Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset plenum that Iran knows Israel will “not accept” its permanent presence in Syria, adding “I have clarified to our friends in Washington and our friends in Moscow that we will operate in Syria, including southern Syria, in accordance with our understanding and in accordance with our security needs.”
Netanyahu took part in Monday’s special Knesset session on the topic of “The political challenge the Israeli government faces in light of newly created opportunities,” this after the opposition collected 40 signatures petitioning his presence in the debate.
During the session, PM Netanyahu mentioned that earlier in the day he had hosted in his office a special emissary of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, who invited him to visit Japan and informed him that Japanese investments in Israel have increased 20-fold over the past three years.
Netanyahu continued: “Yesterday I received a very warm letter from letter from [US President Donald Trump], who thanked me for Israel’s support of the US’ stance against the Iranian nuclear program. A week ago I received a letter from [Chinese President Xi Jinping] in which he praised the special bond that is being created between China and Israel.”
Netanyahu also said he had recently spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin on matters concerning Israel’s security, and mentioned that in a few weeks he is scheduled to visit India. He also said that over the weekend he had held a phone conversation with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi – “a conversation that was important for the security of both countries.”
“All these examples are just a small sample. We are turning Israel into a rising world force,” said the prime minister. “There is no precedent for this in our history. Any intelligent person can see this. These opportunities were not created; we are creating them by nurturing our economic and technological strength and by freeing the market.”
“We’ve been nurturing military and intelligence power,” PM Netanyahu said in his speech. “This necessitates a great deal of money, which also comes from growth. The combinations of technological-economic power, with military-intelligence power, create the third power that is international power—a great international, diplomatic power the likes of which Israel has never had.”
“Countries are lining up to improve their ties with us,” he said, adding, “Let’s agree once and for all that there is no diplomatic tsunami or diplomatic isolation, but a diplomatic renaissance.”
“Compared to what is happening in the region – we are not missing opportunities, but creating them. For obvious reasons, I cannot divulge the details of everything we’re doing to tighten relations with various entities around us,” Netanyahu said, stating that “We stand shoulder to shoulder with moderate nations in the Arab world, be it against Iran or ISIS. This coming closer is good for security, and I believe it will eventually also be good for peace.”
MK Omer Barlev (Zionist Camp) challenged the prime minister, saying, “Russia, the United States and Jordan asked for a ceasefire agreement in Syria, and who was not present in the room? We weren’t. How did it come about that the buffer zone in the Golan Heights was determined for us by others? How did it happen that, according to the agreement, Iran will be at our doorstep? You Bibi, you allow this on your watch. And again, with zero achievements.”
Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Camp) told PM Netanyahu, “If you want elections, say so. Ask your partners [if they want elections]. In my opinion, and in the opinion of many, you will not win an election. You say the public must decide. Why not then? Let’s go back to the voters.”
MK Michal Rozin (Meretz), who opened the session, said, “The settlements are the greatest security threat. They are the ones that separate us from the possibility of living in our country in peace and weaken the IDF in an unprecedented way.”
MK Yoav Kisch (Likud) said, referring to the new Nationality Law which is making the rounds in the Knesset, said to the opposition MKs: “It is so ironic that the topic of this discussion is Israel’s diplomatic situation in light of the opportunities that have been created, while just this week it was published that some of those who are speaking here are acting against the State, and even more so against the basic right of the Jewish People to a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, and join our enemies in criticizing the Balfour Declaration. They will take to this podium and preach to the prime minister about diplomatic isolation.”
MK Ayman Odeh (Joint List) said, “The prime minister is up to his neck in investigations; the citizens have almost lost count. When Netanyahu is stressed he does what he does best – incites and divides.” The government’s “flag law,” MK Odeh said, “determines that the Arabs are second-class citizens.” He added, “Your diplomatic vision is to forever live on the sword.”
Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) also addressed the opposition members: and said “You keep saying no, but what is your alternative? We present a plan and you keep scaring us. You spoke of the demographic threat, but the birth rate among Jews is higher; you spoke of a diplomatic tsunami – what diplomatic tsunami? People are making pilgrimages [to Israel]. You say it will ruin the economy, but our GNP is increasing while unemployment is decreasing.” Minister Bennett also suggested that Israel impose its sovereignty over Area C of Judea and Samaria.