“Israel is not like other countries,” Netanyahu told his Likud faction in a meeting which came one week after his meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House. “We are faced with security challenges that no other country faces, and our need to provide a response to these is critical, and we are answering the call.”
“These are not regular times. The danger is hurtling toward us? The real danger in underestimating the threat,” Netanyahu said, addressing the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. “My job is first and foremost to ensure the future of the state of Israel … the leadership’s job is to eliminate the danger. Who will eliminate it? It is us or no one.”
“Our relationship with the United States is of great importance,” Netanyahu said. “Our situation today is different from our situation between 1996 and 1999. Our priorities must be inline with national security needs and we must unite in order to deflect the danger. The Defense Minister and I are working in coordination; he is not conducting an independent policy.”
Netanyahu added that he reached understandings Obama, among them that the most important goal for both countries is preventing Iran from attaining a nuclear military capability. Netanyahu told Likud members that Israel received a number of key pieces of defense aid from the Americans.
Addressing the differing Israeli and American approaches to the issue of West Bank settlements, Netanyahu said the issue resembled a disagreement between good friends.
“The Defense Minister and I are working in coordination; he is not conducting an independent policy,” he said. “During the elections I said that we are law-abiding and will deal with deal with the illegal outposts.”
Israel’s government and the American administration have expressed divergent views on how they perceive some of the most sensitive issues of the Middle East conflict.
The State Department said Sunday that the future status of Jerusalem would be determined through peace negotiations, despite Netanyahu’s declaration last week that the capital would “never again be partitioned and divided.”
“Jerusalem is a final status issue. Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to resolve its status during negotiations. We will support their efforts to reach agreements on all final status issues,” a State Department spokesman said when asked to respond to Netanyahu’s proclamation that Jerusalem would always remain under Israeli sovereignty.
At a state ceremony marking the annual Jerusalem Day on Thursday, Netanyahu said” “United Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Jerusalem was always ours and will always be ours. It will never again be partitioned and divided.”
A U.S. Congressional delegation in Jerusalem said on Sunday that it was “skeptical” that Netanyahu’s government would be able to move the peace process with the Palestinians ahead.
The five-person delegation from the sub-committee on the Middle East was headed by Congressman Gary Ackerman from New York, who is considered one of Israel’s greatest friends on Capitol Hill. The delegation met with President Shimon Peres and other senior officials in Israel and in the Palestinian Authority.
The representatives had tough questions for the Israelis on construction in West Bank settlements and protested Israel’s intention to continue building to accommodate “natural growth.” They also expressed great concern over the siege on Gaza, noting that the civilian population was suffering greatly from a lack of food and medicine.
The prime minister said he had made the same declaration about the unity of Jerusalem during his recent visit to Washington, where he met with Obama over the peace process and Iran’s nuclear program.
“Only under Israeli sovereignty will united Jerusalem ensure the freedom of religion and freedom of access for the three religions to the holy places,” Netanyahu added.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said later Thursday that Netanyahu’s position on Jerusalem was a setback to the goal of a two-state solution, which is strongly supported by the Obama administration.
“Mr. Netanyahu, by saying that, he’s saying the state of conflict will be eternal,” Erekat said.