“It seems to me that whoever is honest with himself will admit that this is the best government the country has had, which rests on one of the most difficult coalitions that the Knesset has known,” said Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
By Erin Viner
At the start of his weekly Cabinet meeting, the Israeli leader noted that it has been “one year since the national salvation government was established,” offering his congratulations on the first anniversary.
Saying that his coalition “pulled the country from paralysis to growth, from weakness to deterrence, from chaos to normality,” Bennett asserted that, “This government cannot be stopped. It must continue to fight for the Israeli public. This government has done in one year what other governments have not done in a decade.”
Proceeding to list the government’s achievements, he said, “Friends, we inherited an economic collapse and have brought about 8.1% growth, the highest in the advanced world. We inherited massive unemployment and have returned the masses of unemployed to livelihoods and record employment. We inherited a south ablaze from Hamas rockets and incendiary balloons. We – all of us – provided the children of Sderot and the south with the quietest year they have had in their lives. We inherited suitcases of dollars being delivered to Hamas – we stopped this contemptible practice immediately. We inherited the criminal neglect of violence in the Arab sector. We have reduced murders and shooting incidents by 40%; we have saved lives. We inherited a panicky capitulation on the flag parade last year. This year, we approved the parade without flinching – because this is Israel’s sovereignty. We raised the spirit of the nation anew and, yes, the deterrence. We inherited a huge deficit that threatened the future of our children and we lowered it to zero. We inherited hopelessness and despair vis-à-vis Iran. We brought about a historic change in the fight against it. We inherited complete paralysis in the public service. We brought about renewed action for citizens.”
After underscoring that the “salvation government” has been successful, Prime Minister Bennett nevertheless acknowledged that “this is not the government that most of us had hoped for initially.” He added, “But against the alternative of continued bickering and chaos – we have shown that there is strength in working together. We have proven that people with different views, at times even opposing views, are capable of working together on behalf of the country. All of the achievements that I have enumerated we have all brought them together.”
The Israeli leader said he wanted to “first and foremost” thank “my friend and colleague, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid),” from whom he said “it is possible to learn a lesson in character.” He then thanked all of the faction heads in the coalition, specifically naming Justice Minister Gideon Saar (New Hope), Defense Minister Benny Gantz (Blue and White), Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beiteinu), Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli (Labor), Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) and Ra’am Chairman MK (Member of Knesset) Mansour Abbas, saying that “we have gone from a culture of ‘I’ to one of ‘we.’”
Despite the existence of “those who are mocking us for continuing to fight for the existence of the government despite all the pitfalls and the blows that we have suffered,” the Israeli Premier said that it is “exalted” and not “ludicrous” to “fight for one’s country,” stressing that “We are not giving up on our country. We are not giving up on the possibility of cooperation between people who have different views, who love this country to the same degree.”
He concluded his remarks by emphasizing that, “We are not in despair, and we are not broken, we are simply not broken. We do not have the luxury of breaking because we do not have another country.”
The anniversary comes amid ongoing pledges by Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu to bring down the diverse governing coalition of rightwing, leftwing, centrist and Arab political partners.
Netanyahu, who’s unprecedented 12 years as Israeli Premier ended with last year’s election, is reportedly trying to convince a member of Bennett’s Yamina party to resign. According to the Ynet news site, the Likud leader offered conservative MK Nir Orbach either a position in his own faction or a senior salaried position at one of the Likud’s institutions upon leaving Yamina; a move that could force new elections.