Netanyahu calls for ‘more unity’ and agreements ahead of Jewish New Year

PM sounds conciliatory note after his government’s judicial overhaul plans sparks sharp divide, mass protests; says Israel has real opportunity for peace with Saudis

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech at the Prime Minister's Office on September 13, 2023. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech at the Prime Minister's Office on September 13, 2023. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday called for unity among Israel’s citizens ahead of the Jewish New Year, saying the nation needs to come together to face threats from Iran and embrace new opportunities in the form of a possible peace with Saudi Arabia.

Speaking at a holiday event at his office, Netanyahu said he wished “that in the new year there will be more unity in the nation, fewer divisions among us, and that starts with realizing that all of us, at least most of us, are one people, with one country, one army, with a common past and a common future.”

Netanyahu’s comments come after a year in which his hardline government launched a radical judicial overhaul that has sparked eight months of mass demonstrations, large-scale refusals by army reservists to show up for volunteer duty, and dire warnings that the moves would undermine the country’s democracy, security and economy.

“In a democracy, there are always different opinions, that’s the nature of democracy,” he said.

“But if we agree to agree then we can reach agreements,” he said, hinting at his reported willingness to forge a deal with opposition lawmakers to soften the legislation. “That’s our goal and I think it is possible,” he said.

Netanyahu said unity was necessary to face up to the country’s security challenges and to embrace future opportunities.

Anti-overhaul activists protest against the government’s judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv, on August 5, 2023, with a sign likening Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to crime boss Pablo Escobar. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

“There is an effort being led by Iran and its cancerous proxies to deepen the terror,” Netanyahu said.

He also said Israel faced a prospect of peace with Saudi Arabia that would “change Israel, the Middle East, and possibly the whole world.”

The US has been negotiating a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, but chances of reaching such a deal, which would require major concessions to the Palestinians, are slim so long as Netanyahu is reliant on the far-right members of his coalition.

The US has sounded out opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz about their willingness to join a Netanyahu-led government to help push through a deal with Riyadh; however, they have so far reportedly refused.

Netanyahu also mentioned recently signed plans to build a rail and shipping corridor linking India with the Middle East and Europe, with Israel playing a part.

Netanyahu said the agreement, together with a Saudi deal, “would transform the region into a giant corridor of vital infrastructure.”

“Israel is becoming a bridgehead to the world. It’s a massive change. Each and every one of you will feel it,” he said.

Most Popular
read more: