Political responses to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech to the United Nations and his invitation to Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas to visit the Knesset fell along the expected ideological lines, with leftist MKs largely criticizing the speech. However, many also did not have kind words for Abbas, who in his own speech denied the legitimacy of the Balfour Declaration, and with it the subsequent establishment of Israel.
MK Amir Peretz (Zionist Camp) said that both leaders disappointed. “It’s a sad day,” he told Channel One. “Neither did or said anything to lower the levels of hatred, they did not take advantage of the speeches to reduce the hostility between both sides. Abbas was wrong to oppose a historic event like the Balfour Declaration, because his people also require a historic event. Netanyahu also was mistaken, because a leader cannot just point out the threats, but must act to bring about change. Instead of bringing a message of peace, Netanyahu did all he could to survive a peace conference without committing.”
More aggressive in his criticism was Zionist Camp MK Hilik Bar, who criticized Netanyahu’s contention that Israel was a high-tech power that had a great deal to offer and worked with many countries around the world. “While Netanyahu paints Israel as a great power, ordinary Israelis suffer from terror in the streets, an absence of hope, a lack of political vision, and a weak and frightened leadership that is leading us to a binational state.”
Arab MKs dismissed Netanyahu’s invitation. “As usual, he is good at speechmaking,” said MK Ahmed Tibi. “His talent is really wasted – he would have done very well as a theater actor, and the international community understands this as well. From ‘Hodu’ to ‘Kush,’” said Tibi, quoting Megillas Esther, “there is no leader who takes Netanyahu seriously. His polished accent cannot hide the fact that he leads a country that has occupied another nation for the longest time in modern history.”
Reaction on the right to Netanyahu’s speech was largely positive, although reserved. MK Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) said that it was mostly positive, but “it was a shame that he mentioned the two- state solution. Today more than ever it is clear to everyone that a Palestinian state will not solve the conflict, but only make it worse.”
MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home) said that Abbas’s speech was enough to “issue an arrest warrant for him. This is the first anniversary of the murder of Eitam and Na’ama Henkin, Hy”d. Abbas should be put in jail for allowing, encouraging, and spreading incitement. He is guilty of the murders of the Henkins and many others. The lies and incitement he spreads, together with his financial and moral support of the families of the ‘martyrs,’ show that he is an engine for terror, not a force for peace.”