Naftali Bennett at the UN
Naftali Bennett at the UN Reuters

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday, before the start of the holidays of Simchat Torah and Shmini Atzeret, gave a briefing to the media following his speech at the UN General Assembly.

At the start of the briefing, Bennett spoke about his acquaintance with New York City and his coming full circle at the synagogue where he first met his wife, Gilat, and will attend holiday services.

Bennett noted that he sought to bring and emphasize a new energetic optimistic spirit in his speech. "This is the Zionist ethos I believe in. Not scenarios of horror, but rather optimism," he said.

Bennett sent a sharp message regrading Iran's continued nuclear program and warned that Israel would act.

"We mean what we say," Bennett stressed. "The pace of progress towards a nuclear weapon is unacceptable - we are taking action."

He noted that Iran today is running a rotten, corrupt and detached regime, as he put it, which fails to provide water and electricity to parts of the country.

The Prime Minister noted why in his speech he highlighted the issue of polarization and controversy, which he says is not only prevalent in Israel, but also in other countries such as the United States.

Bennett called the political constellation in recent months a "political accident" but noted that "in retrospect I see it as a goal. There is something important and beautiful here. The ability of people with different views to work together."

On the coronavirus, Bennett stressed that he insists the country remain open. "My perception is that the state should continue to run even under COVID-19. We have taken a lot of proactive actions and we are constantly doing trial and error - some things succeed and some do not."

Bennett revealed that each parent will receive in the next two weeks a box with 20 tests for one and a half million children, allowing parents to test their children.

The Prime Minister noted that the hotspots of infection are mainly in the Arab sector, the haredi sector and areas with low socioeconomics, "the pandemic of sectors", as he called it.

"Anyone who tells me to impose restrictions I want to ask him - there is a high morbidity in [the northern Israeli Arab town of] Kabul, so we have to cancel a Shlomo Artzi concert in central Israel? Every such restriction results in financial damage of billions of shekels, compensation for no reason," Bennett said, adding, "I highly regard the people of the Ministry of Health, their job is to provide medical input, but in the end the responsibility is on me, I am personally responsible for the coronavirus."

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Simchat Torah and Shmini Atzeret in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)