PM-designate: Nuclear Iran is our biggest security threat

Netanyahu insists Israel's actions to determine security, financial crises; calls earlier attempts to reach peace with Palestinians "short cuts."

Steinitz Ariav 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Steinitz Ariav 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Israel seeks peace with the entire Arab and Muslim world, but continues to be threatened by the forces of Islamic extremists, Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu said minutes before he was scheduled to be sworn in early Tuesday evening. "These are irregular times," Netanyahu told the Knesset plenum in opening marks to his speech, shortly after outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke his parting words. "Today Israel is faced with two tests - an economic crisis and a security crisis. The source of these crises are neither our past actions nor past mistakes… our [current] actions, however, will determine the results of these crises," Netanyahu insisted. Netanyahu pointed to the "spread of extreme Islam in our area, and all over the world," warning against the nuclear armament of these extreme forces, hinting at the development of Iran's nuclear activities. The Iranian leader's plan to erase Israel falls on deaf ears around the world," and is almost accepted as "routine," Netanyahu said. Netanyahu emphasized the need for Israel to be "united" in order to succeed against its enemies, adding that it was for this reason that he called to form a national unity government following February's elections. He said he was "pleased that Labor, a party with such significant history, decided to join hands with the Likud." Netanyahu outlined his aims concerning future discourse with the Palestinians, saying that he believed "in the goal of reaching a permanent agreement," and that all previous attempts to achieve peace were "short cuts," that only achieved short-term solutions and more bloodshed." In her first speech as opposition leader, Kadima chief Tzipi Livni harshly lashed out at Netanyahu and his new "bloated government, full of ministers with a nothing portfolioת" which would create a financial burden on the public during these testing times, quite in contrary to Netanyahu's own agenda of keeping the public sector small, as he had professed in the past. She also criticized the move to give the public security portfolio to Israel Beiteinu, while its leader Avigdor Lieberman was still under police interrogation. "Netanyahu has fulfilled none of his promises to the public," she added. Earlier, Olmert made his final comments as prime minister, a post he was leaving "earlier than [he] had hoped," yet at the same time "without any bitterness... or anger," but rather with a sense of gratitude for the privilege of leading the state of Israel. In his speech, Olmert spoke of his government's security achievements, insisting that the long-term results of Israel's 2006 campaign in Lebanon will prove it justified and more importantly, successful. Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, Olmert continued, was "inevitable after Hamas broke the virtual truce." "Let me say it here - the IDF is the most moral army in the world," Olmert said, noting the various means deployed warning Gaza non-combatants during Cast Lead. Speaking of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, his mother Aviva hearing the speech from her seat in the Knesset visitor's section, Olmert said that he did everything he could to bring him back home. The outgoing prime minister mentioned the diplomatic efforts which lead to indirect talks with Syria and garnered the world's support to Israel's security needs. Olmert also noted his government's achievements in protecting the weaker parts of Israeli society in face of the economic crisis, and spoke of the importance he attributed to the younger generation. "A field I gave top priority to was education and nurturing the young generation. Education is the basis for the social, economic and ethical future of the State of Israel," he said. "I'm proud of my achievements, and regret my mistakes... I did it my way, to quote the song," Olmert wrapped up, wishing Netanyahu all the success he had wished himself upon entering the position. Earlier, MK Silvan Shalom agreed to join prime minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu's government less than an hour before its inauguration early Tuesday evening. Shalom will now fill three positions - minister of regional cooperation, minister of Negev and Galilee development, and deputy defense minister, also offered to MK Moshe Ya'alon. Earlier, Shalom had issued an ultimatum to the effect that he would not enter the cabinet if he did not get the finance minister post, which was given to MK Yuval Steinitz on Monday. Meanwhile, Steinitz met the Finance Ministry Director-General Yarom Ariav at the former's office in the Knesset. Steinitz said the two discussed economic and procedural matters. The finance minister-designate said he knew he had "hard work" ahead of him, but that he intended to do it with "sensitivity, determination and good judgment."