Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left a remarkable legacy for Israel with a vastly improved economy, a thriving high-tech sector, elevated international status for the Jewish state and historic peace treaties with four Muslim countries.
But no one knows that better than he does and Netanyahu made that very clear in a 35-minute screed in which he undermined the incoming Israeli government and criticized the incoming prime minister as inexperienced.
And Bibi, as he is known, left little doubt about the opposition’s approach to the new government and his status as CEO of it.
“I will fight daily against this terrible, dangerous left-wing government in order to topple it,” Netanyahu said. “With God’s help, it will happen a lot earlier than you think it will.”
And, he vowed, “We’ll be back” – a promise that is hard not to believe after his impassioned speech.
Netanyahu said the new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, would not be able to stand up to powerful allies and enemies.
“To my regret, Mr. Bennett does not have the international standing, he does not have the credibility, or ability, or knowledge, and above all he does not have a government that would make real resistance possible,” he said. “Among all the differences between us and the incoming government, this is the most important and most fateful difference to the future of Israel.”
“Even in Iran they understand this – it’s no surprise that they are celebrating today,” he continued. “They are celebrating because they understand that starting today there will be a weak and unstable government that will align with the dictates of the international community.”
Today, Netanyahu spent less than an hour with Bennett, during the handover office. He refused to the tradition customary handshake and photo and then headed to meet his fellow opposition members.
There, he ordered an iron-like cohesion in their ranks in order to speed up the downfall of this government.
“It can be overthrown on the condition that we act together and with iron discipline. If we squabble, we will not achieve it,” he said. “If we concentrate our effort outwards, we will bring them down.”
Unlike during Bennett’s speech on Sunday, which was riddled with interruptions and insults hurled at the speaker during the Knesset swearing-in ceremony, the parliament was largely quiet while Netanyahu spoke. HIs words were punctured only by a few interruptions.
“Try to damage as little as possible of the magnificent economy we are handing over to you, so that we can fix it as fast as possible when we return,” he warned Bennett, waving him off as the “fake right” who signed agreements with left-wing parties despite portraying himself as right of Netanyahu himself.
To be sure, Netanyahu brought Israel to new heights and takes appropriate credit for his accomplishments, but the tone and lack of grace in his speech was an indication of just how he managed to burn bridges and make enemies during the past dozen years as prime minister.
Here is an (imperfect) transcription of his speech, translated from Hebrew:
Honored guests, Mr. Speaker, I am standing here in the name of millions of citizens who have chosen to be upstanding and not to bow their heads down. I am standing here as an elected public servant. There’s over a million Israeli citizens who voted for the Likud, headed by me, and another million citizens who voted for right-wing parties, knowing that they would be part of a government headed by me.
I want to continue performing the great mission of my life, guaranteeing the existence, the security and the prosperity of the State of Israel. I have undertaken this mission out of boundless commitment to the State of Israel for my parents home. As a fighter and commander in Sayeret Matkal, I embarked on many missions beyond enemy lines. In the line of fire in the Suez Canal, I nearly lost my life. In another battle, I was wounded during the hostilities to release the hostages from the Sabena Flight 571.
In every public role, as the Israeli representative in Washington, as the UN, as the foreign minister, as the finance minister, as the defense minister, as the prime minister of Israel, for more than 15 years, I have had the privilege of operating night and day simple as that, night and day, for our beloved country. Together with my friends in the Likud and my partners on the right, we have turned Israel into a global power and in many respects, a real. We’ve done this not by surrendering to international pressure, not out of weakness. We did this out of power. In fact, by nurturing our power, our technological and diplomatic and security power and this combined power has brought tremendous achievements for Israel that we have never had before.
Only lately, we brought a million vaccines to Israel. There are some people who say that we were obsessive for the lives of citizens officials. We could do it because we had a special stature. We were the first country in the world to get out of the coronavirus while many other countries, very many other countries, are still under restrictions. We turned Israel into a free economy. So many reforms, and we turned it into one of the 20 wealthiest economies in the world, with our GDP per capita surpassing Britain, Germany and France. We have reduced inequality. Because the inequality metric, we brought it to its lowest ever rate. By the way, there’s no contradiction between these two things. Before all this, we fought with determination against Iran’s attempts to acquire nuclear weapons, even we had to stand alone, completely alone, against the whole world and many in Israel. This determination effected the previous American administration to leave the dangerous nuclear deal. And it also swayed many new Western countries to see us as a regional shield against Iranian aggression. With four of these states, Arab states, the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco, we forged historic peace agreements, the Abraham Accords.
We’ve changed the dangerous old doctrine of land for peace and brought peace for peace, real peace, economic peace, without giving up on … without uprooting a single Jew from his home. I can tell you that this achievement was not easy. If before we had to repel heavy pressures, pressures that would not apply to any prime minister, and if we’d done this, we would have brought an end to the settlement project at a great danger in the State of Israel. But instead of this, instead of this, we have brought American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol, the relocation of the American embassy, the recognition of Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan Heights and a change in the policy about the legality of the settlements in Judea and Samaria.
We developed special relations with Russia, not just with Russia as a state, we also nurtured a direct close line with the president of Russia. And in so doing, we guaranteed the freedom of maneuver of the Israeli Air Force in the skies of Syria in order to prevent Iranian entrenchment on our Northern border. And yes, we also brought the [inaudible] a blessed memory who was killed in the [inaudible] battle for a burial in Israel, in complete opposition to the mocking prophecies of the left about regional diplomatic isolation, a diplomatic tsunami, the systematic cultivation of our economic and military might. It’s not a pinpoint thing. This systematic cultivation led to unprecedented diplomatic flourishing with many states want to be close to us.
We have forged alliances and new agreements with countries in Africa, in Eastern Europe, in Asia, in Latin America, huge countries like India, Japan, Brazil, Eastern Mediterranean countries like Greece and Cyprus. Not just in foreign policy. Also in the country itself, we made amazing changes. We brought down taxes, we encouraged competition, we brought down a lot of the restrictions that had been strangling our economy since the beginning, as the state. And you can all see the change. You can see the stadia, industrial parks, cranes everywhere. We connected the periphery with the center, with tunnels, with bridges
I visited around the country and I can see the incredible pride of the citizens there. Given the towers that are rising, the commercial centers, Italian restaurants in the periphery. Once we called them … There are still people who called them, I never called them this, people called them condescendingly second Israel. We are canceling this, and we must never go back. And we brought down unemployment. We raised the minimum wage and a fire extinguisher system that put out huge fires, including right now, just outside Jerusalem and saved many lives.
We stood against perhaps this biggest waves of populism when we got the gas out of the water and turned Israel for the first time into a energy superpower that is exporting gas to Egypt and Jordan, and soon to Europe and not to mention the huge funds it’s going to put into the country’s coffers. We rehabilitated heritage sites across Israel. A nation doesn’t remember its past, where would it go? We really a huge investment over the years. We led a policy of the open skies, but then we broke records in tourism for 11 years, and not meetings with [inaudible] for 11 years. we have invested 11 years, we have invested in Arab society in Israel in infrastructure, in education, in health. In 10 police stations when previously there was one. 21 billion shekels, more than all Israeli governments together. And we did this in order to integrate all citizens of Israel into the story of Israeli success.
We transformed Israeli into a cyber power, we built a fence, an obstacle on the Sinai border, which blocked an influx of illegal infiltrators from Africa. I think maybe a million. What would have completely obliterated the idea of a Jewish democratic state. It would have simply been abolished, and we also built an underground obstacle that blocked Hamas’s terror tunnels towards the Gaza envelope area. Unlike the blood soaked years, the years of blood letting before us, in which we were washed over by unending waves of terrorism, we brought the best decades we’ve ever had. The statistics don’t lie.
Fewer citizens and civilians and soldiers have been hurt in previous 10 years than any other decade in the history of Israeli. What did we have then? Buses blowing up. Restaurants blowing up. To date, to my delight, we have countries that are bursting with diners, with people who are enjoying themselves without any fear. And now I want to emphasize again, none of this happened, this happen by chance. This happened because we led a different security policy, an assertive policy, with deterrents and wisdom that has claimed a very heavy price from our enemies, and nevertheless, it is important. Nevertheless has been refraining from impulsivity and hastiness.
And make no mistake, a very daring policy. We have embarked on daring operations deep in enemy soil, from stealing the atomic archives in Iran, and other operations that surpass any imagination, and this is the place I want to thank the IDF, the [inaudible], the [inaudible], the police, who have done God’s work and preserving Israeli’s security.
Members of Knesset, our achievements have transformed Israeli from a peripheral force into a rising force in the world stage. This is our path, my path, and my partners in the national camp, my camp’s on the genuine right, and if it is fated that we must be in opposition, we shall do so with our backs straight until we topple this dangerous government and return to lead this country in our own way.
Today we need it more than ever, in light of the three mighty challenges ahead of us. The first challenge, Iran. It’s not a secret the United States plans very soon to return to the dangerous agreement which my colleagues and I completely oppose. I heard what Naftali Bennett said on this matter, and now I am infinitely more worried because Bennett always does the opposite of what he says, of what he promises. He’ll fight Iran like he won’t sit with Yair Lapid and Mansour Abbas and Labor.
I want to tell you the American administration asked me not to publicly air on our disagreements on these matters. We have disagreements. They asked us to keep them discreet. But with all due respect to our greatest friends and to my old friend going 40 years back, President Joe Biden…
I’m sorry that I have to pause you because of members of [inaudible] refuse to leave. Please, those who waive placards in here cannot return, not even after a few minutes go past. That’s how it’s always been. It would have been better if you have prevented this, avoided this. It’s a shame that even after you’ve done this, you continue acting as if there are no rules in this building. I’m asking you, without needing to name you, get up and go.
Leave. Thank you. The new American administration asked me to keep our disagreements on the nuclear thing, and I’ll tell you why. Because the lessons of history are in front of my eyes. In 1944, at the height of the Holocaust, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt refused to bomb the railway leading to the extermination camps, and refused to bomb the gas chambers, which could have saved millions of our people. We hoped for others to save us, and they didn’t come. In the face of the threat of extermination, we were helpless.
Our voice was not heard among the nations. We had neither a state or an army. But today we do have a voice. We do have a state, and we do have defensive power. And therefore, I told the U.S. Defense Secretary Austin who visited here a few weeks ago, a quote,” As the prime minister of Israel, I shall do everything to oppose an agreement that will lead to the nuclear armament of Iran.” And I will oppose the agreement that you are proposing both publicly and operationally.
And I’ll say something else. I’ll say that even though I hope, I hope very much that we won’t get to this. If I have to choose between a tension between us and abolishing an existential threat to Israel, then abolishing the growing threat with an agreement or without an agreement. Unfortunately for me, [inaudible] Bennet. He doesn’t have the international standing. He doesn’t have the credibility. He doesn’t have the ability. He doesn’t have a government. He doesn’t have the ability to put up genuine opposition. And from all the differences, of which there are many, between us and the incoming government, this is the most important and fateful difference for the future of the state of Israel. An Israeli prime minister must be able to say no to the president of the United States on matters that endanger our existence, and to back this up with massive work in congress, in the senate, and in public opinion, into the greatest democracy, which is the United States.
That is what I did in 2015, when I spoke in the US Congress despite the fierce opposition of the president of the United States. Who will do this now? Prime minister Yair Lapid, who attacked my speech in congress? Because most members of the government designate support the nuclear – Members of the government designate support the nuclear agreement. Doesn’t matter what they say here, they do not want and they are not capable of standing up to the United States. Listen closely to what I’m about to say. I’m telling you, from the moment the United States returns to the nuclear deal with Iran, the incoming government will not authorize meaningful operations inside Iran in order to prevent its continued armament. At most, they will make a few limp remarks for protocol, or say a few meaningless things behind the scenes of no value. A government that is incapable of standing up forcefully against the international community on matters that are fateful for us is not worthy of leading Israel even for a single day. That is the incoming government. Iran understands this, too. No wonder they’re celebrating there today. They know that were it not for the efforts that we led, Iran would have had an arsenal of nuclear weapons long ago with the objective of eliminating us. Iran is celebrating because it understands that from today there will be a weak and limp government that will align itself with the dictates of the international community. So I have a message. I have a message for those who are rejoicing in Tehran, and for their acolytes in Hamas and Hezbollah, the opposition in Israel will have a very strong voice. And I have another message for them, no less important.
Besides Iran, the second challenge facing us is to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state that will jeopardize our existence. The new administration in the United States is already resuming contacts in this regard. It is already demanding a settlement freeze on Judea and Samaria, a construction freeze in the new Jewish communities in Jerusalem. I received a request that I rejected forcefully about building in [inaudible] and in Givat Hamatos. And the reopening of the consulate for the Palestinians in the heart of our capital, which will return the division of Jerusalem to the agenda. I told our American friends, “You want to set up the consulates, set it up in Abu Dis, not in sovereign Jerusalem government.” This government will not say this, and if it does, it will not insist on it. Like with the nuclear issue in the best case, it’s friends from the so-called right. Might put out a few limp tweets in another effort to defraud right-wing voters as they did in the last… Because for them… For them…
How will we defend the settlements, when most members of the government, [inaudible] coming supports approaching settlements. How can we defend soldiers from the Hague when a senior minister supports the Hague? How can we prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state when the overwhelming majority [inaudible] government supports it? The third challenge, is the economy. My friends, thanks to the dozens of reforms of the free economy and the quick escape from Coronavirus, we are handing you an economy in a fantastic state, better than most economies in the world. We’ve shrunk the deficit, we’ve reduced unemployment, we’ve restored growth, but from past experience, and I have such experience, you know that I’ve made two comebacks from the opposition, two comebacks.
From past experience, every time we come back from the opposition, we have to fix the damage done by previous governments. In your case, it will be a [inaudible] economic damage of socialism and opportunism. On the other hand, I must tell you it’s not all black, there may be hope because you have a clean-handed finance minister who will surely operate only for the national interest. Everything’s collapsing. You can see there was nothing and nothing will happen, but I have one request. One request, just one. I have just one modest request in the name of all my friends here. Try to ruin our wonderful economy as little as possible so that we can fix it as quickly as possible when we return to power. Without applause, please, I’m calling you. What is happening to you? What is happening to you? Members of Knesset, we’ve just heard from Naftali Bennett. The request to give confidence, but how can you give confidence to someone who defrauded his voters, a fraud that has never been seen in history of the state throughout all the elections, Bennett promised time and again that he wouldn’t sit with the left and run, but during the election, he looked straight into the camera. Under no circumstances will I give my hand to the formation of a government headed by [inaudible] mechanism. Not in a rotation, not in any other methods, for the simple reason that I am right-wing and he is left-wing. I am not operating against my values. My word is law. And this member of Knesset [inaudible], I’m calling you to order a second time. “But it really hurts,” they shout. On this… It was about this, that the poets of Psalm said they’re lying. And you know the contemporary song, nice words, without any covering. Promises, without any backup. And the end is hopeless, but you don’t know it. If Bennett’s voters had known when he closed with [inaudible] before the election, he wouldn’t have crossed the electoral threshold and he wouldn’t be with us here today in the Knesset. We can see the vote counting. The vote counting was Kosher.
The counting. The vote counting was kosher, but the winning of the votes was done fraudulently. Bennett led astray hundreds of thousands of right-wing voters and transferred their votes from the right to the left. Bennett is relying on the public forgetting, but the public will not forget this fraudulent trick, and it will settle accounts with him and with him at the ballot box. The media, of course, will compliment him and flatter him and everyone around them because they know the truth.
Bennett and his party are fake right, but there is one righteous man in this Sodom, Amichai Chikli. He is the only one, the only one in the fake right who remains loyal to his voters’ wishes. He isn’t the defector. You, members of Yamina, you are the defectors. Now I heard the excuses. I heard Bennett justifying this defection by saying that we had to end the repeat elections. But if you really wanted to prevent repeat elections for the Knesset, why did you oppose, so forcefully, direct elections for prime minister, which would have brought an end to this [inaudible] without dissolving the Knesset. I’ll give you an answer, because you know perfectly well that in direct elections I would defeat every one of you. You’re the ones who put Israel into the generational cycle by deciding that someone who has six seats can be prime minister in Israel.
A Prime Minister standing on the head of a pin, and will have to fix it. It won’t be easy. You will talk about change. You’re saying this government reflects the will of the people. Full of the polls, without exception, show time and again, that most of the public wants me as prime minister and doesn’t want you. You call yourselves guardians of democracy, but you’re so afraid of democracy, that you’re willing to pass fascist, anti democratic laws against my candidacy, because you’re ready, you’re willing to force North Korea, Syria, and Iran style laws against my candidacy, just as these countries block candidates who could oppose their regime.
While, I’m opposing Iran, you’re bringing laws from Iran. You’re talking about national unity, but a party that excludes 55.
You talk about national unity, the government that excludes 53 seats of genuine right isn’t national unity. It’s the unity of vote stealing. [inaudible], from left, extreme left, supported by extreme Islam. You talk about healing, two million citizens who voted for the right, while apparently so, because your finance minister. Yes, it’s a disease. Because your finance minister said that the parading should be thrown into the garbage heap.
And of course, an important, very important, very important observation in the climate of the one-sided political correctness. Of course, is remarks by the finance minister. That’s not incitement. That’s not incitement. As far as you’re concerned, criticism from the right is always incitement. Even when there isn’t a hint of violence, whereas incitement in the left, which is all about sending people to the garbage heap, and words of hangman’s noose, and guillotines. Oh, that’s freedom of speech.
Ladies and gentlemen, this won’t help you. You will not silence [inaudible] voters, Shas voters, United or Judaism, religious Zionist voters. You will not silence the defrauded voters of Yamina and you will not silence me. For half a jubilee, my family and I have been through hunting, prosecution, and denigration, the likes of which has never been seen – all so that I will bow down and surrender to the left. Endless times, I could have done like many of my predecessors and surrendered to pressure, and uproot settlements. And to win [inaudible] in the new studios that are ridiculously mobilized by the left. I could have been crowned by the propagandists as the great and the good, but for half a jubilee, I did not surrender because I am operating in the name of a large public of millions of citizens, as the servant of a millennia old ancient people, wishing to sit in peace and security in its own land. The land of Israel.
For my friends here in the Knesset, and to the millions of citizens in Israel. I tell you today, do not be downhearted. Stand tall. We shall continue to work together for our beloved country. I am with you friends, daily battle against this bad, dangerous, left wing government, to topple it. And with God’s help, it will happen much sooner than you think.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.