Netanyahu continued his aggressive battle on Sunday against efforts to delegitimize Israel, broadly hinting at the weekly cabinet meeting of the need for a unity government to deal with the situation.
“Against the efforts to harm Israel with threats, false accusations and boycotts, we must stand – Right and Left – as one, to rebuff the pressures, expose the lies and attack the attackers,” he said. “We will harness forces in this country and around the world, will smash the lies of our enemies and struggle for the right of Israel to live in peace and security – to live at all.”
Minister-without-Portfolio in the Communications Ministry Ophir Akunis was more explicit in the call for a national unity government in light of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, telling reporters before the cabinet meeting that the “widest government as possible” was needed to “struggle together” against the threat.
Following Israel’s outrage over Orange CEO Stéphane Richard’s remark in Cairo last week that he would pull his company out of Israel “tomorrow” if it were possible, French President François Hollande expressed strong opposition to economic boycotts of Israel during a Sunday phone conversation with Netanyahu.
According to a readout of the conversation put out by the Prime Minister’s Office, Hollande said he wanted to preserve the economic ties between the two countries.
Following Richard’s comments, which he later retracted and apologized for, Netanyahu called on the Élysée Palace to publicly repudiate the “miserable” statement.
In the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said Israel is in the midst of establishing both an offensive and defensive campaign against efforts to boycott it and harm the ability of the IDF to defend the country.
“From the standpoint of those pushing the boycott, the settlements in Judea and Samaria are not the focus of the conflict but rather our settlements in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Beersheba, Haifa and, of course, Jerusalem,” he said.
Also on Sunday Netanyahu instructed the Foreign Ministry to tell Ambassador to France Yossi Gal not to meet with Richard in Paris, as Richard requested.
Rather, Richard is to be told, he is welcome to come to Israel and give his explanations for the remarks.
Netanyahu indicated in a statement he sent to a meeting of Jewish philanthropists and organizations convened in Las Vegas over the weekend to deal with the BDS movement that he was not satisfied with Richard’s apology or accompanying comments in support of Israel.
Richard’s “subsequent words of admiration for Israel don’t square with his unequivocally hostile remarks in Cairo,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister is scheduled to meet former French president Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday where the issue is sure to be raised.
Sarkozy is a likely candidate for the presidency in the next election in 2017.
One government official, explaining the extent of Israel’s outrage over Richard’s statement, said this was an important “test case.”
“We want to make sure that this type of behavior is seen as completely unacceptable” he said.
As French efforts are under way to bring a resolution to the UN Security Council enshrining the parameters of a two-state solution with a deadline for the establishment of a Palestinian state and IDF withdrawal, Netanyahu told Hollande during their conversation that he was committed to a two-state solution but was opposed to attempts to impose an agreement on Israel.
Netanyahu said moves such as these only encourage the Palestinians to stay away from entering negotiations without preconditions and will only push away further any chance of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
Netanyahu addressed this issue, as well, during the cabinet meeting, blaming the Palestinians for avoiding negotiations.
“While we are calling for a renewal of negotiations, the Palestinians are promoting steps against us at the UN and at the International Criminal Court in The Hague,” he said. “They are running away from negotiations, and at the same time are promoting international sanctions and resolutions at the UN because there are no negotiations.”
Netanyahu said the Palestinians “ran away” from talking to then prime ministers Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert.
“They run away from everyone, and then they accuse us,” he said. “Their cynicism knows no bounds, and I regret that there are those who fall into the trap of this organized hypocrisy.”
Meanwhile, in other cabinet developments, Netanyahu instructed his cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit to consider sanctions against ministers who fail to show up at the weekly cabinet meetings and do not inform him in advance. The move came after Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, Economy Minister Arye Deri, Welfare and Social Services Minister Haim Katz and Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev all did not show up for Sunday’s meeting. National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz also missed the meeting, but that was expected since he is abroad. •