Israeli Arab Lawmakers Boycott Netanyahu as He Pledges to Protect Settlements

The prime minister slams left-wing critics saying 'only the strong survive' in the Middle East, at opening of Knesset's winter legislative session.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset, October 31, 2016.
Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset, October 31, 2016.Credit: Emil Salman
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset at the launch of its winter session on Monday that he "operates differently" than those who counsel Israel to withdraw from territory for peace.

"I have deep faith in the storminess and instability of the Middle East. There is only one policy by which to ensure the future, peace and hope, and that's a strong Israel," Netanyahu said.

"In our region the weak do not survive. Only the strong survive and prosper. With the strong ones you forge alliances. Only with the strong one do you make peace."

Netanyahu pledged to "continue to take care of settlement in Judea and Samaria," seeking to ease settler anger at the imminent court-ordered evacuation of the Amona outpost, built on privately owned West Bank land.

"This morning we asked for a delay in the Amona issue, which is important in my eyes, to deal with the issue in a responsible manner. And we are also handling similar cases. We are a law abiding country. Everyone must remember this. I am sure that in the end the settlers will act responsibility. They know that there was and will not be a more sympathetic government toward settlement than this one," Netanyahu said.

The prime minister said both major candidates running for U.S. president have invited him to the White House after the election, and defending himself against critics of his chilly ties with President Barack Obama, said :

"We have 38 billion reasons to believe that relations with the United States are stronger than ever and shall remain so," referring to a 10-year aid package signed recently with Washington.

"The American people loves Israel, the American people support Israel. The Americans are our partners, of hope out of strength," he said.

Arab lawmakers walked out of the plenum before Netanyahu's speech, in protest against a decision by coalition lawmakers to boycott speeches by Arab legislators for their not having attended a funeral for the late former president and prime minister, Shimon Peres, who died in September.

Netanyahu hinted anew at his policy goal of seeking a broader reconciliation with the Arab rather than only a separate deal with the Palestinians.

"Perhaps the way to peace has been reversed. Instead of the Palestinians bringing peace with the Arab world, it's the Arab world that will bring the Palestinians. We are working on it in a realistic, balanced, responsible way," he said.

Netanyahu also addressed a hot domestic issue regarding a controversial plan to scuttle a new public broadcast corporation that was supposed to replace the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

Earlier on Monday Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said he objected to cancelling the corporation, citing the expenses involved.

Netanyahu promised to "rehabilitate the broadcast authority in a financially responsible way."

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