Coalition Chairman MK Yariv Levin (Likud) is far from complacent following Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's major policy speech, delivered Sunday at Bar Ilan University and known as his “Bar Ilan 2 speech.”
Netanyahu's “Bar Ilan 1” speech, delivered in 2009, was badly received by nationalists in Israel because Netanyahu said, for the first time, that he would accept a “Palestinian state,” albeit a demilitarized one.
There was concern that Bar Ilan 2 would contain further rhetorical concessions – a concern amplified by the fact that Israel is currently holding negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA), and that these talks are being held under a mantle of secrecy, with the Israeli negotiating team being led by the pro-concession justice minister, Tzipi Livni.
Arutz Sheva's Shimon Cohen asked Levin if the speech was not what Israel's nationalists had hoped for.
"There is a trauma from speeches following that speech which would have been better left undelivered [Bar Ilan 1],” said Levin, “but what is much more important is what happens on the ground.
"It is good that the speech dealt with the Iranian matter. It is good that it did not contain new statements about concessions and steps on other planes, but one must remember that in the Oslo days, as well, there were problematic discussions in the negotiation rooms and they did not find expression in speeches until one morning, we were taken by surprise,” Levin warned.
Unlike other Likud members identified with the more strogly nationalist wing, Levin does not focus his criticism on Livni.
"We must remember, and we must not see things in a different way,” he explained. “Tzipi Livni is an emissary for the sake of the negotiations. She does not have authority and cannot take decisions without the the prime minister being in the lead. No concessions should be made because in the end, in everything that goes on there – for good and for bad – it is the prime minister who is leading.”
"We leaarned in the past that such negotiations have an exterior facade and on the other hand there is an internal process that goes on far from the strobe lights, and sometimes the exterior can be misleading on purpose. I do not know, and I hope this is not the situation this time, but one must adopt the basic assumption that we need to remain on guard, stress our messages and use all levers in order to make sure that we stay our course.”
"People who try to create some kind of fake reality, as if Livni is to blame, is doing an injustice to what the prime minister said himself. He committed, after all, to the fact that Livni is an emissary and not a decision maker. He said it clearly and had he not done so, I do not see how the government would have been formed.”
Cohen asked Levin if the speech is not, in essence, the start of a campaign for explaining Israel's position on the day after negotiations fail. He replied that this is possible, but added that no one but Livni, the prime minister, and the prime minister's other emissary, Attoeney Yitzhak Molcho, knows what is going on in the talks with the PA.
Levin said that he thinks a key issue was missing from the speech, and from Netanyahu's earlier speech at the UN: Israel's basic right to the territory of the Land of Israel.
"On this matter we are making a fundamental mistake, and not just one on the opinion shaping level. If they talk about rights and we talk about security, we've lost the move before we even began. In addition, we are ignoring the historic truth, which is precisely opposite. We have historic national rights and the other side cannot make such a claim.”
Levin said that he would have preferred to hear a speech that included an element of “Zionist annexation,”even if it would have destabilized the Coalition. “The Coalition is a means, not an end,” he said.