During Monday`s special plenary session honoring the memory of Theodor Herzl, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) said, ”I wonder what Herzl would have said had he seen the massive construction, the building of roads, the economic growth, the absorption of immigration, the scientific innovations and the fact that the state of the Jews discovered gas at sea and will extract it for the benefit of its citizens.”
”I met today with the French Prime Minister and stressed that [the Israeli] government wants peace. I told him that I seek to move forward in the diplomatic process on the basis of the outline of a demilitarized Palestinian state which recognizes the Jewish state. The two principles of demilitarization and mutual recognition are not preconditions for the opening of negotiations. The process must be direct, bilateral and devoid of international dictates,” Netanyahu said in his speech.
”I am working with all my power to expand the coalition. I said I would do so when we established the government, and I am continuing with these efforts to form a government that is as broad as possible. The door is open to anyone who wants to [lend a hand] for the good of the country. There is much to do and a lot to fix, but there is no justification for the complaining that is rampant in certain circles. Israel is a stable, advanced, innovative and democratic state, and this House is proof of that,” the PM told the Plenum.
Following the Prime Minister`s speech, opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Camp) addressed the political storm of the past week: ”During the past couple of weeks I have stood upright against unprecedented attacks, against an incited crowd and against violent exclamations which I have never heard before. It is possible that I have jeopardized my political chair, and have shaken it so much that it will be difficult to stabilize it again. But as opposed to other leaders – I did not join politics to pass the time. In an era where leaders change their minds according to the morning wind blowing on Facebook, I have chosen to stick to my words.
In the past couple of months, due to the terror wave and the futile feeling which characterizes the relationship with our neighbors, I have tried to evaluate the situation [based on the statements] of senior leaders from around the world and our region. Some may seem familiar to you and some less, some are part of the senior leadership of the area and some are younger whose names cannot be revealed yet. These leaders have a crucial influence over our fate, the fate of our families and children. I wanted with all my might to identify the glimpse of light in the darkness. I have reached the conclusion that we are facing a rare regional opportunity based on a group of Arab leaders who are moderate, young, powerful and lack the Israel complex that their predecessors had, and are willing to take action and lead a powerful and stirring process against our neighbors.”
I have chosen to risk my internal political status and extend a hand to the rival political leader whom I have spoken about during the elections – `it is either us or him` – in order to recruit all possible national power and together change the present and the future of our children.
I know I have let down many of my supporters, my colleagues and friends and a broad public that did not believe Netanyahu in the first place, but I have decided anyhow to not let the opportunity slip away as it stands right in front of our eyes and depends upon Israel having a different, more moderate, government. That is the condition. I chose to give it a try.
Sadly, at the end of the day, while choosing between being a leader that will be remembered in history as going against the flow, to a leader that goes with the flow into the ocean of forgetfulness, Netanyahu has made his choice. He has slammed the door to the European and American leaders and became a captive of the extremist political group, which will lead him and us into a national disaster which we are already a part of, and some of us decide to live in the illusion that everything will be fine.
I am sorry Mr. Netanyahu that you have chosen to zigzag again. I am sorry that you are the one who slammed the door. I am sorry that you have chosen to abandon the benefit of the State in favor of your narrow political interest. Your Twitter may remember you favorably, but history won`t”.
Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein (Likud), who opened the debate, said, ”We have a serious problem with the culture of argument here; with the ability to listen, which has deteriorated [greatly]; with the lack of respect, the blatant contempt and the obscene language. Our ideological and cultural richness is a source of uniqueness and strength, but we all have a lot of work to do in order to narrow the artificial gaps between us which some make certain are nurtured, because, truthfully, we have more things in common than things that separate us.”
”A [regime] is judged also by its ability to bridge the gaps between positions and converge in order to better serve the public. Therefore, there was no other choice but to work towards expanding the coalition. The first step in this direction should be welcomed, and I hope additional Zionist parties will join. We must stand together, better and more united, in the face of the great challenges facing us. This is an important message, internally, for the Israeli public, and also externally, for all those who are eagerly waiting to see our internal disintegration – God forbid,” Edelstein said.
MK Yair Lapid, chairman of the Yesh Atid faction, said ”Herzl envisioned a state with equal rights for women at a time when such a notion was almost avant–garde. He wrote that every citizen will be obligated to give two years for military or civil service and that religious coercion would be forbidden. He spoke of the need for a clean country that will protect the environment. He wrote about a country where education is free for everyone, where there is a clear separation between the military and politics; a state that is technologically advanced. He believed that the Arabs of the land are entitled to equal rights.”