Netanyahu Invited to White House by Both Candidates

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset at the opening of the winter session, Monday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset at the opening of the winter session, Monday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In a speech at the opening of the Knesset winter session on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu touted invitations from both Clinton and Trump to visit the White House after the elections as proof of the enduring strength of the bilateral relationship.

“Both U.S. presidential candidates invited me to the White House right after the elections,” Netanyahu stated, seeking to refute critics who have accused him of wrecking the all-important alliance with Washington.

The tumultuous first session centered on the domestic issue of the formation of the new Israel Broadcasting Corporation (IBC). Netanyahu pledged that “we will rehabilitate the Israel Broadcasting Corporation with budgetary responsibility.”

However, opposition leader Isaac Herzog vociferously rejected the notion that Netanyahu has any concern for the broadcaster’s fiscal health, lacing his attack on the broadcasting policy with accusations of racism against Arabs.

“You are leading, with an unending diatribe of hate and incitement, a coup,” said Herzog at the Knesset plenum on Monday.

“You do not cease from meddling with the free press, which is the heart of a democracy. You are toying with it, tagging and diminishing it,” he continued, adding that “a prime minister who is also the communications minister is an anomaly. It is a built-in conflict.”

President Reuven Rivlin appealed for impartiality in a speech which preceded Netanyahu’s:

“Those who are for public broadcasting cannot have it become a ‘commissar mouthpiece,’ and those who oppose it need to come out and say it clearly.” He added, “If you want public broadcasting, it must be impartial to all parties.”

Opening day was also an opportunity for those with special grievances to make their case.

The family of Avraham “Abera” Mengistu, whose captivity in Gaza entered its 785th day, was there.

“The story of Abera Mengistu has been forgotten — we have not forgotten and we urge you not to abandon Abera who has been held by Hamas for the past 785 days,” his parents said in a letter personally handed out to every Knesset member on Monday.

The family also protested family visits for Palestinians in Israeli prisons. “It is inconceivable that the Israeli government allows family visits to Hamas prisoners jailed in Israel while Abera has not seen the light of day for more than two years,” Abera’s brother Illan said on Monday.

Hisham Sayed, a mentally-ill man who wandered into Gaza in April 2015, also remains in Hamas captivity, along with the remains of soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul killed in action in the 2014 Operation Protective Edge.