Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Globes Conference, December 19, 2018.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
The only way that Israel can ensure its military might is through a powerful, free market economy, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.
“It is impossible to maintain the very foundation of our existence without economic power that requires a free market,” Netanyahu told the Globes Business Conference.
While recognizing the significant contribution of American aid to finance Israel’s security needs, Netanyahu emphasized that Israel is responsible for generating 88% of the vast security budget that funds the IDF, Mossad and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
“That is why we have implemented 50 to 60 major reforms that have boosted the GDP and given us the tools to make progress,” Netanyahu said, adding that the combination of Israel’s military, technological and economic power has resulted in unprecedented political prosperity.
“Only the strong survive, and with strength you make alliances and make peace,” Netanyahu said. “The strong maintain peace, and we are ensuring that Israel will be very strong indeed.”
Netanyahu said that he had discussed the recent imposition of American sanctions against Iran with US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier this week, stating that Israel had been striking Iran in Syria, and the US had been striking Iran economically, in order to shrink the body responsible for most of Israel’s security problems.
“The IDF is the only army fighting the Iranians in the world and, so far, we have had significant success,” said Netanyahu.
“We are fighting the branches of Iran, and its offshoot Hezbollah. We are exposing its tunnels and systematically depriving them of all their tunnels, just as we are doing to Hamas in the South by various means.”
Since launching Operation Northern Shield two weeks ago, the IDF has already exposed four Hezbollah attack tunnels. The operation is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.
“We are denying them precise weaponry by various means. They planned to have thousands of precise missiles, but they have a few dozen at most.”
Netanyahu also said Israel has uncovered several Iranian-backed terror plots in Europe recently, and thwarted 40 major terror attacks worldwide. “The whole world needs this,” said Netanyahu, “and therefore the whole world is coming to us.”
Turning to Israel’s international relations, Netanyahu said that the process of normalization with Arab states is expanding.
No longer conditional on a peace agreement with the Palestinians, Netanyahu said both Israel and Arab states are now actively seeking to make peace.
Taking the stage immediately after Netanyahu, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid launched stinging criticism of the prime minister, accusing him of sabotaging his work while finance minister after being quizzed over their frosty relationship.
“I get along well with most people, provided they’re human beings,” said Lapid. “For almost two years as finance minister, he sabotaged my work from morning until night. He criticized me for his failures.”
Lapid argued the reason that current finance minister Moshe Kahlon has a positive relationship with Netanyahu is because Kahlon, unlike him, does not pose a political threat.
“It wasn’t a coincidence that my layoff came when the economic figures started to move in a positive direction,” said Lapid.
“Then they suddenly said, he is doing something right, it’s starting to work.”
Lapid said that he was proud of his time at the Finance Ministry, particularly regarding the implementation of the Open Skies agreement that has boosted airline traffic to and from the European Union.
The Yesh Atid leader also downplayed Netanyahu’s economic achievements, stating that advocating for the free market means minimal governmental intervention.
“[Netanyahu] spoke enthusiastically about innovation, but his government cuts NIS 300 million every year from the Innovation Authority’s budget,” said Lapid.
“And besides, taking credit for Mobileye and Israeli hi-tech? If there is anything this audience knows, it’s that the success of the Israeli economy is where the government does not intervene. You cannot talk about a free market, and then request credit for its success,” he added.
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