Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put Israel on the map once again this week – but for unusual reasons. The Prime Minister and his wife Sara, while visiting Davos, Switzerland, chose to respect the Jewish Sabbath by walking back to their hotel after the conclusion of a Friday evening religious Sabbath service. The service was held in the Netanyahu’s honor by the Jewish community of Davos.
The walk, which is approximately two kilometers, gave the couple a bit of space and fresh air after a hectic few days at the international World Economic Forum held in Davos. Both the Prime Minister and his wife were driven to the hotel before the Sabbath began and made sure to wear warm clothing for the cold walk back.
While in Davos, Netanyahu promised that he would not forcibly evacuate settlements in the West Bank. The comments, made after three meetings with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, are contrary to assumptions running rampant regarding final-status agreements. Netanyahu met with Kerry before and after the Shabbat dinner.
In a briefing to Israeli press in Davos, Netanyahu said, “I have no intention of evacuating any settlement or uprooting any Israelis.”
An Israeli official commented to the Jerusalem Post that “Netanyahu is against uprooting settlements, but irrespective of where the final borders are going to be. He think Jews should be allowed to live in a future Palestinian state.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has refused, once again, to recognize Israel as a legitimate Jewish state. Abbas has also rejected any possibility of allowing Israeli settlers to remain, insisting that Israel must evacuate and disassemble all settlements behind pre-1967 borders.
Regarding Iran, Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres slammed Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani stated in his speech at Davos that Iran does not want nuclear weapons and opposed any intervention in Syria. In response, Netanyahu said “Rouhani can say something, but it doesn’t make it real. It sounds nice, but it is false.”
Rouhani expressed his commitment to the nuclear agreement with the P5+1 and made veiled references to Israel’s opposition to the agreement as a “historic mistake.” With sanctions now slowly easing off of Iran, Rouhani said he would pursue economic policies of “prudence and moderation.”
Netanyahu, who spoke four hours after Rouhani, said “There is a change of words without a change in deeds.”
Shimon Peres also commented on Rouhani’s speech: “The most significant remarks were the ones he didn’t make – he didn’t express support for peace in the Middle East.” Peres further stated, “He is the only leader I know who didn’t say clearly the time has come to make peace between Israel and the Arabs.”
At the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu stated: “I must say that the main interest was in regard to Iran’s ‘assault of pleasantness.’ Here, perhaps in contrast to what was depicted in the talks with the leaders, there was greater sharpness and greater clarity regarding the contradictory and mendacious messages that came up in Rouhani’s speech. Rouhani said that Iran was against international involvement in Syria, but Iran is the country that is most involved and aids the Assad regime in perpetrating mass slaughters on a daily basis.”
“He [Rouhani] said that he was against the killing of innocents, but several days previously dozens of people were executed in Iran, most of whom, I can assure you, were innocent,” said Netanyahu. “He said that they favored free access to technology even as Iran denies its citizens free access to the Internet. He said that he favored the recognition of all countries in the Middle East and refused to answer the pointed questions that were directed to him about recognizing the State of Israel. The regime there calls for our destruction on an almost daily basis. Finally, the most important and most significant thing, Rouhani said that Iran would not dismantle even one centrifuge.”
Netanyahu reassured the world that Iran “would not succeed” should they seek to arm themselves with nuclear weapons and create a double standard for the Middle East.