Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon / GPO
JFNA Chairman Richard V. Sandler. and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

During a wide-ranging interview (Wednesday, 24 October 2018) at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly with outgoing JFNA Chairman Richard Sandler, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was asked about U.S.-Israel relations, religious pluralism in Israel and the connection between Israel and Jewish communities around the world.


Also in attendance were – inter alia – U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Canadian Ambassador to Israel Deborah Lyons, and senior JFNA officials and North American Jewish community leaders.

Here are some excerpts of the Prime Minister’s remarks:

“West of the Jordan, Israel and Israel alone will be responsible for security, which means that it’s not just a question of hot pursuit going into Palestinian areas, okay? It’s also having the ability to be there all the time – that’s why the West Bank is not Gaza. We left Gaza and what happened? This tiny thumb, you know, became a position of radical Islam supported by Iran.

“They fired 4, 000 missiles on us, not only on Beersheba and Ashdod – on Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Kiryat Shemona. Why is that? Because we’re not there. But we are in Judea and Samaria in the West Bank, so nobody builds tunnels; they don’t want to, it’s just a waste of time, we’ll get there. And we keep the peace.

“Guess who benefits from that? Guess who benefits from that? It’s not only us, it’s the PA. They’d be overrun in two minutes.

“A couple of years ago we uncovered a plot of 100 Hamas to kill Abu Mazen. Not kill him politically – to kill him. If we weren’t there, they wouldn’t be there, which is exactly what happened when we left Gaza.

“They were there in Gaza, they had 15,000 armed men, Hamas had 3,000, and within two days or a few days, a few weeks, they kicked them out.

“We can’t afford that happening in Judea Samaria, the West Bank or any part of it, which is about 20 times the size of Gaza. And so, I said to Joe Biden and I say this everywhere and I say it publically, I’ve said it in the years since Bar-Ilan 150,000 times: ‘Israel and Israel alone will have the security responsibility in the area west of the Jordan.

“And [former U.S. Vice President] Joe [Biden] said: ‘But that’s not a perfect…that’s not a fully independent state.’ And I said: ‘Okay, it is what it is. You can give it any name you want: state minus; autonomy plus; autonomy plus plus.’ Sounds like a rating agency or something. But that’s it – that’s the truth. And this truth is shared much more widely across the political spectrum in Israel than people understand, because we’re not going to imperil the life of the state for a label or for an op-ed, a good op-ed for six hours not even in the New York Times.”

Regarding Moshe Nissim’s proposal on conversion:

“I think it’s a good compromise. I don’t know if I have the ability right now to pass it because it’s hard. It depends on the political realities but it’s interesting.”

Regarding the Nation-State Law:

“I don’t think you should be concerned, but I think you should be informed. Then you can make up your mind because so much of this is based on misinformation. From Day One Israel was a parliamentary system, even though I define it as a Jewish state, Herzl defined it as a Jewish state, as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

“Why are we here? We’re only here because of that. Otherwise we’d be in Denmark or anywhere. Why are we here?

“This is the nation-state of the Jewish people. The one and only Jewish state in the world. Where Jews can live anywhere in the world, should have the freedom to live freely and without fear. But it’s the one place where any Jew can come and migrate automatically is the Jewish state.

“There are many challenges to the State of Israel but the Jewish future here is in our power. We can control our destiny. To defend ourselves by ourselves, to develop this extraordinary creativity and economy and enterprise and many other things and to do so for all of Israel’s citizens – Jews and none Jews alike and to forge alliances around the world but to maintain the most important alliance of them all – with the United States. It’s irreplaceable.

Prime Minister’s Greatest Concern:

“What I’m concerned with when it comes to the Jewish people is one thing, and that’s the loss of identity. It’s not the question of the wall or the question of conversion, we’ll overcome that. It’s the loss of identity. And that I think is something, is a challenge that we talked about and I think we have to attack together.

“I read an article by Rabbi Hirsch and there’s a line there that is amazing. He said: ‘Those who are not concerned with Jewish survival will not survive as Jews.’ There’s some basic truth to that and I think Jewish survival is guaranteed in the Jewish state if we defend our state, but we have to also work at the continuity of Jewish communities in the world by developing Jewish education, the study of Hebrew, having the contact of young Jews coming to Israel.

“We’re expanding Masa; we’re putting our money where our mouth is. We’re doing now Masa Tech – 700 engineers. But there are so many other things that we need to do.

“We need an approach in the internet age to young Jewish men and women, to young Jewish children around the world so that they understand that their own future as Jews depends on continuous identity – and it’s protecting Jewish identity and developing Jewish consciousness that is the most important thing.

“It transcends politics; it touches in the foundations of history. So I hope that we do this. This is what I think we’re here for. We are one people – let’s make sure that every child, every Jewish child in the world knows how proud they should be to be Jews.”

Prime Minister’s Greatest Pride About Israel:

“We’ve restored our sovereignty…rebuilt our independence, our state, our army and our economy to preserve the Jewish future.

“It never happened in the history of nations, but it’s happening here – and you’re part of that miracle!”

Share this article on WhatsApp:

Previous articleThe Jewish Boy Who Trained With Palestinian Guerillas: An Interview with a Radical 1960s Revolutionary
Next articleLetters To The Editor
Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for, and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.