Netanyahu at Western Wall.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Clarifying comments about Arab voters made during election campaigning, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his comments must be taken in context.
Netanyahu, during a Friday interview on the Fox News channel, was asked by host Megyn Kelly if he regretted comments he made on election day about Arab-Israelis turning out to vote against him "in droves," the Israeli premier said his words "should be taken in a larger context."
"I warned of foreign money coming in to selectively try and bring out supporters of a list that includes Islamists and other factions that oppose the State of Israel," he said, referring to the Joint Arab list, which on March 17 became the third largest party in the Knesset.
Regarding comments he made in a 2009 speech at Bar Ilan University endorsing a two-state solution, Netanyahu charged that the conditions for a "solution in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes a Jewish state" have changed.
The four-time prime minister of Israel said he did not retract comments, adding that "the conditions for that, today, are not achievable" for a simple reason.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' rejection of a Jewish state, his alliance with the Gaza-based Hamas organization, and the volatility in the region have changed "the terms" for an agreement, Netanyahu told Kelly, host of "The Kelly File" on Fox.
"We have to change the terms" for lasting peace, he said, since the conditions today are that any land ceded by Israel is "immediately taken up by Iranian-backed terrorists or by ISIS. This reality could mean that rather than achieving a two-state solution, Israel could be faced with a "no-state solution - a solution that would threaten the survival of Israel."
Netanyahu also spoke out against the nuclear deal US President Barack Obama is negotiating with Iran, calling for "a better deal, a different deal" which would not "allow Iran to break out to a bomb very quickly."
For Netanyahu, a good deal with Iran, which he called "a practitioner of terrorism," would be either zero or "a symbolic number of centrifuges." Only once there is evidence of "a change in behavior" by Tehran, could sanctions be eased. "Don't take the foot off the break," he cautioned, "keep on pressing."
The current deal, Netanyahu warned, gives the Islamic Republic "an easy path to the bomb, not by violating the deal, but by keeping it."
Netanyahu, who on Tuesday won his fourth term in office, said he was proud of his policy "to be the prime minister of all of Israelis, Arabs and Jews alike." This "sacrosanct" right, he said, singled out Israel from the rest of the Middle East, making it "the one country where Arabs can vote freely in free and fair elections."
Two days after his re-election, the Likud leader said he saw the elections as a clear mandate from the Israeli people - "to lead the country in a responsible way in a dangerous Middle East."
"It is my responsibility to ensure that the one and only Jewish state lives forever," the Israeli premier said. "That's why I'm here; that's why I was elected."
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