There will be no peace with the Palestinians until they recognize the Jewish right to a homeland in Israel, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday night at Bar-Ilan University.
“A necessary condition to getting a true solution [to the Israeli-Palestinian] conflict was and remains clear as the sun: ending the refusal to recognize the right of the Jews to a homeland of their own in the land of their fathers,” he said. “That is the most important key to solving the conflict.”
Netanyahu’s words came at the start of a conference marking 20 years since the founding of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, the site of Netanyahu’s famous “Bar-Ilan speech” from four years ago where he stated his willingness for a two-state solution.
Those who anticipated that he might use the same venue to again break new ground on the Palestinian issue were disappointed.
Rather then present a “vision” speech of where he thought the negotiations with the Palestinians were headed, Netanyahu used the opportunity to emphasize that a Palestinian recognition of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people was a necessary condition to any agreement.
Since the first Arab attack on a home housing Jewish immigrants in Jaffa in 1921, the root of the conflict has not been the “occupation,” the “territories” or the settlements, but rather an Arab refusal to recognize the Jews’ right to a sovereign state in their historic homeland, he said.
Netanyahu said that the Arab revolutions of the past two years – which he called the most significant events in the region in 20 years – have laid to rest the “sacred cow” that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the heart of the instability in the Middle East.
Today, he said, it is “tough to say this without sounding absurd.”
It is now also the time, he said, to kill the “sacred cow” that the “occupation” was the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Netanyahu spent a number of minutes during his address, which lasted some 30 minutes, discussing the links of the head of the Palestinian national movement in the pre-state days – Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini – with the Nazis. He reminded his listeners that the mufti visited Adolf Hitler in 1941 and promised his aid in getting Muslims to enlist in the SS in the Balkan states, and in the Nazi propaganda efforts.
Husseini, he said, is still an admired figure among Palestinians.
“That is what needs to be uprooted,” he said.
Netanyahu brought up the mufti, however, more to refute comments Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made in New York two weeks ago than to slam the current Palestinian leadership.
During a television interview, Rouhani acknowledged Nazi crimes against Jews, though he would not use the word “Holocaust.”
Netanyahu pointed out that Rouhani then quickly pointed out that it was forbidden to let the Zionists exploit the Nazi crimes to oppress the Palestinians.
“Despite what Iranian representatives and others say,” the prime minister said, “Zionist leaders did not use the Holocaust to destroy the Palestinian national movement.
The opposite is true. The leader of the Palestinian movement at that time, Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, is the one who preached and worked to carry out the Holocaust to destroy the Zionist movement.
“And it almost worked,” Netanyahu said. “European Jewry was destroyed, with the help of the mufti, but Zionism was not destroyed; Israel was established.”
The goal of Iran today was to control the Middle East and beyond, and to “destroy the State of Israel. That is not speculation, that is the goal,” he said.
Repeating arguments he made last week at the UN, Netanyahu dismissed the notion that Iran was merely seeking nuclear energy for peaceful means, saying that countries that want to harness nuclear energy for civilian needs do not insist on enriching uranium and building plutonium reactors, elements not needed for civilian nuclear purposes but only to build nuclear weapons.
“The international community’s position toward Iran needs to be: We are willing to come to a diplomatic solution – but only one that will dismantle from Iran its capabilities to develop nuclear weapons. That means no centrifuges for enriching uranium and no plutonium reactor,” he said.
Earlier in the day, at the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu stressed he was not against diplomacy with Iran, but rather wanted to ensure that negotiations with Iran will lead it to a halt of uranium enrichment.
Netanyahu, in his first meeting with his cabinet since meeting US President Barack Obama in Washington and saying a day later at the UN General Assembly last week that Israel would “stand alone” against Iran if need be, said he had a long, in-depth conversation with Obama about Iran and that they agree on the need to halt the Islamic Republic’s uranium enrichment.
“Iran claims that it wants this capability for nuclear energy for peaceful needs,” he said. “Seventeen countries in the world produce nuclear energy for peaceful needs without one centrifuge or enriching uranium.”
Netanyahu, who only recently began publicly saying that the sanctions on Iran were making a serious dent, said that the sanctions were “working,” and were “just a moment before achieving their goal.”
Sanctions must not be removed before Iran dismantles its enrichment capabilities, he said.