Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed during the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday last week’s U.S.-sponsored peace summit in Bahrain, as well as recommendations from both the right and left regarding Israel’s policy towards the Gaza Strip.
The Bahrain conference was intended “first and foremost to bring economic growth to the Palestinians and the region as a whole,” Netanyahu said. The prime minister quoted Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, who said last week that Israel was “part of the heritage of the region” and that “the Jewish people have a place among us.”
Al Khalifa also said that “the Israeli public should believe that there are countries in the region that want to achieve peace and are encouraging the Palestinians to make peace.”
Netanyahu called the Bahraini official’s remarks “very important” and said they were the “direct result of our policy, which is making Israel a powerful force in the region and a rising world power.”
“While we are drawing closer to Arab nations, and gradually normalizing relations with them, and while we welcomed the Bahrain conference, which was intended first and foremost to bring economic growth to the Palestinians … the Palestinians were attacking it viciously, against their own interests,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu noted that the Palestinian Authority had arrested a Palestinian businessman for the “crime” of taking part in the Bahrain conference. The man was later released due to U.S. diplomatic pressure on Ramallah.
“All this brings one thing to the surface—[that] the Palestinians are determined to continue the conflict at any cost, including the welfare of the Palestinians themselves. That is not how those who want to promote peace operate. We, unlike them, are continuing to foster ties with the Arab world, and that is to everyone’s benefit,” he said.
Turning to the situation in southern Israel, which has been facing of renewed arson attacks from the Gaza Strip, Netanyahu said, “We completely understand the distress of the communities along the Gaza border, and we are working to ease it as much as possible.”
“Last week, we applied stringent sanctions on Hamas, including stopping the supply of fuel. If we need to, we’ll use much harsher measures. We carry out these actions after consulting with all the branches of the defense and security establishment,” he said.
The prime minister said he was “unimpressed by the propaganda from various ‘experts,'” many of whom “are giving us advice that they themselves didn’t implement when they were in charge. And don’t get mixed up—they’ll also be the first to criticize us when we launch a wide-scale military operation, which we might be forced to do. So I am guided by only one thing—Israel’s security.”
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.