Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was tellingly noncommittal Tuesday about
whether he thought the US administration was intentionally leaking information
about a possible Israeli attack on Iran in order to torpedo it.
press conference called to mark three years of his government, Netanyahu – when
asked about the leaks – said that US President Barack Obama spoke correctly last
month at the AIPAC policy conference when he said there was a need to reduce
statements about Iran.
“I am personally acting in this manner, and hope
others are doing the same,” he said.
Pressed whether he thought they
were, Netanyahu said only, “I hope that they are.”
follow a report last week in the US magazine Foreign Policy claiming that Israel
had secured the use of air bases in Azerbaijan, which neighbors Iran, for a
possible attack. That was only one of a number of high-profile reports over the
last couple of weeks quoting senior US officials that discussed a possible
Even though the press conference, one of only a handful
Netanyahu has called since taking office, dealt primarily with economic, social
and political issues, he did discuss the Islamic Republic.
Iran, he said,
was facing serious economic difficulties as a result of recently imposed
sanctions, including sanctions of the SWIFT system that limits the country’s
ability to receive bank transfers from abroad. At the same time, he said, “it
has yet to move backward, even a millimeter, in its nuclear
“Will these difficulties bring the government in Tehran to stop
its nuclear program? Time will tell,” he said. “I cannot say to you that this
will happen. I know there are difficulties, but there has yet to be a
Culling from the Passover Haggada, which states that in every
generation there are those who rise up to destroy the Jewish people, Netanyahu
said that the difference was that now – as opposed to 70 years ago – the Jewish
people had the ability to defend itself.
The prime minister, in an upbeat
mood at the press conference during which he ticked off what he said were the
government’s achievements, said he had no intention of calling new elections,
but was not afraid of them if they were forced upon him.
In an apparent
dig at new Kadima head Shaul Mofaz, whom he said he respected along with Labor
leader Shelly Yacimovich, Netanyahu said that the nation needed a leader “able
to act well on the international arena, since we do not live in an isolated
Known for a rather professorial manner in private meetings,
Netanyahu drew a tree on a computerized sketch board that only worked for a
short time during the press conference. He said that the tree was flourishing
even amid the twin storms buffeting the world and the region: the international
economic crisis and the revolutions in the Arab world.
The tree was able
to weather the storms because it had deep roots – the country’s connection to
Judaism and Zionism, and defense, he said, adding that his government had
deepened those roots.
He drew the trunk of the tree and called it the
economy, which he said was flourishing under his helm, and that as a result it
bore fruits, which he also drew.
The prime minister enumerated the four
threats that he thought Israel faced: the nuclear threat, the missile threat,
the cyber threat and the threat of porous borders.
On each of these
issues, he said that the government was taking action and that it had succeeded
to put Iran atop the world’s international agenda.
Netanyahu, accused by
critics of calling the press conference to highlight the economy because he was
concerned about the likelihood of another round of social protests in the
summer, said, “The problems last summer were real, and I am attentive to
He said he was not worried about the likelihood of more social
protests this summer.
In advance of the press conference, the Prime
Minister’s Office put out a pamphlet highlighting the government’s
Among the figures: the economy grew some 4.7 percent, well
under the 9.5% growth in China, but way ahead of the 0.7% growth in Spain, 1.1%
in Britain, 1.5% in the US and 2.7% in Germany.
Unemployment in Israel
dropped to 5.4% in 2011, with an additional 237,000 jobs added between
2009-2011. By contrast, the average unemployment rate of EU countries was 9.7%
and the unemployment rate in the US was 9%.
The tax rate on gas is 48%,
compared to a 56% tax rate both in Britain and France.
The price for a
kilowatt of electricity is NIS 58.96, comparable to the 2008 level of NIS
In addition to the press conference and material handed out, the
Prime Minister’s Office created an animated video on the government’s
achievements to mark its three year anniversary.
The press conference was
held in the new offices of the Government Press Office at the Malha
Technological Park in Jerusalem, and before speaking, Netanyahu affixed a mezuza
to the door of the press conference room.