Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Speaks to Christians in Nazareth.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed solidarity with Middle East Christians while speaking at the Forum for Drafting Christians into the IDF in Nazareth on Sunday.
Deputy Minister Ofir Akunis, Mayor of Nazareth, Ali Sala and prominent Israeli Priest Father Gabriel Naddaf were present at the event in Nazareth to mark both the New Year and Christmas.
In his speech Netanyahu condemned the now “rising tide of Islamic fanaticism and extremism,” stating that Christians, both in Israel and the Middle East, are suffering because of it. The prime minister commiserated with Christians in the Middle East who are facing persecution by extremist groups, such as Islamic State.
“The shrinkage and disappearance of entire Christian communities, communities that were there thousands of years, since the birth of Christianity, entire communities that are deleted in one fell swoop, brutally, savagely,” Netanyahu said. “They are expelled, they are persecuted. Sometimes those who manage to escape - their fate fortunate that they at least live, and others suffer from a terrible fate.”
According to Netanyahu, Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Christians have not fallen. He estimates that the Israeli Christian population has quadrupled since the state's establishment in 1948.
“I promise we will support you and we will act harshly against anyone who will harass you, and that Israel is a nation of laws,” Netanyahu said to the Christian audience. “We will not accept any attempt to violate the law. We will exploit to justice all those rioters and agitators, and we could not be the State of Israel as an island of religious tolerance.”
Netanyahu also spoke of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, condemning Hamas as well as European countries who are making symbolic motions to recognize the Palestinian state. He went on to stress the importance of the strong Israel Defense Forces, and praised those Christians who voluntarily join the IDF every year.
Under the leadership of Father Naddaf the average number of Christians enlisting in the IDF has increased from 30 to 150 persons per year. A strong advocate of national service, he has also said that Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Christians are free from religious persecution.
“We are brothers, partners - we Christians and Jews and Druse and Muslims defending the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said. Adding that “Our country is founded on the idea of a Jewish and democratic state, and in this country, relations between Jews and non-Jews should be in harmony, based on mutual respect, based on equal rights, and the most important thought is also equal obligations, that's what's reflected here.”
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