Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday “we operate in Syria from time to time to prevent Syria from becoming a front against us.”
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He was speaking at the Galilee Conference in Acre, a day after he had met in Paris with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the margins of the climate conference.
Netanyahu said that he had met with over a hundred leaders from around the world, and that, based on what he experienced in Paris, nothing could be further from depictions of Israel as a pariah state.
"We have a disagreement on the Palestinian issue with some of the countries, especially a number of countries in Western Europe . They think the rift with the Palestinians is a territorial dispute, but it’s not,” Netanyahu said.
“It’s about our very existence. But most of the leaders, in Europe as well, understand this.”
At a press conference after Netanyahu’s meeting with Putin, the prime minister said Israeli officers would meet with their Russian counterparts to discuss closer coordination on operations in Syria. This came after Turkey downed a Russian military jet on the Turkish border last week.
Netanyahu and Putin met for 45 minutes, discussed mainly Syria and agreed to deepen military cooperation to prevent similar mishaps.
Speaking at the Galilee Conference, opposition leader Isaac Herzog criticized government policies that prioritize the settlements over outlying communities in the north and south.
“The lobby of the isolated settlements sits in the prime minister’s office and siphons off the money of the children of the Galilee and the Negev for the benefit of a handful of extortionists,” Herzog said.
MK Moti Yogev (Habayit Hayehudi), who was in the audience, shouted at Herzog that his statement was incitement. Herzog answered: “You get hysterical every time somebody tells you the truth.”
Herzog added: “Enough whitewashing, enough fine words. You should be told the truth – the prime minister doesn’t care about the Negev and the Galilee. He only serves those that help him survive – the connected pressure groups.”
As Herzog put it, “When Ariel College wanted to become a university, it became a university overnight.” He said the Negev and the Galilee “get priority only in times of national emergency.”
Herzog once again denied that there was any chance Zionist Union would join Netanyahu’s governing coalition. “Anybody who thinks we can sit in a government with such distorted priorities is making a bitter mistake,” he said.
The mayor of the largely Arab Galilee city of Sakhnin, Mazen Ghanaim, told the conference that Netanyahu discriminated against Arabs in the budget as well.
“On November 19 the government approved a budget – how much for the Arab society? Zero,” he said, adding that 50 percent of Israeli Arabs were poor.