Jpost Election Arena: Steinitz warns of great danger if Netanyahu loses

Strategic Affairs Minister tells the 'Post' that Herzog and Livni will not be able to hinder the Iranian nuclear issue like Netanyahu can.

January 26, 2015 18:58
3 minute read.

JPost Election Arena: Steinitz warns of great danger if Netanyhau loses

JPost Election Arena: Steinitz warns of great danger if Netanyhau loses


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Israel will find itself facing terrorist rule in the West Bank if Labor-Hatnua, under the leadership of Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, gains power, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said Monday on the second episode of The Jerusalem Post’s Election Arena, an online video series featuring candidates in the March 17 election.

Asked if Israel would be destroyed if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not reelected, Steinitz said, “I think it might be dangerous – first, because if, unfortunately Buji [Herzog] and Tzipi are running the country, I don’t think they can hinder the Iranian nuclear issue like Netanyahu can.”

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The intelligence and strategic affairs minister expressed fear of Labor-Hatnua’s leadership on the Palestinian issue, as well, saying that if Herzog and Livni agree to withdraw from the West Bank immediately, in a few months time, or at most two years, “we will have al-Qaida, Hamas or ISIS sitting in immediate proximity to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and this will be final result of such an arrangement.”

Asked why Israelis should feel confident about Netanyahu’s ability to prevent the nuclearization of an Iran that has rapidly expanded its nuclear program during his tenure, Steinitz said that if it were not for Netanyahu, Iran might have developed nuclear weapons a long time ago.

He gave credit to the prime minister for Iran facing sanctions, which he said came about because Netanyahu persuaded Congress, the US administration, UN Security Council and international community.

The sanctions, he said, forced Iran to come sit at the negotiating table.

“Even if there are agreements we did not like, we managed to put some corrections, some remedies, such as the dismantling of the medium level of enriched uranium in Iran,” he said. “I can tell you we have some impact on the P5+1 countries, which made requests in the talks that would not have been there without Israeli involvement.”

Steinitz spoke amid headlines about Democratic senators who considered supporting further Iran sanctions backtracking following the controversy over Netanyahu’s planned speech to Congress on Iran two weeks before the election, because the speech was planned behind the back of the Obama administration. He said he still believed Netanyahu’s effort had not backfired.

“Netanyahu was careful not to make recommendations to senators or congressmen to convince them to vote for the bill,” he said. “Instead, he spoke generally about the Iranian threat and our concerns about developments in negotiations. I am confident that Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, which is maybe the most influential forum in the world, might create an impact not only on the US, but also on other members of the P5+1 and the international community that it is not enough to prevent Iran from gaining and developing nuclear weapons [but] that they should prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state and from being close to having nuclear weapons.”

Following negative coverage in Israeli media about the Washington trip and other developments with the prime minister, the Netanyahu asked Likud candidates to stand up to the press. Steinitz said he would agree with charges that the press in Israel was “out to get” the prime minister.

“The media was always more in favor of the Israeli left and the relations between [the] media and Netanyahu are not that good,” he said. “Except for one, Israel Hayom, all the newspapers don’t seem too enthusiastic to support Netanyahu.”

Steinitz defended his years as finance minister after Netanyahu blamed the current housing crisis on former prime minister Ehud Olmert. Steinitz put the blame on former finance minister Yair Lapid.

“We did a lot to try and fix the situation,” he said. “Unfortunately, Lapid made a lot of mistakes, including reducing number of new apartments that are under construction.

We must increase those numbers and handle the problem. We didn’t manage to resolve everything.”

In a series of yes or no questions asked to all the Election Arena interviewees, Steinitz said it was vital for Israel to have an Air Force One type plane for its prime minister and president.

Steinitz said Israel must find a way for gay couples to live together in the framework of a Jewish state but did not outright endorse gay marriage. He said public transportation on Shabbat should be up to municipalities.

Asked if Sundays should be a day off from work like in much of the world, he said no.

“This will be damaging to [the] economy,” he said. “We must be careful not to make mistakes.”

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