Netanyahu is currently overwhelmingly favored to win Israel's next national elections - which could be held anytime between January 2009 and November 2010.
Who Really Attacked Sternhell?
Netanyahu strongly condemned the attack on radical left-wing Prof. Ze'ev Shternhell late last week, but said it is not clear who perpetrated it.
"It is now clear to anyone who considers himself a 'State of Israel lover,' and not just a 'Land of Israel lover,' that if we give away more territory, it will be taken over by Iran and its appendages."
"The attack was criminal and dangerous," Netanyahu said, "and those responsible must be put behind bars." However, he added, "there are two dangers to democracy, both of which are present in this case: The use of violence to impose opinions, and the delegitimization of the opponent in order to suppress his freedom of speech - i.e., the attempt here to attribute this attack to the law-abiding public of the residents [and supporters] of Judea and Samaria."
Greater Land of Israel
Netanyahu was asked about Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's recent eulogizing of the vision of the Greater Land of Israel. Olmert said at a Cabinet meeting two weeks ago, "The notion of a Greater Israel no longer exists, and anyone who still believes in it is deluding himself... I've come to realize that we have to share this land with the people who dwell here, if we don’t want to be a binational state."
Netanyahu's response: "The real debate is not about the Greater Land of Israel, but rather the little Land of Israel in which the Prime Minister and his people want to leave us. We're not talking now about annexing Ramallah, but rather the fate of the Jordan Valley. That's what the debate is about - about the abandonment of areas with no Palestinian presence. They [Olmert, Livni, et al - ed.] want to give up as much as possible, and we want to retain as much as possible in areas that are saturated with both historic significance and security significance for us."
Giving Away Territory
"Today, in light of our abandonment of Gaza and the Hamas takeover there, it is clear to anyone who considers himself a 'State of Israel lover,' and not just a 'Land of Israel lover,' that if we give away more territory, it will be taken over by Iran and its appendages."
"The retreat from Gush Katif turned the Gaza Strip into an Iranian base," Netanyahu stated.
Reminded of the diplomatic processes he advanced with the Palestinian Authority when he was Prime Minister ten years ago - including the signing of the Hevron and Wye Plantation agreements - Netanyahu noted the difference between his approach and that of the present government: "Before I took office, the conception was to give away everything except for 2% [of Judea and Samaria], while I turned everything around and gave just 2% to [full control of] the Palestinian Authority." He also gave additional percentages to Palestinian administrative control, while retaining Israeli military control - territory known in the Oslo Accords as Area B.
"Give - Get; Don't Give - Don't Get"
"I institutionalized the concept of reciprocity," Netanyahu said - referring to the concept known as, 'If they give, they'll get; if they don't give, they won't get' - "and without uprooting one Jew from his home. I halted the process of giving away land by demanding reciprocity. I did not destroy or evacuate any community, and no one had to leave his home when I was Prime Minister."
"I don't understand why natural growth is acceptable in Arab towns, but not for Jewish towns. There's no reason why the existing communities should not be allowed to develop."
"If I am elected Prime Minister," he said, "I will not volunteer concessions and the removal of Jewish communities."
Speaking with the Hebrew news site Walla, Netanyahu added, "I don't understand why natural growth is acceptable in Arab towns, but not for Jewish towns. There's no reason why the existing communities should not be allowed to develop."
Whither the Likud?
The recent addition to the Likud, with Netanyahu's enthusiastic blessing, of personalities whose opinions are not quite nationalist, such as gen. (ret.) Uzi Dayan and former Police Commissioner Assaf Chefetz, has aroused some concern over the direction Netanyahu is taking the party. He told Israel National News that their joining does not prove the party is going leftward: "Perhaps they changed their ideas in the wake of Kadima's failures... Don't forget that they came to us; we didn't bring them... The Likud's political and economic approach has proven itself in the eyes of people like them, and that's why they found their way to us."
Without getting into details, Netanyahu says Israel must be very firm in its contacts with the Palestinian Authority, both militarily and diplomatically: "Peace is made with an enemy," he said, quoting a left-wing motto, "but he must stop being your enemy - and even then, the negotiations must be handled with firmness. Today we have no partner who will obligate himself to take action. The other side must recognize not only Israel's existence, but also our right to exist, and must impose this recognition on his countrymen. These conditions do not currently exist, and therefore all the arguments are sterile."
"The only relevant option at present is 'economic peace,'" Netanyahu told Walla, "and afterwards, if it works, we can consider diplomatic options."
'The Public Must Choose'
Regarding his immediate political plans, Netanyahu said that he has absolutely no intention of joining a government headed by Kadima and its leader, former Likud member Tzipi Livni: "The Livni government will be a continuation of the Olmert government, which has agreed to divide Jerusalem and return, more or less, to the pre-1967 borders. We will present an alternative, and the public will have to choose between two different paths. I believe that the nation will choose us, and then we will form a government including all those who wish to join."
Netanyahu added to Walla that it would be better "to end the government instability now and go to new elections quickly, instead of dragging it out for six or twelve months."