Photo Credit: Haim Zach (GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, June 7, 2022.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday met with the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and bragged that “the first year of my government was the quietest that residents of the south – Sderot, Ashkelon, and the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip – have experienced since the [2005] disengagement.”

Suggesting this has been a major achievement for his year-old government, Bennett noted: “The numbers are clear: In 2019, 1,291 rockets were fired from Gaza; in 2020, there were 176; in 2021 (Operation Guardians of the Walls), there were 3,250,” and then, in 2022, his year at the helm, “so far, there have been only six, with no injury or loss of life.”

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The PM then made the point that these better statistics are the result of his government’s better management of the country’s defense challenges, although he didn’t mention that for the bulk of those years, the same defense minister ran things under both his predecessor and himself: Benny Gantz.

Nevertheless, Bennett insisted: “This is not a coincidence but is the result of a clear and determined policy – decisiveness for every balloon and a steadfast stance in the face of blackmail and violence. We also saw this during the flags parade when we did not capitulate to Hamas’s threats. In the face of terrorist threats, we held the parade despite Hamas’s attempts to threaten us and get the better of Israel once again.”

Heck, Hamas didn’t just attempt to threaten, they very well threatened and then did nothing even as thousands of cheering Israelis walked through Damascus Gate with thousands of blue and white flags.

“This year we took the fight to our enemies,” the PM explained. “We do not allow them to get stronger and are taking action. We are always ready, of course, and the security establishment is prepared for various scenarios.”

As to the Iranian front, Bennett told the committee, “the past year saw a turning point in the Israeli strategy vis-à-vis Iran. We see the brave Iranian people going out into the streets in Iran and demonstrating against the repression and tyranny of the regime, against the hunger, and against the corruption that is afflicting them.

“In the past year, the State of Israel has taken action against the head of the terrorist octopus and not just against the arms as was done in previous decades. The days of immunity, in which Iran attacks Israel and spreads terrorism via its regional proxies but remains unscathed – are over. We are taking action, everywhere, at any time, and will continue to do so.”

According to Bennett, “in recent years, Iran has crossed a series of red lines, especially in enriching uranium at a level of 60% — without a response and the world goes on.”

“Israel cannot – and will not – accept such a situation,” he warned.

“Last Friday, I met with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi and we discussed this. He came for a snap visit and I clarified Israel’s position which is that we are acting, and will continue to reserve the freedom to take such action against the Iranian nuclear program as may be necessary, at any time, with or without an agreement. Nothing will tie our hands. We are not just saying this but are also upholding it.

“We expect that the IAEA Board of Governors will send a clear warning signal to the regime in Iran and clarify to it that if it continues with its policy of defiance in the nuclear sphere, they will pay a painful price for it,” Bennett said.

He continued: “On the domestic security front, I think the events of Operation Guardian of the Walls and the disturbances that we saw, were threats that led to our understanding of the threat from within. But the past year, I can say, was a year in which the Government of Israel took action against crime and violent nationalism in the Arab sector, after a decade of neglect.”

Guess who was the prime minister during that decade… Also, guess who was, for the most part, a member of the cabinet, including a stint at the defense ministry…

Still, bragging rights are nothing to trifle with, especially with new elections around the corner.

“We entered with the full force of the Israel Police. Yes, I decided to bring in the Shin Bet into the domestic security situation as well, to the realms of terrorism, realms that could harm the national security of the State of Israel,” Bennett said.

He continued: “Those who have gained the most from all of these moves are – first and foremost – the Arab sector. The Arab sector has suffered terribly and it is telling us in simple Hebrew: ‘With all of the budgets that you want to give to education, the economy, and unemployment, it does not help us if they are shooting at our children in the streets. Come in and deal with it.’”

“So, this year the government came in and dealt with it, with outstanding results. Murders, shootings, and crime in the Arab sector declined considerably in one year,” he claimed. And 2021 was indeed a record year in terms of murder in the Arab sector – 126 cases, only 29 of which were solved; except that half that year was under Bennett’s government.

Finally, the PM paid some attention to the Foreign Affairs function of the committee and noted: “For as long as I can remember, we have criticized Israeli public diplomacy. For many years, the public diplomacy staff was directed to other needs.” Not anymore, apparently, because under his rule, “we have established the Public Diplomacy Directorate. It has been doing outstanding work and coordinating between the various government ministries with a lot of energy. In all recent events, as difficult as they were, we were there to deal with them, to provide facts in rebuttal quickly, and deal with dozens of incidents that without quick public diplomacy efforts we might have paid a heavy price for.”

He then summed up by saying, “Israel is in good hands. The security of the State of Israel is improving and there is much being done.”

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.