PM: We'll keep security fence in place

Netanyahu outlines gov't's principles in Knesset, boasts again of national consensus on peace plan.

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL, JONNY HADI
July 22, 2009 13:46
4 minute read.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu delivered what sounded like a foreign policy address on Wednesday when he was summoned to the Knesset floor by opposition members to respond to allegations that he had no set policies, but rather "zigzagged" under pressure. In his speech answering the claims, Netanyahu emphasized the continued importance of the West Bank security barrier, as well as the success of the government's strategy against Hamas and advances in the strengthening of international pressure against Iran. "Our policy is that we are not prepared to accept rocket and missile fire on Israeli territory," he told the Knesset. "For every rocket, before the elections [in February] there may not have been a response, but that has not been the case since the elections. This was and will remain our policy. "The public can judge the results in the month before the elections compared with the three months after. This is the correct policy, we just cannot tolerate rocket fire on Israeli cities. "I met with many world leaders, and they said they could not understand how the situation arose, and many said if they were attacked, they would have responded immediately." The Islamic republic's isolation was fully revealed by the post-election mayhem there, the prime minister said. "Something very important happened. We saw that almost no one supported this regime, apart from Syria, Hamas and Hizbullah," he said. "We want to recruit an international coalition against Iran, to bolster the sanctions and preserve Israeli interests." "We're not only facing an Iranian threat from afar, but also up close," he said, citing Hamas and Hizbullah rocket fire, which Israel would not tolerate on any level. "We cannot accept even a trickle of rockets and missiles, because this will then deteriorate until a situation where you are forced to undergo a wide-scale operation." He also spoke of the steps Israel had taken to ease the Palestinians' lives. "We have removed checkpoints, dirt roadblocks, and increased the operating hours at the Allenby Bridge, all in consultation with the defense establishment, to ease the transfer of people and goods," he said. "It's praiseworthy, and the impressive economic results are there for all to see, although the Palestinian economic growth potential has not been fully realized." "Our policies are an immediate response to rockets, dealing with the Iranian threat, keeping the West Bank security fence, but also easing Palestinian movement," Netanyahu continued. The Palestinian Authority had turned to the Americans, demanding that, in addition to stopping construction in settlements and in east Jerusalem, it dismantle the security barrier, citing the drop in terrorism originating in the West Bank over the last two years. "The security barrier won't be dismantled," he stressed. "I hear people saying that since there is quiet, the fence can be torn down. My friends, the opposite is true. Because we have the fence, there is quiet. And that is of course in addition to IDF operations, and I must cautiously add, there is also a degree of improvement in the operations of the Palestinian security apparatuses, and we commend this." The prime minister again spoke of the "national coalition" he had formed for his Middle East peace plan, and added that the vast majority of international players were on board. "The most important component is that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, meaning the refugee problem will not have a solution within our borders," he said. "And furthermore, when a peace deal is signed, there will be no more demands on Israel, not about refugees or land. An end to the conflict means an end to demands." "And then there's the security aspect. We don't want to repeat the mistakes of Gaza, we don't want another Hamastan or Hizbullahstan. Therefore, we are seeking effective demilitarization [of a Palestinian state]. "These are basic principles, and the overwhelming majority, almost all MKs, back them," he said. "Without these things, there won't be peace." The most vocal opposition to Netanyahu's speech undoubtedly came from the Arab lawmakers, who called out throughout his remarks. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin ordered ushers to remove MK Muhammad Barakei (Hadash), who broke loose and attempted to return to the floor for one last comment - and was grabbed and removed once again. After him, MK Taleb a-Sanaa (United Arab List-Ta'al) was also removed, at which point the other Arab legislators rose and left the chamber. Opposition leaders were also incredulous of Netanyahu's list of achievements, with Kadima's faction chairwoman Dalia Itzik, MK Yohanan Plessner and opposition chairwoman Tzipi Livni among those who took the stand to blast the prime minister's first 113 days in office. Itzik accused Netanyahu of causing economic, security and diplomatic damage to the State of Israel. "You inherited a beaten Hamas, bruised and frightened as the result of Operation Cast Lead, and quiet in the South. You inherited a quiet northern border... a diplomatic process which even if you didn't accept its principles, its very existence and the lack of Palestinian terror created the conditions for a process... And most important of all, we passed on to you the most dear asset of all, close, intimate and exceptionally cooperative relations with the United States of America," she said. In a response speech to Netanyahu's address, Livni said his first 100 days had brought "despair" and that the prime minister had made preelection promises he never intended to keep. "The saddest thing is that the government and its leader have no vision, way or direction. Nothing," she said. "You, the prime minister, represent a consensus of fear, while we represent a consensus of hope. "On the diplomatic level, the people want a final-status solution, and you want to avoid one," she said. "And don't blame your coalition partners. Don't say in English, or in French, behind closed doors, that 'it's not me, it's them,' as you have been doing."


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