Addressing a major Jewish gathering in Jerusalem on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed his country’s innovation and economic success, and called on the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
In a speech he delivered at the American Jewish Committee’s first Global Forum, Netanyahu extolled Israel’s economic progress, saying, “I just received statistics from the IMF. Israel has just overtaken Japan in per capita income. Israel has overtaken the EU average in per capita income. And it’ll take us a couple of years, really I’m not competing with anyone, we’re going to catch up to Britain and France, because we’re that close.”
Netanyahu noted Israel had a “vibrant” society and economy.
“We gave room and birth for the ingenuity of our people, and young people, and they make fantastic things in technology, we’re all aware of that,” Netanyahu said. “Israel is the quintessential innovation nation. That’s what we do. We innovate, and the future belongs to those who innovate.”
Netanyahu highlighted that Israel’s unemployment rate was at its lowest level in 40 years and that the wealth gap in the Jewish state appeared to be shrinking.
“We also got statistics for the inequality coefficient,” he stated. “It’s called the Gini coefficient. It measures inequality in a society across countries. And Israel’s has gone down steadily and dramatically as we speak. As our economy has grown and as we have grown richer, we’ve also become less divided. Less divided because right now — our inequality rates, which were very high — now are almost touching the inequality rate, gross inequality, that’s what it’s called, almost touches the OECD. So we’re surpassing many of those countries, but we’re also making sure that this redounds to our people. And when I say our people, I mean all our people.”
Netanyahu also touched on the conflict with the Palestinians, saying that the reason for the impasse in peace negotiations was due to the consistent Palestinian rejection of the idea of a Jewish state.
“The reason we don’t have peace is not because of the absence of a Palestinian state,” he said. “It’s been offered many, many times. And it’s been rejected many times, because it always had a condition: no Jewish state.”
“That’s why a hundred years ago, the rejectionist elements in Palestinian society rejected the Balfour Declaration,” he added, “They rejected the Peel Commission in the 1930s, they rejected the partition resolution, which called for a Jewish state and an Arab state in 1947, and they’ve rejected it ever since. … It’s never been about a Palestinian state, it’s always been about the Jewish state.”
“If President Abbas wants to make peace,” he admonished, “recognize the Jewish state for God’s sake! That will bring peace once and for all.”
The prime minister also pointed to warming relations between Israel and the Arab states due to the Iranian threat. Pledging that Israel would never allow Iran to have nuclear weapons, he emphaszied that many Arab states agreed, and that he told European leaders during a recent visit to the continent, “When Israelis and Arabs agree on something — pay attention! They must know something!”
“Iran has done one good thing,” he added. “It’s brought Israel and our Arab neighbors closer together than ever before.”
Commenting that a delegation from Indonesia was attending the forum, Netanyahu expressed the importance of relations with the Muslim world, saying, “I find that particularly important and particularly hopeful. Welcome to all of you from Indonesia. Know that we have contacts … with many in the Muslim world, and that holds the promise of peace.”
Finally, Netanyahu mentioned the importance of Jewish solidarity across denominations, saying, “We know that before everything else, Israel is the home of all Jews. Every Jew should feel at home in Israel. This is our goal and this is our policy. And that’s why I hope you’ll visit the pluralistic prayer space at the Western Wall. We’re making it accessible so anyone can pray at the Western Wall. … I know that we are one people. I know that we share a common past and a common destiny.”
The AJC Global Forum is the first of its kind and is being attended by over 2,000 delegates.
Watch Netanyahu’s address below:
(C) 2018 . The Algemeiner . Benjamin Kerstein