Speaking at a special mid-recess Knesset session Tuesday morning, Opposition Leader Binyamin Netanyahu spoke of the dangers of Prime Minister Olmert's intention to give away most of Judea and Samaria in a new diplomatic initiative being negotiated with Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
"We keep hearing about an international summit in November in which we will more or less promise to give away more land in another unilateral withdrawal," Netanyahu said. "It wasn't enough that we retreated in Lebanon and Gaza, that now they're planning another one?!"
Netanyahu was referring to ongoing negotiations between Olmert and Abbas, known as Abu Mazen. The goal of the talks is to reach an agreement in principle of a withdrawal from nearly all of Judea and Samaria, in exchange for peaceful relations with a Palestinian state to be formed there.
"... So they'll say that it's not unilateral, rather now we have a partner," Netanyahu continued. "And who's the partner? Abu Mazen. He's a partner!? Reciprocity is when you get something back in exchange for what you give. But what will we receive? Will we receive the complete nullification of the 'right of return' [to Israel]? We know that we will not. Will we receive sovereignty over Jerusalem? No, we know that [our government] has ceded this. And it keeps on going - with every Olmert-Abbas meeting, another 100 terrorists are freed, as we heard this morning - and that's when they meet here; when they meet in the US, it's hundreds of terrorists who go free, and we hear that at the summit they're going to be talking about thousands! ... Not to mention the guns that the PA keeps receiving..."
Concessions are Downright Dangerous
"This government just gives and gives," Netanyahu railed, "and receives nothing - and this will place us in dangers much greater than we have known before, as we see in Sderot; the risks in the Galilee continue as well. Our country will end up endangered by rockets from three directions..."
"One diplomatic mistake made by government leaders, 1,000 generals cannot fix," Netanyahu said. "Two of our leading politicians [Defense Minister Ehud Barak and PM Olmert] have made terrible mistakes. Barak's hasty retreat from Lebanon brought Katyushas to the Galilee and Olmert's major role in the Disengagement from Gaza brought Kassams to the Negev. We warned in the past about Iran's rockets, and about Hizbullah, and about Hamas, and that Olmert is blind to the dangers, and that we must not let him be in charge of our country - and then just a few months later, our predictions came true when the war in Lebanon broke out."
Where's the Promised Response?
"I remind you of the promises made by Olmert and other fellow Disengagement-proponents regarding the strong, powerful military response we would carry out if the terrorists fire at us from Gaza. Nu? Where's the response? ... They themselves [Barak and Olmert] realize there is a problem, and they say they can't withdraw right now [from Judea and Samaria], because then the terrorists will take over and fire at us. This means it won't bring peace, but will rather bring the rockets closer..."
"What, then, must we do? We must first of all realize that at present, there is simply no Palestinian partner. The reason why Judea and Samaria does not turn into Hamastan is because we are still there. We must also create conditions that will make it harder for extremist Muslims to recruit youths to their ranks. In addition, we must have joint economic projects with Jordan; as opposed to some people who say that peace will bring prosperity, we know that economic prosperity can create some conditions for peace."
No Mandate; New Elections
Netanyahu said that Olmert's low standing in the polls means he has no "moral mandate to make such concessions. Everywhere you go, you hear that people know and realize that these concessions are not the solution. The public wants something else. There's only one way to solve this, and that is to have new elections. We say to this duo that has brought us rockets in the Galilee and the Negev, that we don't want rockets in central Israel as well."
Foreign Minister Responds
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni responded, filling in for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who was not present. Livni's speech was interrupted countless times by opposition MKs, and in fact, observers noted that she appeared to be tense and hard-pressed to make some of her points.
Minister Livni opened by clarifying that "if there is any agreement with the Palestinians, it will be brought to the government for its approval, and then to the Knesset for ratification as well." She said that her government's policies are predicated on two basic principles: "We clearly distinguish between
"It's no secret that I'm in favor of dialogue with those [in the Palestinian Authority] who favor a two-state solution," Minister Livni said. "No, Mr. opposition leader, we do not have the option of freezing the situation and waiting for things to change; it's not good for us or for the pragmatic Palestinians; when there is a window of opportunity, we must take advantage of it and conduct talks, while at the same time preserving our national assets."
She said the government recognizes the problems, including the Hamas leadership in
"There is another problem," she continued, "and that is the gap between the ability to reach agreements - and I hope this exists - and the ability to execute them. We are not ignoring this gap, but it has a solution, and that is by setting principles to bridge between the agreements that I hope we will reach and their practical advancement, which can happen only where there is an effective and legitimate government that can carry out its obligations regarding
Livni emphasized that a two-state solution means that the "right of return" for Arabs will not be implemented in