Netanyahu on FIFA Controversy: Israel Hasn't Erred, We Needn't Justify Ourselves

Netanyahu urges Germany to pressure Palestinians to stop delegitimizing Israel; reiterates commitment to two-state solution.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Credit: AP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem that Israel was facing an "international campaign to sully its image," which had nothing to do with its policies in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank, but rather stemmed from a desire to deny Israel of its existential right to exist.

"The last thing that we need to do is bow our heads and ask where we erred, where we went wrong," Netanyahu said. "We did not err, we did not do wrong. We are put up to standards that no other democracy must face. We do not need to justify ourselves. We just need to say the truth.

Netanyahu's remarks come on the heels of the controversy in the international football association, FIFA, surrounding the Palestinian proposal to suspend Israel. A compromise reached at the FIFA Congress in Zurich over the weekend culminated in the establishment of an international committee charged with examining the restrictions placed on Palestinian players in the territories and the status of five Israeli league teams based in the West Bank.

"It doesn't matter what we do, but rather what we represent," Netanyahu said. "What hasn't been said about Jews in history – that we are the source of evil in the world, that we drink the blood of small children - all this has been said about us. It was not true then, and it is not true now. As long as we reject this and refrain from self-flagellation, we will be stronger and more solid."

"They say if only we were nicer, or more generous," he added. "We've made many concessions and it hasn't changed a think, because this campaign of de-legitimization is much deeper, it wishes to strip us our right to live here. There is no criticism of Syria, no protests, but we are accused of being children killers."

Meanwhile, Netanyahu has asked German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier to pressure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to halt actions against Israel in international forums and to renew the peace talks with Israel.

"We have to send a clear message to the Palestinians and I hope you are going to use your meetings with them to do it," Netanyahu told Steinmeier, in an announcement to the press following their meeting Sunday. In reference to the Palestinian bid to suspend Israel from FIFA, Netanyahu said: "Tell the Palestinians to stop their campaign to delegitimize Israel and get back to the negotiating table without preconditions."

Netanyahu added that he was interested in renewing direct peace talks with the Palestinians, and emphasized that he was committed to the principle of "two states for two peoples."

Israel is prepared to take confidence-building steps vis-à-vis the Palestinians including permitting 800 trucks carrying humanitarian goods to enter Gaza daily, he said. "We are ready to take additional steps," Netanyahu added.

Steinmeier told Netanyahu that the Germans believe that an agreement must be reached between Israel and the Palestinians. It will be difficult to renew the negotiations, but it must be attempted, Steinmeier said. He also called to expedite the rehabilitation of Gaza and said that everything must be done to prevent a renewal of fighting.

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