Netanyahu speaks at Knesset 248.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Goldstone Report wasn't the only topic on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's agenda Monday at the opening of the Knesset's winter session. Iran and the peace process with the Palestinian Authority formed the other half of his address to the parliament on Monday afternoon.
Netanyahu stressed the importance of the Iranian threat to Israel, declaring that "in recent months, the true face of the Iranian conceit has been revealed - a regime that supports terror, and builds hidden facilities to manufacture nuclear weapons. President Obama recently reiterated his commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring such weapons."
The prime minister emphasized that "We are willing to work hard for peace," but added that "Without recognition of Israel as the Jewish state, we simply cannot reach peace."
"This is also the hour for leaders of the Arab states in the area to tell the truth to their people - that the State of Israel is not the enemy of Islam," he added.
Netanyahu called on the PA to return to the negotiation table, reiterating that he had no preconditions for talks.
Earlier, he told the Likud faction that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would visit Israel by the end of the month.
This would be Clinton's third visit since becoming secretary of state on January 21.
US President Barack Obama instructed Clinton last month to apprise him by mid-October of the status of US Middle East envoy George Mitchell's efforts to relaunch diplomatic negotiations between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab world.
Last month in Washington, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, visiting for the US-Israel strategic dialogue, said he expected Clinton to come to Israel in late October or early November as part of an upgrading of that dialogue.
In a related development, Channel 1 reported on Monday evening that discussions were under way in the White House about a possible presidential visit to Israel, designed to improve Obama's standing among the Israeli public. This report could not be confirmed.
On the domestic front, Netanyahu emphasized strengthening Israel's economy and education, and fighting violent crime.
"There is one thing that enables us to successfully manage challenges - the recognition of the State of Israel as the only home of our people, the Jewish nation. The Jews do not have any other country and we do not want any other country. With God's help, we will work to bring security, prosperity and peace to Israel," he said.
President Shimon Peres, in speaking prior to Netanyahu, also stressed the importance of achieving peace with the Palestinians as well as the importance of education. The elder statesman reminded the Knesset that "far-reaching decisions will need to be taken this winter," and added that "the building of the State of Israel will not be complete as long as the peace process is not complete."
But the Nobel laureate was careful not to portray peace as an ideal situation.
"We do not have a partner for peace in terms of emotions. The peace that we have and the peace that will come is not romantic. It will not come from love, but from necessity. That kind of peace is better for us than a process with no end. We didn't dream about peace that way, but that is what there is," he said.
"We have had enough processes, the time has come for conclusions. In the present situation, we must chose between two possibilities - to be alone, isolated, and having responsibility for what happens in the territories opposite increasing criticism and to take the risk of a de facto binational state, or to continue the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority until a solution is found that is acceptable.
"There are wars of no alternative, and there is peace of no alternative. In my eyes, even a peace of no alternative is preferable. I am convinced that the solution of two states for two nations is already the majority consensus in the State of Israel. One cannot withdraw from it, and there is no better alternative solution today," the president said.
Reaching an agreement with the Palestinians, said Peres, would open the
door to further agreements with Syria and Lebanon. In doing so, Israel would "remove the main pretext for the Iranian madness," he insisted.
In the course of the president's remarks, MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) was called to order after calling out and accusing Peres of delivering a "political speech."
Peres praised the IDF for defending the state, calling it the only body that could protect "the historic right of our nation. Sweden cannot not prevent the terror. The IDF can," Peres said, alluding to a story in Swedish's largest newspaper, published in August, that claimed that IDF soldiers harvested organs from Palestinians killed in combat.
Finally, Peres reiterated the importance of education, saying that "We have
no capital except for human capital... Providing primary and secondary
education, free, for all of Israel's youths, promises the best future for this
But despite the similarity of messages presented by Netanyahu and Peres, opposition leader and Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni delivered the speech after the prime minister's with both guns blazing.
"I would like to congratulate Israel's prime minister for achieving this government's main goal: survival. Your second achievement - and unfortunately, that's the way you see it - you succeeded in not doing anything at all," she said. In her summary of Netanyahu's administration so far, she said that "We defeated America, we humiliated the Palestinians and we isolated ourselves."
"When the prime minister thinks he wins, all of Israel loses," she said, accusing Netanyahu of misreading the public's "apathy, indifference and desperation" as "contentment."
Livni also raised domestic issues as a second front in her attack against the government, discussing the need to fight crime as well as reminding the prime minister that he had committed - while in the opposition - to advance electoral reform.
Herb Keinon and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.â€¢