Kadima slams Netanyahu’s foreign policy in debate

Petition forcing PM to face plenum signed by Labor MKs, causing coalition rift; PM says "values Obama's efforts to advance peace process."

Livni 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
Livni 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
In its attempt on Wednesday to bring Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to task for what it described as a “failed foreign policy that leads to Israel’s isolation,” opposition party Kadima also reaped the added benefit of displaying the deep cracks that continue to plague the Labor Party, which is a member of the coalition.
The prime minister defended his commitment to ensuring the success of peace talks, while Kadima MKs slammed Netanyahu’s leadership of the country, the coalition, and even his party.
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“I value greatly the efforts by the Obama administration to find a way to advance the peace process. I know that we have the will to advance it – we have taken action and we will continue to do so,” said Netanyahu.
“I am certain that the United States also has such a will, and that they have and are expending efforts. I hope that the Palestinian Authority also has such a desire, and that they will not search for excuses to evade talks with us for the advancement of peace and security between us.”
Netanyahu mentioned his upcoming visit to the US next week to address the General Assembly of Jewish Federations in North America, emphasizing the importance of maintaining strong ties with Jews in the Diaspora, particularly with the younger generation.
He specifically mentioned Taglit-Birthright and Nefesh B’Nefesh as successfully strengthening Jewish identity in the Diaspora and non-Israeli Jews ties’ to the Jewish State, “not just on the political level but on the most basic level of identity.”
Netanyahu was forced to participate in the Wednesday plenum debate after 40 MKs signed a petition calling on him to discuss Israel’s international standing.
In addition to opposition MKs, four Labor MKs – Daniel Ben- Simon, Amir Peretz, Eitan Cabel and Ghaleb Majadle – signed the petition, drawing heavy criticism from fellow coalition members.
Ben-Simon’s relationship with his coalition’s leadership has become strained after he was bypassed earlier this week for the chairmanship of the Immigration and Absorption Committee, which he was supposed to assume at the start of this Knesset session.
Ben-Simon reportedly requested to speak during the debate against the prime minister, but his request was denied by Labor faction chairman Shalom Simhon.
“You like to speak about Churchill, but your leadership is completely anti-Churchillian,” complained Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner.
“While Churchill knew how to enlist politics for the public interest, Netanyahu chains the national interest to his narrow and petty politics. Great leaders make decisions – [Menahem] Begin, [Yitzhak] Rabin and [Ariel] Sharon made big decisions, and Netanyahu cannot even decide on the parliamentary future of MK Carmel Shama,” continued Plesner, referring to the Likud MK who, like Ben-Simon, was suddenly denied a promised committee chairmanship.
In keeping with Knesset protocol, opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) was the final speaker, following the prime minister.
“It is not a secret that there are those who hope that there won’t be any American pressure or involvement in the Middle East. Anyone who understands that Israel’s national interest is to reach an agreement understands that a strong United States is an asset for Israel,” she said.
“Could anyone possibly imagine that a weak United States or a weak American president is good for Israel? That is not just stupid, it is a danger to Israel,” she said.
Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.