Netanyahu: A Country Cannot Be Run on Arguments

PM, at weekly Cabinet meeting, seeks to dispel tensions over 'Jewish State' bill - and warn US again over Iran.

Tova Dvorin ,

Binyamin Netanyahu
Binyamin Netanyahu
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed a series of pressing national and security issues Sunday, elaborating at length on such issues as Iran, the 'Jewish State Law,' and bills against incitement, in his opening remarks to his Cabinet meeting.

Netanyahu first addressed Iran. 

"Last night US Secretary of State John Kerry updated me on the situation in the nuclear talks with Iran," he said. "We are anxiously monitoring developments in these talks."

"We are holding discussions with the representatives of other major powers and are presenting them with a vigorous position to the effect that Iran must not be allowed to be determined as a nuclear threshold state," he added. "There is no reason why it should be left with thousands of centrifuges that could enable it to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb in a short time."

"Neither is there any reason why Iran should continue to develop intercontinental missiles, which could carry nuclear warheads, and thereby threaten the entire world," he continued. "Therefore, no agreement at all would be preferable to a bad agreement that would endanger Israel, the Middle East and all of humanity."

Iran and six world powers are holding talks in Vienna in an attempt to reach a lasting agreement on Tehran's disputed nuclear program before a deadline on Monday.

While world leaders have said that Iran and the West have "never been closer" to an agreement, Israel has warned repeatedly that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has embarked on a "charm offensive" to buy time to continue building nuclear warheads. 

Fighting terror at home

The Prime Minister then addressed an upcoming vote on proposals to strip Israeli citizenship from Israeli Arabs involved in terror attacks.  

"Over the weekend I instructed Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mendelbit, along with Interior Minister Gilad Erdan, to submit draft legislation to revoke rights from residents who participate in terrorism or incitement against the State of Israel," he said.

"It cannot be that those who attack Israeli citizens and call for the elimination of the State of Israel will enjoy rights such as National Insurance, and their family members as well, who support them."

"This law is important in order to exact a price from those who engage in attacks and incitement, including the throwing of stones and firebombs, and it complements the demolition of terrorists' homes, and helps to create deterrence vis-à-vis those who engage in attacks and incitement," he added. 

Netanyahu's declaration emerges hours after Erdan revoked the residency status of Mahmoud Nadi, the driver for the suicide bomber responsible for the June 2001 Dolphinarium attack. 

'Jewish State' tensions

Netanyahu also addressed tensions surrounding the upcoming 'Jewish State Law,' which is due to be voted upon by the Cabinet later Sunday. 

"Today, I will submit to the Cabinet the nationality law and the principles that I believe need to guide this legislation," he began. "The State of Israel is the national state of the Jewish People. It has equal individual rights for every citizen and we insist on this. But only the Jewish People have national rights: A flag, anthem, the right of every Jew to immigrate to the country, and other national symbols. These are granted only to our people, in its one and only state."

Netanyahu then deflected heavy criticism from the political left over the law.

"I hear from people who say 'Who needs this law? We've managed without it for 66 years,'" he stated. "And I ask: Who needed Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty? We managed without it for 45 years. But both are necessary. Israel is a Jewish and democratic state. There are those who would like the democratic to prevail over the Jewish and there are those who would like the Jewish to prevail over the democratic. And in the principles of the law that I will submit today both of these values are equal and both must be considered to the same degree."

The Prime Minister noted that the new law addresses current realities, especially regarding incitement from within Israel. 

"This law is also needed now for another reason: There are many who are challenging Israel's character as the national state of the Jewish people," he explained. "The Palestinians refuse to recognize this and there is also opposition from within."

"There are those – including those who deny our national rights – who would like to establish autonomy in the Galilee and the Negev," he continued. "Neither do I understand those who are calling for two states for two peoples but who also oppose anchoring this in law. They are pleased to recognize a Palestinian national state but strongly oppose a Jewish national state." 

He also denied that he changed the law, radically, to account for opposition from Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. 

"On the eve of last Independence Day, I stood in the hall where the Declaration of Independence was signed in Tel Aviv and I promised to submit this legislation to the Cabinet and I am doing so today," he said. "I have not softened it and I have not changed anything. I have submitted the principles of the law that I believe in, the same principles that appear in the Declaration of Independence, the same principles that I absorbed in the Zionist sprit from my father, who absorbed them from Zeev Jabotinsky and from Binyamin Zeev Herzl."

"Around the nationality law, and around other issues, I hear ultimatums, diktat and threats of quitting from various parts of the coalition; a country cannot be run this way," he stressed. "We must concentrate on strengthening security against waves of extremist Islam and the Iranian nuclear danger, on strengthening Israel's economy and increasing citizens' welfare – and not on threats. I believe that the heads of the parties in the coalition will unite and work in this spirit."