The borders of a Palestinian state cannot be drawn without assurances that it will not be a terrorist state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the opening of the Knesset’s winter session on Monday.
“Some people tell us, ‘Draw a map, outline a border with the Palestinian Authority and it will be okay.’ Okay? Okay like it was when we left Gaza and Lebanon? What is the point of drawing a border if we don’t know what country we will get on the other side?” Netanyahu asked.
He wondered if such a state would be a cohesive one, or perhaps it would be an “Islamic State Republic.”
“As prime minister, these questions concern me nonstop. I am not prepared to accept general statements about security. What will decide are not nice words on paper, but soldiers on the ground,” he said.
According to Netanyahu, there is no one who can defend Israel like IDF soldiers, and Israel cannot rely on anyone else, pointing to the fact that UN forces left Syria and that Hezbollah stockpiled weapons while UN observers were in south Lebanon.
The prime minister said that determination is necessary in the diplomatic field and that he would not allow those who want to “dictate conditions...for a Palestinian state without peace and without security, bringing in refugees and dividing Jerusalem. And after all of those crazy demands, they don’t agree to the most basic condition for negotiations between two nations – mutual recognition.
“A peace treaty will be possible with the following formula: A demilitarized Palestinian state that will recognize Israel. Experience shows us that if we give up on these demands and say ‘It’ll be okay,’ nothing will be okay,” he said.
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Netanyahu commended the citizens of Israel for their unity and strength during Operation Protective Edge.
“We destroyed many terrorist commanders. We struck Hamas hard. We will expose the lies and libels against the IDF, the most moral army in the world, which went to a war that was justified more than any other,” he said.
Netanyahu’s speech was peppered with interruptions from opposition MKs shouting about civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip, souring relations with the US and other issues.
Earlier, President Reuven Rivlin gave his first speech in the Knesset since being elected, in which he called for tolerant discourse in the legislature and beyond.
“We are meeting today after a difficult, painful and bloody summer,” he said. “During this long summer, we understood how to unite against an external enemy.
But, this summer, we sadly dedicated too much time to finding enemies from within.”
Rivlin read some of the comments written to him on social media, including: “You lying Jew,” “Damn your name, you agent of the Arabs,” and, “Traitor, president of Hezbollah.”
The president expressed horror at the “severe bullying and intimidation that has contaminated debate,” and said it is not limited to social media – MKs use these tactics as well.
Rivlin called for lawmakers to hold on to their “ability to speak together with respect” and “the words and values that were for us a common language.”
“How have we reached the point where simple statements about our lives here, words reflecting opinions and values that were until recently our common ground, warrant such reactions? How can it be, that expressions of our core values, as a Jewish, democratic state, democratic and Jewish, are seized upon by some as heroic and others as treason? the president asked.
“When I say ‘the Land of Israel,’ am I addressing just one side of this House? When I say ‘equality,’ does the other half begin to listen? If concepts such as equality, consideration, human dignity, or instead, Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, or love of the Land of Israel, are allowed to become a politically infected, where would we be?” he asked.
Rivlin recounted how, when the decision to withdraw from Gaza was approved by the Knesset in 2005, Meretz MK Haim Oron hugged National Union MK Zvi Hendel, who lived in Gush Katif in the Strip, even though they had opposing views on the issue. The president told MKs to learn from their example.
“I wished in the past, and I’m still hoping, that this embrace will impact the Knesset here for many years to come... It was a hug between two true Zionist believers, which didn’t purport to diminish the burning dispute between them,” he said.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein also encouraged MKs to watch their tone.
“Sharp debate is a major part of our democratic culture and our Knesset, and roughness is a sign of being Israeli, and that’s fine. I don’t expect to change that,” he said.
Still, he asked lawmakers to “blunt the sting in debates between the poles in our society, Arabs and Jews, haredim and secular people, so we can have a serious debate that is no less important and interesting. Thus, we will increase the public’s trust in this House and bring great respect to the Knesset, to us and our voters.”
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) focused much of his speech on the draft 2015 state budget, which will be debated during the winter session.
“If, God forbid, this scandalous budget is accepted, every citizen of Israel will be poorer, thanks to one person, Benjamin Netanyahu, who with his ambition to stay in power and lack of national responsibility brewed this shameful budget,” he said.
Herzog posited that Netanyahu will pay a political price for the budget and lose his seat as prime minister.
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