Analysis: With elections in the air, PM takes on the world in Knesset address

Netanyahu challenged the US by saying that Israel would continue to build in all parts of Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his opening speech to the Knesset's winter session, October 27 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his opening speech to the Knesset's winter session, October 27
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took on all comers in his opening speech to the Knesset’s winter session on Monday.
He challenged the Palestinians and their newest tactic to get the world to impose a solution on Israel, saying that Israel will not accept conditions that endanger its future and security.
“What the Palestinians are asking of us is the establishment of a Palestinian state, without peace and without security. They are demanding a withdrawal to the ‘67 lines, entry of refugees, and the dividing of Jerusalem. And after all those exaggerated demands, they are not willing to agree to the basic condition for peace between two peoples: mutual recognition,” he said.
He took on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for saying at the UN that Israel is committing genocide, and for encouraging the Palestinians a week ago to keep Jews from “desecrating” the Temple Mount.
He took on – without mentioning names – Europeans supporting Palestinian demands for Israel to draw a “map” and pressing Israel to delineate borders of a future Palestinian state without knowing what kind of state it will be – perhaps another Gaza, or Iran, or a state for Islamic State, or an imploding country like Syria, Iraq, Libya, or Yemen.
“There are those who tell me: Give up the territory to begin with, draw a map, and then we will set the security arrangements and those other arrangements – things will work out. And I ask them, things will work out? Like they worked out after we left Gaza? Like they worked out after we left Lebanon?” Taking a dig at the British parliament for recently approving a non-binding resolution to recognize a Palestinian state, Netanyahu said he knows the issue of what kind of state would emerge on the other side of the border does not bother certain parliaments around the world, but that it does trouble him.
The prime minister further took on the Europeans, who often say they are “committed to Israel’s security,” by saying that those words have no real meaning on the ground and are just “nice on paper.”
He took on Israel’s Left by saying that it is impossible to build peace on the basis of lies and illusions.
He challenged the Americans by saying that Israel would continue to build in all parts of Jerusalem, just as the French build in Paris and the British build in London. And he took on the whole international community by saying that he sees no pressure on the Palestinians, only on Israel.
“No pressure from abroad or internally will help,” he said. “I will not give up our basic demands for life, peace and – foremost – security.”
In short, Netanyahu challenged everyone, and he did this at an interesting time, amid much chatter about elections.
Whether or not elections are right around the corner is of less consequence. What is important is that the subject is “in the air” and that was the atmosphere behind Netanyahu’s speech. Leaders lead, but they also reflect what they believe the public wants to hear.
If Netanyahu, with elections in the air, thought that the public was pushing for more flexibility toward the Palestinians, the tone of the speech would likely have been more conciliatory. But he stressed standing tough in the international community, not buckling to pressure, not establishing a Palestinian state if security conditions were not met, and continuing to build in Jerusalem.
As much as that does reflect Netanyahu’s ideology, it also reflects what he thinks would be the winning ticket if/when there are early elections.
Netanyahu, as his longevity in office attests, is an astute politician, and it is doubtful he would take on the world without feeling that at least his own people, or the bulk of them, were behind him. Likewise, it is doubtful, with elections in the background, that he would have given this type of speech if he didn’t think it was what a large part of his own public wanted to hear.