Israel’s best defense against regional uncertainty is to maintain internal strength, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Knesset on Wednesday.

Opposition parties forced Netanyahu to address the Knesset by submitting a petition with the signatures of 40 MKs, providing a platform for the premier to offer his analysis of regional conditions.

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“We are in a period of transition, with instability that could continue for many more years. We hope that the Arab world – and Iran – will transition to real democracy, but we need to prepare ourselves for every possible outcome,” the prime minister warned.

He added that “we do not know what will happen to our west, and we do not know what will happen to our east. And who will determine for us that the Palestinian state being discussed will last?” Netanyahu emphasized that alliances in the Middle East were historically unstable, but called for existing peace agreements to be maintained, even in light of regional upheaval.

“Just as the relationships of de facto peace that we had with one state, Iran, evaporated in an instant; just as more officially based relationships that included even joint military exercises and 400,000 tourists dissolved overnight when the Turkish prime minister attacked our President Peres in Davos – we want to be certain today that the peace agreements with Egypt and with Jordan will remain and be stable,” he said.

Netanyahu also ridiculed those who had accused him of fear-mongering when, in the debates ahead of the 2005 pullout from the Gaza Strip, he warned that Iran would strengthen Hamas, that Hamas would take over and that rockets would be fired on Israel’s South.

“You must recognize reality. This reality requires us to recognize that this region is very unstable, and the only thing that stands behind us is our strength, our unity and our determination to defend ourselves,” he declared.

In a response that largely focused on domestic topics, opposition leader Tzipi Livni also attacked the government’s response to recent events in the Middle East.

“When the world changes, a responsible prime minister should have worked with the free world, to analyze together the events that are under way here,” Livni said. “But our prime minister works against the world.”

She declared that “when Iranian ships reach the Mediterranean, this is the time when a responsible prime minister who is accepted by the world, who is listened to, who is believed, could have worked with the free world instead of concentrating on an American veto. Instead of sitting with us and thinking about how we confront the Iranian threat, Britain, France and Germany are dealing with the settlements.”

Speaking before Netanyahu, Hadash Chairman Muhammad Barakei anticipated the prime minister’s comments and accused him of “sending open and hinted threats regarding the revolutions in the Arab world and regarding the Palestinian Authority and Iran.

“This man,” he continued, “is a dangerous pyromaniac who must be stopped from within Israeli politics and in the international arena.”

The real fireworks, however, occurred when Likud MK Ophir Akunis, also speaking before Netanyahu, defended the coalition by calling Kadima a “corrupt party.”

In response, Kadima MK Ronnie Bar-On stormed toward the speaker’s podium and refused to return to his seat, even when told to do so by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin.

Both Bar-On and fellow Kadima MK Yoel Hasson were ejected from the plenum by ushers. Bar-On was permitted to return later in the hearing, at which point he returned fire by accusing Likud of backing a “rapist president.”

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