" manner; Livni blames Netanyahu for 'delegitimization' of Israel

(Haaretz, Jpost).Opposition leader Tzipi Livni on Wednesday blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government for the "delegitimization" of Israel, amid continuing international criticism of the country's winter offensive in Gaza.

"Israel has been delegitimized, and its position has been eroded," Livni told the Knesset plenum. "[The government] has hurt Israel's ability to receive legitimacy for justified military operations."

Linvi further said that the time had come for the prime minister to make a decision on the stalled peace process with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu, who was present during the session, defended the activities of his government over the past eight months and demanded that the opposition behave in a "respectful" manner.

He spoke about his government's willingness to enter into peace talks with the Palestinians, despite their "attempts to avoid negotiations."

Netanyahu said that Israel faced two overarching goals - containing and stopping the Iranian nuclear threat, and achieving peace with the Palestinians.

"From day one, we refrained from setting preconditions," he said, adding that it was the Palestinian side that had put conditions in place for the resumption of talks.

Netanyahu placed the responsibility for the failure of both sides to come to the negotiating table squarely on the Palestinians.

"The question is what will happen on the Palestinian side - because while it is clear today that Israel wants to enter into negotiations, it is not known whether the Palestinians will enter them."

Netanyahu added, however, that he believed the answer was positive.

"We envision a final arrangement of peace in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes Israel. How should we advance that? Only one way - negotiations. From the very first day, we called for negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. We also took action on the ground: we took down hundreds of checkpoints and dirt barriers that blocked traffic in the West Bank," recalled Netanyahu. "But we still have not received any proof from them regarding their readiness to negotiate."

The prime minister stressed that Israel's economic growth was a basic strategic necessity,

"In order to present a solution in the coming decade to Israel's strategic problems, we need a lot of money. A lot, a lot of money. There is no way to fund Israel's existential security needs without consistent growth year after year," warned the prime minister.

"We are talking about dozens of billions, and I don't mean just in shekels," he added, explaining that growth of four to five percent per year would provide for Israel's security expenses.

The prime minister also emphasized that Israel's politicians must present a unified stance to the world.

"They need to see that Israel is ready for negotiations, wants to begin negotiations, and that the majority of MKs support the Palestinian expectation for negotiations," he said.