At the request of 40 MKs, the Knesset held on Monday a plenary debate on the ”continued deterioration of Israel`s international status jeopardizes national security,” with the participation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud), who addressed the opposition members` criticism regarding the division of Foreign Ministry responsibilities between a string of ministers and deputy ministers.
Netanyahu said he was ”amazed” to hear MKs who had been members of previous governments under his leadership claiming that the Foreign Ministry was being dismantled. ”You did not say anything back then about the situation, which was exactly the same as it is today. Nothing has changed. While you were members of those governments I did not hear anything from you about this division. On the contrary, you supported it and asked for parts of it. [MK] Tzipi Livni (Zionist Camp) demanded that the negotiations with the Palestinians be kept separate. The only thing that has changed is that now you are in the opposition.”
”You say that at least back then there was a full-time foreign minister. We can argue about that, but we cannot argue about the fact that I served as foreign minister for a year at the request of [MK] Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beitenu) and with the support of [MKs] Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) and Tzipi Livni, who were members of the government,” the PM told members from the opposition. ”I am willing to accept constructive criticism, but I am not willing to accept your hypocrisy, which cries out to the heavens.”
PM Benjamin Netanyahu (Archive photo: Itzik Harari)
”The Foreign Ministry is working with great intensity, which did not exist in the past,” Netanyahu continued to say. ”We are maintaining diplomatic relations with 161 countries; this is unprecedented. And this does not mean that we do not have ties with dozens of other countries. What`s new is the amazing increase in the number of countries who want to tighten their relations with us; world powers. The reason for this is that many countries fear radical Islam, which threatens them. They know we have intelligence and operational experience, and they value our security entities and want to utilize our abilities. Many countries understand that [without the State of Israel], this part of the Middle East would have collapsed a long time ago, followed by the rest of the region.”
”The other reason countries are tightening their relations with us is that Israel is a stronghold of innovation and advancement in technology, cyber, energy, water, agriculture and many other fields,” the PM stated.
Addressing the decision by Gulf Arab states to label Hezbollah a terrorist organization, PM Netanyahu said, ”Countries from the Arab world decided to recognize Hezbollah as a terror group. This is an important development. Even amazing. But what’s equally amazing is that two parties here in the Knesset condemned the decision. Will you continue to condemn them when Hezbollah shoots missiles at your villages? Have you lost your minds?” the prime minister said, adding: ”Excuse the expression.”
”There are massive changes overtaking the Arab world… [with] an increasing number of countries understanding now more than ever that Israel is not their enemy. It stands with them in their battle against ISIS.
”With these new connections comes great potential for change in the region. They give us hope for a better future alongside all the people in the Middle East. I can only hope these contacts will help our relations with the Palestinians, or at least with those Palestinians who want to live with us in peace,” Netanyahu said.
Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Camp), said ”What`s really important is for Israel to have a real policy; a policy that restores our security; a policy that offers a diplomatic horizon; a policy which can be explained to the world; a policy which can lift the pressure, the international isolation and the boycotts; a policy that will deal a death blow to BDS; a policy that will give us hope. This is the policy that the Zionist Camp`s separation plan proposes.”
MK Lapid, who initiated the debate, said all of Israel`s treaties ”have been severely harmed over the past few years. There is no front where this is not felt. Amid this damage, the Israeli government is telling us two things that totally contradict one another and are devoid of even internal logic. The first thing the government tells us is that `everyone is anti-Semitic; everyone has always hated Jews, hate Jews and will continue to hate Jews, so there is no real point in trying to do anything about it apart from rallying around the government to face all this evil.` The other, opposite claim says `what are you talking about? There is no damage to our foreign relations; the situation has never been better.` This is not true, and the former is not true either.”
”At a time of severe deterioration, the Foreign Ministry has been divided among six ministers, none of whom know what the other is doing,” the Yesh Atid chairman charged. ”The State of Israel needs a full-time foreign minister. Mr. prime minister, it cannot be that due to petty political considerations the State of Israel will not have a foreign minister.”
Lapid further argued that Israel needs a policy that would mend the relations with the United States and the world, ”restore the Israeli citizens` security and our national pride, and take us back to a worthy place among the family of nations.”