Analysis: A speech more about diplomacy than terror

Netanyahu stresses that in the battle against the threats from Iran and Islamic extremists, Israel on "front with Egypt and Jordan, and with many other Arab nations in the region.”

October 13, 2015 06:45
3 minute read.

Netanyahu: Terrorism comes from a desire to annihilate us, not from Palestinian frustration

Netanyahu: Terrorism comes from a desire to annihilate us, not from Palestinian frustration

It was obvious from the start that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at the opening of the winter Knesset session would focus on the terrorism raging on the streets.

Netanyahu spoke of the 16 Border Police companies that have been mobilized to deal with the violence, he talked of the stiffer penalties his government approved for those arrested throwing rocks, firebombs and firecrackers.

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He stressed once again that Israel had no intention of altering the status quo on the Temple Mount.

Those arguing to the contrary, like the Islamic Movement in Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, were engaging in wild and deceitful incitement, he said.

This was the same type of incitement, Netanyahu added, that propelled the masses to violence against Jews in the 1920s when his grandfather came to the country, and Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini spread the libel that the Jews were threatening the Aksa Mosque. Nearly a century later, he bewailed, and the big lie still lives.

There was nothing new in what the prime minister said about the violence. He had made similar comments at Sunday’s cabinet meeting and at last Thursday’s press conference and at various photo opportunities, statements and communiques in recent weeks.

If there were any nuggets of news in his Knesset speech they had nothing to do with the terrorism, but rather with the lightning trip he made to Russia just before Yom Kippur, and just prior to the Russian offensive in Syria. Netanyahu said after that meeting that Jerusalem and Moscow agreed to the establishment of a “mechanism” to prevent an accidental confrontation over Syrian skies.

He spelled out a bit more in the Knesset what the Moscow visit was about.

In addition to building fences to close off Israel’s borders, to prevent infiltration by either terrorists or illegal migrants, the leader enunciated clearly an element of the country’s strategic policy: “We will prevent the establishment of terrorism bases near our borders.”

“Those who endanger our security and threaten our sovereignty will pay a price,” Netanyahu said, revealing that “I emphasized that to President [Vladimir] Putin during our meeting in Russia.”

Netanyahu said he clarified to the Russian leader, now militarily engaged in the region, that “Israel will attack all those who attack it. We will not let Iran transfer lethal weaponry to Hezbollah through Syria – or at least we will do whatever we can to thwart that – and we will not let Iran open an additional terrorist front against us on the Golan.”

Netanyahu also stressed during the speech – though still without giving names – that in the battle against the threats from Iran and Islamic extremists, Israel was on “one front with Egypt and Jordan, and with many other Arab nations in the region.”

The last phrase – “with many other Arab nations in the region” – he enunciated slowly, and then added: “I am choosing my words carefully.”

Another diplomatic message came across when he said Israel reserved the right to act against all those who threaten to destroy it. In a clear reference to the recent accord between the world powers and Iran, he declared: “No international treaty will tie our hands.”

And, after postponing his conversation with US President Barack Obama about what Israel’s security needs will be in the light of the Iran agreement, he told the Knesset that the time to have that conversation has now arrived.

Despite deep disagreement with Obama over the Iran deal, Netanyahu said the two of them were in “full agreement” about the need to oppose Iran’s aggression, and to prevent the country from transferring weapons to its terrorist proxies.

“Both supporters and opponents of the agreement in the US believe across the board that Israel must be strengthened to face the threats I have described, and others,” he said.

“In the upcoming meeting [with Obama in Washington in November] I will discuss with the president Israel’s security needs for the coming years and the coming decade.”

Netanyahu may have not broken any new ground in the speech regarding the terrorism wave, but he spelled out five key strategic and diplomatic points: Israel will go on the offensive to keep Iran from setting up terrorist bases on its border; Jerusalem is coordinated with Moscow on this matter; security coordination is taking place between Israel and a number of its Arab neighbors; the Iran nuclear deal will not prevent Israeli action of some sort against Iran if it deems it necessary; and the time for that conversation with Obama over “compensation” to Israel over the Iran deal has arrived.

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