Netanyahu at cabinet meeting.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cautioned his cabinet ministers not to turn to the media with their predictions of what US President-elect Donald Trump’s policy will be toward Israel.
“Allow the incoming administration to formulate – together with us – its policy vis-à-vis Israel and the region, through accepted and quiet channels, and not via interviews and statements,” Netanyahu said on Sunday.
Netanyahu told the cabinet of his phone conversation last week with Trump, whom he said “expressed very deep friendship for Israel, a friendship which has characterized him and, I must add, also the team around him, for many years.
Donald Trump addressing the AIPAC conference
“In recent years, we have wisely and responsibly managed our relations with the United States – the greatest and most important of our allies – and we will continue to do so in the coming months and years,” Netanyahu said.
He explained that Trump has invited him to come to the United States at the earliest opportunity.
On Friday, Trump told The Wall Street Journal that he wanted to help broker a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians.“I want peace. My hand is extended in peace,” Netanyahu said at a memorial service on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem on Sunday marking the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin 21 years ago.
Netanyahu spoke there of Israel’s desire for peace, and expressed similar sentiments during meetings of the Knesset plenum held in his and to the cabinet.
He bolstered his own positions on the Palestinians, Iran and ties with the United States by drawing parallels with Rabin, who was killed by an Israeli assassin in 1995 enraged by his support for a two-state solution with the Palestinians.
The ceremonies took place in the shadow of a sudden flurry of initiatives to pave the way for the renewal of direct negotiations, which have been dormant since April 2014.
In addition to Trump’s offer of assistance, France hopes to hold an international peace conference at the end of December and Russia wants Moscow to be a venue for a Netanyahu- Abbas parley.
The Obama Administration has not ruled out an initiative with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before President-elect Donald Trump takes office on January 20.
Netanyahu blamed the absence of the peace process on Palestinian intransigence and its refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish state.
Rabin wanted peace and extended his hand in peace, but even he recognized the “unwillingness of a significant portion of the Palestinians” to make peace with Israel, Netanyahu said.
Since then, moderate Palestinians have been overshadowed by extremists carrying out terrorist attacks, he continued.
“This extremism is based on one thing, not our lack of will to extend our hand, to talk [and] to achieve peace. It is not based on our problem, but their refusal to recognize a Jewish state within any borders,” Netanyahu said.
Since Rabin’s day, these extremists have prevented the spread of a circle of peace beyond Egypt and Jordan, the premier added.
Netanyahu said that he was encouraged by the trend of moderate Arab states improving ties with Israel as their interests dovetail, and reiterated his belief that perhaps this could one day lead to a renewal of peace talks with the Palestinians and eventually a peace agreement.
Rabin also insisted on security arrangements for Israel in any deal, something that remains vital today, but which the Palestinians have refused to accept, he said.
Netanyahu also spoke of the threat posed by Islamic extremism and by Iran as a state which sponsors global terrorism. Rabin understood this threat, and it has only grown worse since then, he said.
“Iran wants to develop nuclear weapons to destroy us,” Netanyahu said, in reference to Tehran’s continued development of ballistic missiles.
“We must prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” he added.
“We will continue to fight terrorism by Iran and its proxies and we will not allow [Iran] to arm itself with nuclear weapons.”
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