Presidential candidate Binyamin Ben-Eliezer revealed strong opinions against American policies in the Middle East in a briefing he provided to leading members of the foreign press corps at the Knesset on Monday morning.
Ben-Eliezer held the briefing in order to introduce himself to the international community ahead of the election that will be held in May or June. At the briefing, he made clear that he would not follow the lead of President Shimon Peres, who has had nothing but praise for the Middle East policies of US President Barack Obama’s administration.
“I hope the Americans returns to their role and reach out to the moderate countries in the Middle East, who cannot live without the umbrella of a superpower behind them,” he said. “I am worried, I hope that America will understand that returning to the area is a must in order to guarantee its strategic values in the region.”
Ben-Eliezer also spoke strongly against European boycotts of Judea and Samaria, where he served as military governor and coordinator of government activities in the territories.
“I hate boycotts,” he said. “If boycotts would help the situation maybe they would be good, but it is exactly the opposite. Europe, after what happened there decades ago, should be more sensitive.”
Ben-Eliezer boasted of strong connections in the Arab world that he said could help Israel with the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.
He said he had met most of the current leaders of the Arab world and spoke about his close ties with former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
When asked if he had met presumptive future Egyptian president Abel Fattah Sisi, he said they only met once in 2002 when Sisi was one of 10 generals who accompanied Egyptian army chief Muhammad Hussein Tantawi to a meeting with him.
Ben-Eliezer told the press about his background, coming from Iraq without his parents at age 12 and his decades of service in the army and the government. He said that then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin sent him to Tunis in 1993 to meet with future Palestinian Authority chairmen Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas.
“I am the most experienced MK in the parliament, so I am the most fit to become president and serve the nation in the ways I best can,” Ben- Eliezer said. “I can bring unity to the people. I come from the people. For me the most important thing is to unify the people.”
He said he decided to run after he came to the conclusion that he was supported by Knesset members in all the parties.
“I have met with 118 MKs at least three times,” he said. “I have no enemies. I am sleeping quite well.”