Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told some 300 Likud activists at a pre-Rosh Hashana toast at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds on Monday that they need not be concerned about his trip the next day to Washington to begin direct talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Netanyahu did not mention the 10-month settlement freeze that ends on September 26, which is very unpopular in the Likud.RELATED:
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The respectful audience did not heckle or boo him even when he spoke openly about forthcoming diplomatic concessions.
“I know there are [Likud] members who are worried,” the prime minister
said. “I want to make clear to you that you don’t have to worry. No one
has to teach me and my friends about love for the Land of Israel or
about the connection between vision and diplomatic realities and between
a warm heart that loves the homeland and the realization that we are in
a complicated situation.”
Netanyahu promised the Likudniks that he would be careful and
responsible and insist on security guarantees to ensure that Israel
would not receive hundreds of rockets in return for a withdrawal as
happened with the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon.
“We won’t be satisfied with papers and promises,” he said. “We want real
peace agreements that guarantee the security of Israel and the benefits
of peace and prosperity for Israel and its neighbors and if possible
for the rest of the Arab world.”
Netanyahu recalled that it was a Likud government under Menachem Begin
that made peace with Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. He challenged Abbas
to follow in Sadat’s footsteps in bringing about real peace.
“I am not naïve,” the prime minister said.
“I know that there are two sides. I want to give this time and
resources. I hope to find a courageous partner as Begin found in Sadat.”
Likud MK Danny Danon said following the speech that Netanyahu did not
succeed in reassuring him. He said that when Netanyahu scolded the crowd
for thinking they could teach him about love for the Land of Israel, he
sounded too much like former prime minister Ariel Sharon before he
announced his Gaza Strip disengagement plan in 2005.
Naftali Bennett, director-general of the Council of Jewish Communities
of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, handed out calendars at the event
featuring pictures of Netanyahu visiting settlements and quotes from him
and his ministers about ending the freeze on time.
Bennett sent Likud central committee members messages as the event
started with quotes from a previous Netanyahu speech in which he vowed
that the freeze was temporary. He, like Danon, did not sound convinced
by Netanyahu’s Monday speech.
“When we are told by Netanyahu not to worry, we start worrying,” said Bennett, who is Netanyahu’s former chief of staff.
Half a dozen far-right activists led by Baruch Marzel demonstrated
outside the fairgrounds holding signs with slogans such as “If there is a
freeze, there won’t be a government,” which rhymes in Hebrew.
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