Netanyahu: Israel, US must move on from Iran deal

At Jewish Federations of North America, PM says Israel ready for peace, but Palestinians must stop making endless demands.

Nitsan Kedar, Washington D.C. , | updated: 7:52 PM

Binyamin Netanyahu addresses Jewish Federations of North America
Binyamin Netanyahu addresses Jewish Federations of North America

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the Jewish Federations of North America's General Assembly Tuesday, in a speech touching on a number of hot-button topics.

Netanyahu began by hailing Israel's booming economy and innovative hi-tech industry.

For example, he noted that despite the fact that over the course of 67 years Israeli water supplies have gone down by roughly half, while the population increased ten times, Israel has managed to produce a water surplus thanks to the cutting edge technology its scientists developed.

Israel has become a world leader in water recycling. "People are coming to us and saying: teach us!," he said.

In cyber security and cyber technology Israel is "punching 200 times above its weight," contributing 20% to global investment in cyber security in 2015. 

Netanyahu emphasized the importance of Israel's economy in enabling it to maintain its constant state of preparedness against the threats it faces. "The principal way of paying for our defenses is our economy," he said.

But the second factor in securing Israel's defense is its "unshakable" alliance with the US.

"I had a wonderful discussion with President Obama on how to assure that assistance in the coming decade," he said of his meeting last night at the Oval Office.

That alliance was stronger than ever, the PM said. "Thank you America and thank you President Obama."

"Iran deal is done"

Turning to the audience, Netanyahu urged them to be proud of the Jewish state and stand up in its defense.

Israel upholds the values of freedom and democracy "in the darkest place on the earth... this is why when our detractors defame Israel we must defend Israel. This is why when they tell us we should be ashamed of Israel we must tell them: We are proud of Israel!"

His confidence in Israel's future was built on three things, he emphasized repeatedly: "The indomitable spirit of our people, the unbreakable bond with the United States, and you," he concluded, referring to American Jewry.

Israel's alliance with the US is "unshakable, and it will only continue to grow stronger."

President Obama is "very committed" to that alliance, as well as to "maintaining Israel's qualitative military edge, so Israel can defend itself by itself from any threats."

Netanyahu then extended a fig leaf to the White House after years of acrimonious disagreements over the Iranian nuclear deal. Now that the deal was done the two allies should look towards the future, he said.

"Despite our disagreement over Iran I believe that Israel and America can and should work together to make sure Iran abides by the agreement," as well as in order to curb Iran's growing regional influence and support for global terrorism, he stated. 

The US-Israel alliance is not a one-way street, however, he stressed. "The United States of America is giving indispensable help to Israel, but Israel is also returning that help in many different ways, in intelligence and in so many other ways."

Inviting the Reform movement to Israel

He also reached out to American Jews, many of whom have voiced concerns over Israel's preservation of Jewish tradition and limited acceptance of the Reform and other non-Orthodox streams of Judaism.

"You have been our partners in building our future," Netanyahu said of American Jews.

He vowed to make sure that "all Jews," regardless of affiliation, "feel at home in Israel," and noted a special roundtable of Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and other Israeli Jewish leaders which the Prime Minister's Office had established to work through various disagreements.

Netanyahu also hinted at a possible change of arrangements at the Kotel to allow for non-Orthodox prayer. "Every Jew should feel that the Kotel belongs to him, and every Jew should feel wanted in Israel."

"For the first time, the government of Israel together with the Jewish Agency is investing in and strengthening the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox movements within the State of Israel," he added.

Just last Thursday the Reform movement passed an extreme new pro-transgender policy. Homosexuality is strictly forbidden by Jewish law.

"The unity of the Jewish people important... especially at this time," he said, pointing both to the wave of terrorism buffeting Israel and a rise in global anti-Semitism.

"The lies that were once leveled at the Jewish people are now leveled at the Jewish state," he said. "They say that Israel harvests organs, spreads AIDs and 'executes' innocent children.

"Once the Jewish people couldn't even raise their voice against these lies - today we have a voice... We must speak out against the slander of  the Jewish people and the Jewish state," he continued, to a standing ovation.

"Whether it's the Israeli prime minister speaking at the UN or students in University... stand up and speak the truth about Israel. Be proud as Jews!" he urged, to enthusiastic applause.

Israel is held to a "triple standard," which amounted to anti-Semitism, he declared.

"One standard is  for the dictatorships, one standard is for democracies, and the third... is for the democracy called Israel. We don't accept that."

"I seek peace"

Netanyahu also addressed the conflict with the Palestinian Arabs, insisting that Arab rejectionism of Jewish independence was the sole stumbling block to peace.

"The reason we don't have peace with the Palestinians is not because of the settlements or a territorial dispute... it is the persistent Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewish state in any boundaries.

"The truth is that Israel seeks peace; the truth is that I seek peace. When the leaders of Israel met Arab leaders who truly wanted peace... Israel made peace!" he added, restating his commitment "to the vision of two states for two people where a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes Israel."

But that could only happen once the Palestinian Authority agreed to "forget the past and seize the future," while ceasing to make endless claims and demands on Israel.