opening of knesset winter session - Emil Salman -  October 31, 2011
Lawmakers attending the opening of the Knesset winter session, October 31, 2011. Photo by Emil Salman
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The Knesset got back to business yesterday after the summer recess to discuss the themes that riveted Israel over the past three months: the Shalit deal, the social protest movement and the tense relations with the Palestinian Authority. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu focused on the latter, blasting the PA's leaders.

"I am not strict and rigid when it comes to peace," Netanyahu said. "I am strict and scrupulous about security for Israel and its citizens, and I will continue to be so. This is my supreme obligation as prime minister."

According to Netanyahu, "for the negotiations to reach a conclusion, they first have to be started. Unfortunately, the Palestinians persist in their refusal to conduct direct talks with us. Instead of sitting at a negotiation table, they have chosen to forge an alliance with Hamas."

Netanyahu did not address the protest movement's specific demands or the strikes in the medical profession. In any case, opposition leader Tzipi Livni of the centrist Kadima party attacked the prime minister's policies.

"Israel faces a deepening isolation .... Very soon, Israel's sole partner for a peace agreement will disappear. Within a short time, Israel will face a situation in which the idea of two states will no longer be relevant, and we will face a campaign for one state that isn't Jewish. Israel faces a situation in which its young people leave the country."

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin criticized his colleagues for inaction on social issues. The summer protest movement "caught the Knesset unawares," he said. "The demand for a new social agenda did not come from the Knesset, and voices of this protest do not seem to be represented in the Knesset. Is it any surprise that Rothschild Boulevard replaced the Knesset?"

President Shimon Peres also discussed the social protest movement against the rising cost of living. "Social justice is not just a matter of staging a demonstration," he said. "The protest movement's main demand is for a change in our national priorities."

Speaking at a meeting of his Yisrael Beiteinu party, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman attacked the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. "We should consider severing all ties with the PA," he said. "We are not looking for a conflict and we are not trying to argue, but I'm just not willing for our country to turn into the Middle East's quintessential sucker."