PM: Iran will ruin 'Arab spring' hopes for democracy

Netanyahu tells Knesset plenum that West should treat Iran as it treats Libya; calls for Abbas to come to Jerusalem, halt incitement.

Netanyahu 311 reuters (photo credit: Reuters)
Netanyahu 311 reuters
(photo credit: Reuters)
The world community should put pressure on Iran at least equal to the pressure that it is currently applying to Libya, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told MKs during an address to the Knesset on Tuesday evening.
After being forced to address the plenum by a petition signed by 40 opposition MKs, Netanyahu delivered a lengthy address that focused on Israel’s position in the international arena, with particular emphasis on unrest in the Arab world and on Israel’s relations with the Palestinian Authority.
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“Israel is the only state in this area that is immune to these shocks, because, in spite of all of the criticism, Israel is the only democratic state in which Arab MKs can take the podium, to criticize, to slam, and to condemn,” Netanyahu said.
“There is not a single Arab state in which Arabs have the rights, the equality of rights, and the freedom to express themselves democratically as they do in Israel. It is this very freedom that people in Arab countries are seeking today.”
Netanyahu warned that if Iran is allowed to complete its nuclear program, “the hopes that the world holds for an ‘Arab spring’ will be destroyed,” because Iran has already proven its willingness to intervene in political unrest in Egypt and, in the past, in Lebanon.
“I would expect that the world put similar pressure on Iran. Iran is at least equal to Libya, and I believe that its importance is even greater,” said Netanyahu, adding that Iran hopes to “return the region to the ninth century.”
Iran’s leaders, he complained “have made great efforts to stop peace and progress in our area.”
The prime minister also clarified his position on building in the West Bank, after he announced last week that he planned to approve 400 new units following this month’s deadly terror attack in the Samarian settlement of Itamar.
“I didn’t mean that building is part of the punishment. We will find the people who did this, and we will hold them accountable.
But building is one of the ways that Zionism has found over the years to answer these terrible acts of murder,” he said. “It is an appropriate response, a response that has continued since the dawn of Zionism.”
Netanyahu echoed complaints made following the terror attack that the Palestinian Authority on one hand condemned the attack when talking to Israel, but at the same time continued with incitement against Israel.
“The Palestinian Authority’s response was at first stammering, then reserved, and then [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] called and said that the act was a terrible act, and I told him that you don’t need to say it to me, but rather to the media – not our media – but to your media, which is controlled by the government,” Netanyahu recounted, and then added that the Palestinian Authority continued to name squares and events after terrorists who killed Israelis.
“How can you talk to us about peace when the State of Israel doesn’t exist in your textbooks? How can you talk about peace to us while you speak about making peace with Hamas? You can make peace with Hamas or make peace with Israel, but you can’t do both. I say to our Palestinian counterparts, choose peace. If you want to choose peace,” he added.
“Why don’t you come to do the most basic thing? Abbas is in Ramallah 10 minutes away from here, and flies across the world, but he won’t come here,” Netanyahu complained.
He concluded his speech attacking Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni and Kadima, who routinely cite their near-success at achieving a peace agreement during the last government. Netanyahu said that he knew that the Olmert government was “not near” an agreement, because the Palestinians had refused to recognized Israel as the Jewish state or to accept settlement blocs.
“You are blurring reality, and the time has come that you tell the truth – if not to the nation, then at least to yourselves,” he concluded.
Livni launched an impassioned response, during which she accused Netanyahu of “failing to prepare Israel for peace.”
“If the prime minister has a vision beyond a supertanker that you find at the last minute on Google, why don’t you present it here in the Knesset in Hebrew,” she asked, responding to rumors that Netanyahu is likely to deliver a second key speech on foreign policy in the coming months.
“It will probably not be in Hebrew, but in English. It will be about performance, about a continuation of words in which you try to find common ground among [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman and [Minister-without- Portfolio Bennie] Begin and [Interior Minister] Eli Yishai and [US President Barack] Obama and [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel and [former British prime minister Gordon] Brown.”
“The community that will watch knows that it is a play, that it is spoken by a prime minister who said before the elections that words are reversible,” she warned, while coalition MKs chided her for not correctly naming the current British prime minister, David Cameron.