Gil Hoffman - The Jerusalem Post - February 20, 2020
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed confidence on Thursday that even if a Democrat wins the American election, US President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan will be implemented.
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post in his first English-speaking interview ahead of the March 2 election, Netanyahu said that what could stop the plan, however, is him not winning the election.
"Once the Trump plan is put forward, the goalposts will have been moved, and it will be very difficult for any administration to move them back," Netanyahu said. "We will move forward this plan once the mapping process is done, and it won't take long, as long as I am re-elected." Asked if it was important to apply sovereignty over territories before the American election, he said it would not be a factor.
"Any administration, Democrat or Republican, will have to work by the new realities," he said. "They will have to take the new situation into account. You can't work based on falsehoods. Any attempt to advance a US plan that is based on falsehoods will crash due to the realities. That is what happened again and again and again.
"I'm sure the next administration, whatever it will be, will have to consider the fact that there's a new plan." Netanyahu did not express concern about any of the Democratic candidates, saying, "I'll work fine with Democrats or Republicans."
But he said he was worried about Israel if Blue and White would take power.
"If there's an Israeli government that is weak on Iran, as Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid have been, then obviously we'll be in trouble," he said. "As long as I am prime minister, Iran will not have nukes."
Asked what would be worse for Israel, a minority government or a fourth election, he said "both of them would be very bad options, and both will happen if people don't go out and vote for Likud.
"Benny Gantz can't form a government without relying on the support of Ayman Odeh, Ahmad Tibi and the Joint List," he said. "The numbers are just not there. With Labor and Yisrael Beytenu, he has 50 to 52 seats. If Likud doesn't win, there will be either a fourth election or a left-wing government headed by Gantz and dependent on Ahmad Tibi and the Joint List."
Reacting to Gantz saying on Thursday that he would build a government without the "active support" of the Arab Joint List, Netanyahu said Gantz wants to get MKs to defect from the right-wing bloc so he will have more Jewish votes and then Joint List MKs could abstain and not vote. But Netanyahu said that would be no more legitimate.
After Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman said Thursday that Netanyahu's career is over, the prime minister said people should know that if they vote for Liberman, they will get Tibi.
"People should ask his motivations, which make no political sense," Netanyahu said. When asked how he would be able to govern while on trial, he said, "What I do in one hour my opponents can't do in a year because they lack the orientation, the experience and the ability.
"I have proven what I have done over the last 10 years. Israel is a world power," he continued. "We're ranked as the eighth power in the world. That didn't happen by itself. That happened even though over the past three years, I have been hounded by an absurd witch hunt. Instead of working 16 hours a day, I will work 15-hour days."
Netanyahu admitted he had a goal he has not succeeded in accomplishing despite his close relationship with the Trump administration: Getting approval to enable Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard to move to Israel.
"We have put in a request," he said. "It's a very good thing that he was let out of prison. He is living now in New York. Obviously, we want to see him repatriated to Israel. We are working on it, but I can't speak for the US administration, which has done many things for Israel. I hope he will be allowed to come to Israel, but there are legal procedures in the United States."
Netanyahu called upon English speakers in Israel to attend a rally he is hosting for them on Sunday in Ramat Gan, for which registration is required.
"I have enormous respect for their contribution to Israel and the world," he said. "The contribution of English speakers from the United States and other English-speaking countries is enormous because they bring these values that are so important to Israel. They understand the importance of Israel as a free country, where people can speak their minds.
"But we still have a long way to go in respecting a plurality of opinions, because the press is still deeply concentrated and hostile," Netanyahu concluded.
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