Israel’s deputy foreign minister, the country’s de facto top diplomat, told Israeli diplomats Thursday not to hesitate in asserting to their foreign counterparts that the entire Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people.
In an unapologetic speech to incoming Foreign Ministry employees, Likud lawmaker Tzipi Hotovely said that “the time has come to tell the world that we’re right – not only smart.”
Hotovely, who favors the annexation of the West Bank and opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state, told envoys, “We must return to the basic truth about our right to the land.”
“Of course the world understands Israel’s security needs, but arguments of ethics and justice will trump security arguments,” she said, urging Israeli diplomats serving abroad to reiterate the Jewish people’s right to the entire land — apparently referring to sovereign Israel and the biblical Judea and Samaria.
Hotovely also quoted an article by late right-wing newspaper editor Uri Elitzur who maintained that Israel needed to shift its approach from arguing for its security interests to insisting in international forums it has a right to sovereignty over the West Bank.
“It’s important to say — this country is all ours. We didn’t come here to apologize for that,” Hotovely said.
During her speech, Hotovely cited the 11th-century Bible commentator Rashi, who explained the Bible’s focus on the story of the Jewish people’s origins in the Land of Israel and its exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land was meant to shore up the Jewish claim to the land in subsequent generations.
Diplomats were shocked at the speech, the Haaretz daily reported, and many “raised an eyebrow” over the reference to a Jewish Biblical right to the land.
“It’s the first time anyone has asked us to use verses from the Torah for public diplomacy abroad,” one diplomat was quoted as saying.
Referring to the absence of a foreign minister and a prolonged strike by diplomats last year over stagnating wages, Hotovely concluded her speech by declaring that she would fight to return the ministry to its former prominence as the spearhead of Israeli diplomacy.
After the speech, Hotovely told journalists that despite her personal political views, she was committed to pursuing a two-state solution in keeping with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declared policy.
On Wednesday, Hotovely told EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini that the Palestinian Authority had “abandoned” peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians last year, and called on Europe to support Israel’s demand that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel as a Jewish state.