Netanyahu: PA chose terror over peace

PM slams unity deal at Knesset; Peres calls for renewed talks on two-state solution.

Netanyahu plants a tree on Tu Bishvat 390 (photo credit: Amir Cohen/Reuters)
Netanyahu plants a tree on Tu Bishvat 390
(photo credit: Amir Cohen/Reuters)
The Palestinian Authority has embraced terrorist organizations instead of peace, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.
Speaking at a special plenum meeting in honor of the Knesset’s 63rd birthday, Netanyahu said that the PA avoids acting to stop extremists, allowing them to incite against Israel in their government-run media and institutions.
“We said [the PA] needs to choose between the path of Hamas and the path of peace,” he said. “The Palestinians embraced terrorist organizations that call for Israel’s destruction.”
Although Israel also has extremists, the government has responded quickly in trying to stop their agenda, such as discrimination against women, Netanyahu added.
President Shimon Peres also spoke in the plenum, saying that “painful decisions” must be made, and that a new future must be outlined with a Jewish state with safe borders next to an independent, demilitarized Palestinian state.
Otherwise, he said, Israel will become a “borderless state of two peoples, which means an ongoing fight between two peoples.”
Peres called for the renewal of peace talks, but added that the PA must choose between the path of “Hamas that aspires to terror” and the path of “Fatah that is ready for negotiations.”
Netanyahu also discussed the importance of the Knesset in his speech, calling Israel a strong democracy that should serve as an example to its neighbors. He mentioned checks and balances in the government system and calling the judiciary “one of the best in the world, and that is how it will stay.”
According to the prime minister, Israeli democracy is even stronger than that of the US and Great Britain, which he said limited individual freedoms during wartime. Israel, however, is constantly under threat and never implemented such measures, he said.
“Some mistakenly see elections as the face of democracy, but a true democracy is measured in the time between elections, by its freedoms of the individual and the balance between the branches of government,” Netanyahu stated. “This should not be taken for granted.”
Referring to recent controversies regarding MKs’ behavior, the prime minister said that the public “does not sufficiently appreciate the work of the Knesset” because its members do not always speak respectfully to each other or use appropriate language.
He called on MKs to remember, first and foremost, that they represent and are responsible for the entire nation, not only the group that votes for a specific party.
“The population of Israel is made up of different publics – secular, religious, haredi [ultra-Orthodox], new immigrants and old, Muslim, Druse, Circassian, Beduin,” Netanyahu said. “I ask all MKs to represent the public before representing a public.”
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) focused on the lack of a constitution.
“After 63 years, it seems to me that we can say the Knesset failed in its role to write a constitution,” Rivlin said. “We work very hard as legislators, but we have been stuck in our constitutional efforts for 20 years, since Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation were passed.”
In recent months the Knesset has voted on laws dealing with the “raw nerves” of Israeli society, making it essential for the legislature to remember its role in drafting a constitution, Rivlin said.
Livni said that a constitution was meant to “pave a path” for Israel when it was established, so that it would not lose its way.
We cannot celebrate the Knesset’s birthday without asking why there is not a constitution ensuring that all citizens are equal, she stated.
The Kadima leader also said that a constitution is important because it would legislate an equal status for Judaism and democracy in the characteristics of the state.