Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday evening said that Israel’s relations with Arab states were “improving beyond imagination” and added that this would help Israel to “achieve peace with our Palestinian neighbors.”
Addressing an audience of around 2,400 delegates at the annual American Jewish Committee Global Forum in Jerusalem, which was for the first time held outside the United States, Netanyahu delivered a message portraying an Israel that was both diplomatically and economically strong.
Netanyahu revealed figures that he had just received from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) illustrating that Israel surpassed Japan in per capita income, for the first time. The statistics also showed that the gaps between rich and poor sections of society were slowly reducing.
Economic progress, according to Netanyahu, was related to the growing number of ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arab citizens entering the workforce. He explained that extra funds allocated towards improving the predicament of Israeli-Arabs estimated at 15 billion shekels, was in turn, aiding Israel’s ties with Arab states.
Attended by delegates from 26 different countries, the prime minister sought to hone in on diaspora relations and urged international Jewish communities to visit the pluralistic prayer platform at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
“Before anything else, Israel is the home of all Jews. Every Jew should feel at home in Israel. This is our goal. This is our policy,” Netanyahu said.
“That’s why I hope you’ll visit the pluralistic prayer space at the Western Wall. You should visit it. We’re enlarging it. We’re making it accessible, so anybody can pray at the Western Wall,” he added, as the crowd applauded
Back in 2016 the government committed to a comprehensive deal for the egalitarian prayer space which included a mixed-gender entrance in the same pavilion as the gender-segregated entrances and the establishment of a board of pluralistic Jewry to oversee the site.
Later in June of that year, those elements of the deal were stamped out last year amid opposition from the ultra-Orthodox parties which form a central plank in Netanyahu’s government.
The Western Wall issue, along with the ultra-Orthodox monopoly over religious conversions in Israel, have been at the center of a major rift between Israel and Diaspora Jewish communities with many expressing feelings of betrayal by the Jewish State.
However, Netanyahu on Sunday sought to highlight the “unity” of the Jewish people and said that it “transcends daily politics.” He added: “It’s in our hearts. It’s in my heart. I know that we’re one people. I know that we share a common path and a common destiny.”
A speech by the prime minister is rarely complete without a reference to arch-foe Iran, where he told the AJC conference that the 2015 nuclear deal currently hanging in the balance, “was applauded by many in the international community who are not in the missile range of Iran.”
“But Israel and Saudi Arabia and others said: This deal will ultimately give Iran a nuclear arsenal and they will use it first against us, and then with the long-range missiles that they’re building, and that the deal doesn’t prevent them from building, against everyone else,” he said.
“I think, as I told my friends in Europe this week, when Israelis and Arabs agree on something — pay attention! They must know something!”, he jibed.
Netanyahu recently returned from a three-day visit to Europe where he sought to pressure Germany, France and the UK to withdraw from the nuclear deal. He subsequently billed the trip as a success, saying that he achieved the goal of convincing his counterparts of the need to form an international agreement on the withdrawal of Iranian troops from Syria.
By: i24 News