PM: Mideast situation is moving backward, not forward

Netanyahu says Israel must be careful giving up land because it is impossible to know who will control it next; addressing new laws, says "democracy will be healthier, stronger" when we're done.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the Knesset 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the Knesset 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu described the situation in the Middle East as "moving backward" on Wednesday, recalling a Knesset speech earlier this year when he predicted the Arab Spring would result in an anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-democratic Islamist wave.
When the Egyptian revolution happened, "I was told that I'm trying to scare people, that I'm on the wrong side of history, and that I don't understand where things are going," Netanyahu told the Knesset Wednesday.
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"Well things are moving backward, not forward," he added, saying that he looks at reality, not just "hopes and wishes."
That moving reality, the prime minister said, is why he didn't heed calls to rush into a peace agreement with the Palestinians amid the Arab Spring, explaining that it is impossible to know who will eventually control any territory given up by Israel.
"We won't know who will get it - not tomorrow, but this afternoon," he said, reiterating that "reality is changing all the time."
"We want a peace treaty with the Palestinians that will stand the test of time and won't just crash immediately after it is signed," he explained. "We must design our own reality."
Addressing the opposition, he quipped, "If you don't see it, your head is in the sand."
But the prime minister also said that Israel must maintain its relations with the only two neighbors it has peace with - Egypt and Jordan. "It is important to keep peace with a stable Egypt," he said.
"We will also continue to act to strengthen Jordan," Netanyahu told the Knesset plenum. "We have an interest in our neighbor remaining strong and independent."
The prime minister also discussed recent legislation that the opposition has called "anti-democratic."
"I hear the talk about the death of democracy and shutting peoples' mouths," he said. "Here I am in the Knesset and the opposition is silent, afraid to speak out against the prime minister," Netanyahu retorted sarcastically after being interrupted half a dozen times by opposition MKs.
He further described recent laws as proportionate and responsible fixes, which most citizens know must be made. "When we finish," Netanyahu continued, "our democracy will be healthier and stronger."