Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged Israeli Knesset members to approve his call for early elections in a speech before the plenum on Monday.
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Speaking prior to a Knesset vote on whether to dissolve and hold elections on January 22, 2013, Netanyahu listed his accomplishments and said that the Iranian threat must be taken seriously by any future leader of Israel.
“In less than 100 days the people of Israel will decide who will lead them in the face of the greatest security challenges we have known since the state was established,” Netanyahu said, adding that he believes it is “appropriate” for the prime minister to seek a renewed mandate from the public.
“Anyone who belittles the threat posed by a nuclear Iran on Israel is not worthy of leading the state of Israel for even one day,” Netanyahu said. “Today, unprecedented sanctions are imposed on Iran, which issue a harsh blow to its economy.
“We now have capabilities to operate against Iran that we did not have in the past,” he added.
“We did not start any unnecessary wars – we didn’t start any wars at all,” Netanyahu said. “In the seven years that I have served (during his two terms), there were no wars and there was a decrease in terror. There was no war because we projected strength.”
Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) also spoke ahead of the vote, condemning Netanyahu’s record and accusing him of intervening in the U.S. elections.
“No campaign slogan can hide the truth,” Mofaz said. Israel, the opposition leader said, is going to the polls at a time when it is “weaker, more isolated, more divided, hungrier and more frightened. This is not the Israel I know – this can’t be its image.”
After attacking Netanyahu on his economic and security polices, he charged that the prime minister is focused on frightening Israelis on a daily basis. Preventing Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability is a mission for the entire Western world, not only Israel, Mofaz said.
“After four years with Netanyahu, Israel is less Jewish and less democratic than ever before,” he said.
The first (and soon to be last) sitting of the Knesset’s winter session was opened by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud), who criticized the frequent elections held in Israel, as no government in more than a decade has been able to complete its term. However, Rivlin said, this time it is justified.
Speaking after Rivlin, President Shimon Peres addressed the threat posed by Iran. “All of the options, including the military option, should be placed on the table so Iran will understand this is serious,” the president said. “The ayatollahs are the true enemies of the people of Iran, and of Israel.”
Turning to the MKs, Peres described the challenges Israel and the world are facing now, highlighting the changes in the Middle East. “Israel is able, when necessary, to attain unity,” he noted.