PM: Iran will gain no regional foothold

Speaking at a ceremony in memory of Israel’s first PM David Ben-Gurion, Netanyahu also says relations with Arab states ‘ripening all the time’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a ceremony opening the new Route 31 in Arad on November 23, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a ceremony opening the new Route 31 in Arad on November 23, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday again vowed that Israel would not accept the permanent stationing of Iranian forces in Syria or anywhere else close to Israel.

Speaking at a state memorial ceremony for Israel’s first prime minister, Netanyahu said, “Whoever wants to harm us — we harm him. Whoever seeks to put us in danger of annihilation — puts his own life in danger.”

“We have made it clear many times that we will not accept nuclear weapons in Iran’s hands, nor will we allow the establishment of Iranian forces near our border, in the Syrian region in general, or anywhere else,” Netanyahu said at the ceremony in Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev desert, where David Ben-Gurion lived with his wife Paula until his death in 1963.

“Through the labor of generations, we created something out of nothing, and we won’t let anyone turn that something into nothing,” the premier said.

He also addressed the issue of Israel’s relations with the Sunni Arab world, saying that “the productive coordination with have with Arab states is usually secret cooperation but I believe that our relations with them will continue to ripen and to bear fruit in a widening circle of peace. It will happen in the end because it is happening all the time under the radar.”

Netanyahu issued a harsher condemnation than he did two days ago of a volley of attacks on President Reuven Rivlin for the latter’s refusal on Sunday to pardon former IDF soldier Elor Azaria, who was imprisoned after being convicted for the manslaughter of a prone and injured Palestinian attack in the West Bank city of Hebron during his army service.

“I reject outright the venomous attacks on me and on our partners in government,” he said, calling the attackers “killers in suits.”

He added, “I said only recently — we can agree and we can also disagree. But it has to be done respectfully and this rule applies to everyone.”

On the government’s efforts to deport migrants, he said, “The fence that we built not far from here on the Egyptian border has completely stopped the waves of illegal infiltrators into our country and to the Negev, and we are determined to remove those who entered here illegally and to do so legally.”

Detainees at Holot detention center, January 17, 2015. (Nehama Shimnovic)

The cabinet voted on Sunday to close the Holot migrant detention center in southern Israel, as Netanyahu announced an agreement to deport 40,000 Africans who entered the country illegally.

Ministers unanimously approved a plan by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to shutter Holot within four months in anticipation of “large-scale” deportations. Those who refuse deportation will be jailed.

The proposal came in response to a High Court of Justice ruling in late August that backed Israel’s controversial practice of deporting illegal migrants to an unnamed third country.

On Sunday, The UN refugee agency expressed “serious concern” over the plans, saying that “Israel has legal obligations to protect refugees and other persons in need of international protection.”

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