PM: Economic growth critical to security

PM We envision a demili

netanyahu please listen to me 248 88 AP (photo credit: )
netanyahu please listen to me 248 88 AP
(photo credit: )
Israel's economic growth is a basic strategic necessity, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Knesset during a Wednesday afternoon speech. Netanyahu addressed the parliament after the opposition gathered 40 signatures to force him to respond to claims that he was focused on the survival of his coalition at the expense of national interest. "In order to present a solution in the coming decade to Israel's strategic problems, we need a lot of money. A lot, a lot of money. There is no way to fund Israel's existential security needs without consistent growth year after year," warned the prime minister. "We are talking about dozens of billions, and I don't mean simply in shekels," he added, explaining that growth of four to five percent per year would provide for Israel's security expenses. Netanyahu said that Israel faced two overarching goals - containing and stopping the Iranian nuclear threat, and reaching peace with the Palestinians. In response to allegations by opposition members that the negotiations with the Palestinians had become "stuck," Netanyahu said, "It is impossible to advance with talks if you don't begin them." "From day one, we refrained form placing preconditions. There are conditions for the conclusion of talks," he said. Netanyahu placed the responsibility for the failure of both sides to come to the negotiating table squarely on the Palestinians. "The question is what will happen on the Palestinian side because [while] it is clear today that Israel wants to enter into negotiations, it is not known whether the Palestinians will enter them." Netanyahu added, however, that he believed the answer was positive. "We envision a final arrangement of peace in which a demilitarized Palestinian State recognizes Israel. How should we advance that? Only one way - negotiations. From the very first day, we called for negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. We also took action on the ground: We took down hundreds of checkpoint and dirt barriers that blocked traffic in the West Bank," recalled Netanyahu. "But we still have not received any proof from them regarding their readiness for negotiations." The prime minister also emphasized that Israel's politicians must present a unified front to the world. "They need to see that Israel is ready for negotiations, wants to begin negotiations, and that the majority of MKs support the Palestinian expectation for negotiations." In the nearly two hours of debate prior to Netanyahu's speech, coalition and opposition representatives traded barbs on all policy fronts, both diplomatic and domestic. "The government of Israel is stuck in countless problems, and you're stuck between Begin and Meridor, Lieberman and Barak" said Kadima faction chairwoman MK Dalia Itzik. Following Netanyahu, Opposition chairwoman Tzipi Livni took the podium to speak, but her talk ended abruptly when the microphones went dead. Likud MKs accused Livni's own party, with Environment Minister Gilad Erdan claiming that MK Shaul Mofaz pulled the plug on his own chairwoman. "This was yet another example of the government trampling its opposition," said MK Ze'ev Bielski (Kadima), striding out of the plenum. After a few minutes, the audio system was restored, and Livni continued with her response, in which she negated the possibility of opening negotiations with Hamas, but encouraged the prime minister to continue with the peace process.