WASHINGTON — Speaking via satellite from Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the American Public Affairs Committee’s closing plenary session that the terrorist attacks Tuesday morning in Belgium highlighted Israel’s own struggle against the murderous and extremist imperative of its enemies.
At least 34 people were killed and scores were wounded in twin attacks Tuesday morning at Brussels’s airport and metro, according to current State Department estimates.
From attacks in Brussels to Paris to Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said, “the terrorists have no resolvable grievances,” including Israel’s control of the Palestinian territories. “It’s not as if we could offer them Brussels, or Istanbul, or California, or even the West Bank,” he said.
Speaking broadly of global terrorism, and specifically of Israel’s regional adversaries, Netanyahu told those gathered at the Washington Convention Center that such actors seek Israel’s destruction, while also declaring Israeli resilience in the face of their attacks. “What they seek is for us to disappear,” he said. “Well, my friends, that’s not going to happen.”
The prime minister’s planned address before the pro-Israel lobby made headlines in recent weeks, as he originally planned to deliver it in person but then canceled his trip to Washington and a slated meeting with US President Barack Obama. The episode set off alarms, with reports linking it to the two leaders’ famously strained relationship and to negotiations for an agreement that would bolster Israel’s security capabilities in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal.
Netanyahu, along with AIPAC, worked fiercely to block the accord from coming to fruition last summer. On Tuesday, he thanked the delegates for “the stand they took” on the deal, but also sought to ease the perception of a fissure between Washington and Jerusalem over their differences on the issue.
“That debate, though intense, did not undermine the unbreakable alliance between Israel and the United States,” he told the crowd.
The prime minister also took the time to castigate the United Nations, which he characterized as an international body “aimed at delegitimizing Israel’s very existence” and said it had a record of singling out the Jewish state for condemnation.
“Only Israel is permanently scheduled for condemnation at the UN Security Council,” he said. “Not Iran, not Syria, not North Korea.”
He went on to make clear his opposition to the prospect of a UN Security Council resolution laying down the parameters for a future Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
He derided efforts to secure such a resolution as attempts to “impose terms on Israel” and predicted “those terms would be undoubtedly stacked against us. They always are.”
Proceeding to cast the initiative as both untenable and in bad faith, Netanyahu said it would “convince the Palestinians that they can stab their way to a state” and bypass the process of negotiating a settlement. The goal of the Palestinian leadership, he indicated, would not be a two-state outcome consisting of a Jewish nation state alongside a Palestinian one. “They seek not a state next to Israel, but a state instead of Israel,” he said, expressing his hope that the US would maintain its longstanding position of using its veto power over UN resolutions aimed at Israel.
While the prime minister was mostly skeptical over the prospect of peace in the near future, and the genuine willingness of PA President Mahmoud Abbas to sign an accord, he reiterated his own support for a two-state solution, saying the “best formula for peace is two states for two peoples, a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state.”
Almost exactly a year ago, Netanyahu was in hot water with much of the American Jewish community for telling voters ahead of the election in Israel that a Palestinian state would not emerge on his watch. After winning the election, he sought to clarify his position, saying he supported such an outcome but that “conditions need to change” for it to become realistic.
Touching an emotional chord for the audience, the prime minister also addressed the wave of stabbings that have plagued Israel since last October, excoriating Palestinian leaders for incitement and accusing the broader Palestinian culture of inculcating children with “murderous hatred for Israel.”
He showed the delegates a video montage of Palestinian children who do not recognize Israel’s existence or accept a two-state model, calling for 1947 borders, and, perhaps most strikingly, a young Palestinian girl wielding a knife and screaming, “Stab! Stab! Stab!”
“That little girl wasn’t born hating,” he said. “She was taught to hate.”
Netanyahu also invoked the memory of Taylor Force, an American tourist who was stabbed to death earlier this month by a Palestinian attacker in Jaffa, and said that Abbas’s Fatah movement “praised his killers as a hero and a martyr.”
Before closing his speech, Netanyahu returned to the Iran deal and called on the US to work with Israel in “keeping Iran’s feet to the fire” and holding it to the terms of the nuclear accord.
After citing the Islamic Republic’s recent test of a ballistic missile bearing a Hebrew inscription saying “Israel must be wiped off the face of the earth,” Netanyahu showed a video of an Israeli missile interception through its Iron Dome program, which is funded largely by US security aid.
“That is the result of Israelis and Americans working together,” he said, in an appeal to unity that stood in stark contrast to his efforts last year to stymie the US administration’s efforts to cement an Iran deal.