Likud Central Committee (file)
Likud Central Committee (file)Israel news photo: Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu kicked off the election campaign Sunday in a speech at the Likud convention in Tel Aviv, in which he took credit for making people feel safer in Israel.

"We have systematically struck those who planned to strike us," Netanyahu said. "We took the initiative and we responded resolutely to every attack on us. We proved that we take care of security with force and with good judgment."

"We did not forget," he added, to a burst of applause. "We brought home our abducted soldier Gilad Shalit."  

Hinting at Labor head Shelly Yechimovich, his strongest challenger at present, Netanyahu said: "The state of Israel cannot afford a prime minister without experience in diplomacy, security and economics."

Netanyahu added that "A short election campaign is preferable to a one that lasts 18 months, so that stability can return to the political system."

Eighteen months is roughly the time that his government had remaining until the end of its term. Netanyahu was apparently hinting that once the Tal Law was annulled and Yisrael Beitenu chief Avigdor Lieberman declared that he would initiate an alternative law, the political system had become destabilized.

In his first election speech, Netanyahu took pride in investing billions of shekels in higher education and in instituting free education from age 3. Netanyahu said housing prices are going down due to large scale construction and taxation of working parents with small children has been cut.

Regarding Iran, Netanyahu said: "Until three years ago, Iran went forward with its  nuclear program almost unmolested, and today, largely because of our activity, the world is taking action against the Iranian nuclear program. Of course, Iran is trying to fool the world but we will not reduce the pressure until the threat is truly removed."

He said that his government will replace the Tal Law with a law that will create equality in the burden that is shouldered by different sectors. Regarding "peace," he promised that Israel would "take advantage of all opportunities to carry out a peace deal with our neighbors."