Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon greets US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in Tel Aviv, May 15.
(photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI / DEFENSE MINISTRY)
Israel’s two-fold answer to the Palestinians commemoration of Nakba Day is to continue building and developing the country, including Jerusalem, and to pass a basic law defining Israel as the nation-state of the Jews, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.
Netanyahu’s comments came soon after returning from a four-day visit to Japan, while he was touring a sports complex under construction in Jerusalem.
“Not far from here, in the Palestinian Authority, they are commemorating what they call the Nakba Day,” the prime minister said. “They are standing silent to mark the tragedy of the establishment of Israel, the state of the Jewish people.”
Palestinians were educating their children with “endless propaganda” calling for the disappearance of Israel, Netanyahu said.
“We have many answers to that,” he said. “The first is that we continue to build our country, and our united capital of Jerusalem. And we will also give an additional answer to ‘The Nakba’ – we will pass the Nationality Law that demonstrates clearly to the world that Israel is the state of the Jewish people.”
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, chairman of Bayit Yehudi, spoke out against expressions of Palestinian nationalism within Israel, saying, “We need not tolerate Israeli Arabs who promote Nakba Day.”
Nakba Day, which was held on Thursday, is an annual commemoration when Palestinians lament the establishment of the Jewish state.
“I do not support any event or organization which promotes the establishment of a national Palestinian agenda in Israel,” Army Radio quoted Bennett as saying. “This will not be tolerated.”
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon in Tel Aviv on Thursday, where the two discussed bilateral defense ties and held a press conference.
During the conference, Hagel said he was unaware of any truth to a Newsweek report that claimed Israel has been spying on the United States.
The report cited unnamed American officials as accusing Israel of conducting major spying operations against its ally.
“I have heard of that report. I’m not aware of any facts that would substantiate the report,” Hagel said.
Ya’alon also addressed the issue, saying, “As former head of [Military] Intelligence, I wasn’t allowed to spy in the United States whatsoever. And as defense minister I don’t allow [anyone] to spy in the United States whatsoever.”
Israeli officials have dismissed the report vehemently in recent days, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman calling it a “malicious calumny.”
Ya’alon described his visitor as a “great friend” of Israel.
“In word and deed, you’ve already made clear that the security of Israel is a top priority for you. I am particularly glad that this policy continues the tradition of close relations between our governments and ministries. So first, on behalf of the People of Israel, the State of Israel, and myself personally – I would like to say thank you,” he told Hagel.
“Israel enjoys generous American aid, which, among other things, goes to the purchase of cutting-edge US military equipment, like the future fighter jet – F-35 – and other advanced technologies. We are also extremely grateful for the steadfast US support to vital programs to Israel’s security, such as the Iron Dome [air-defense] system,” the defense minister said.
Ya’alon said Hagel would meet American and Israeli servicemen taking part in a joint exercise, citing it as “yet another example of our excellent security cooperation.
“We work closely together, sharing knowledge, technological know-how and intelligence. But beyond that, our countries share fully the most basic values of democracy, freedom and liberty,” Ya’alon said. “Let me stress again, the US contribution to the security of Israel is highly appreciated and unique.”