Ex-minister Sa'ar: Israel Needs to Restore Ties With the World, Namely With U.S.

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Former minister Gideon Sa'ar. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Former minister Gideon Sa'ar criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday over his international policies, citing “a need to restore ties with the countries of the world, first and foremost the United States.” Israel has become "irrelevant on many issues," he said.

Speaking on the second day of the annual Institute for National Strategic Studies conference in Tel Aviv, Sa'ar, who served in previous Likud-led governments as interior minister and education minister, said that issues like the end of the war in Syria are being discussed without any Israeli input.

Other than high-sounding declarations, Sa'ar said, Israel has become irrelevant on many issues, the nuclear agreement with Iran as an example. In order "to deal with Iranian violations of the nuclear agreement," trust must be restored in U.S.-Israel relations.

Sa'ar criticized what he called Netanyahu's “policy of sit and do nothing” with regard to Gaza, saying he believed such a policy “brings the next conflict closer.” During the last war in Gaza, in the summer of 2014, he said, “the strategic goal of demilitarizing Gaza came up, but nothing was done about it.” He added that nothing had been done to move ahead on rehabilitating the Gaza Strip “even though it is in Israel’s interest."

"Israel must take its future into its hands and determine what its interests are, enlist allies and act," he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett slammed the policies of Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon. The government leaders’ “inability to think out of the box,” he said, was the main threat facing Israel.

"The main threat to Israel," he explained in his speech at the conference, "comes neither from the north nor from the south, not from the rockets of Hamas and Hezbollah, and not even from Iran Instead of shaping our future with our own hands, Israel is being dragged along, behind the existing situation. That, in my opinion, is the greatest danger to our security.“

Sources close to the prime minister attacked his remarks. “We snickered after hearing Bennett’s words,” said Netanyahu associates. “Once again Bennett is repeating his familiar pattern of behavior. He hears ideas that come up in various forums with the prime minister and then uses them as his own.”

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