JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel‘s prime minister says he wants to build a broad governing coalition to face serious security threats to Israel, including Syria‘s chemical weapons and Iran‘s nuclear program.
Benjamin Netanyahu told his outgoing Cabinet Sunday that Israel must be ready for any development in the turbulent region.
Netanyahu’s ticket won the most seats in last week’s parliamentary election, meaning he will likely serve another term as prime minister. But with his traditional hardline and religious allies holding only a slim majority in parliament, Netanyahu has reached out to centrist parties in hopes of building a broad coalition.
On the occasion of international Holocaust Remembrance Day, Netanyahu called Iran the world‘s leading Holocaust denier. He accused Tehran of seeking to destroy the Jewish state, and said Israel takes the threats seriously.
PM vows to stand guard against Mideast threats
Netanyahu draws parallel between Holocaust and modern-day threats faced by Israel, says that while anti-Semitism remains prevalent, Jews have learned to defend themselves
Noam (Dabaul) Dvir
“We have to watch out for what is happening around us,” Netanyahu said in a Cabinet meeting, noting Iran‘s nuclear program and Syria‘s chemical weapons. “The Middle East isn’t waiting for the election’s results, and it doesn’t stop while we form a government.”
The prime minister, who made the remarks as the world marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day, emphasized that anti-Jewish sentiments are alive and kicking.
Netanyahu last week (Photo: Reuters)
“Anti-Semitism hasn’t disappeared and the desire to destroy Israel persists,” he said.
“The Holocaust is being denied by a major country. This nation’s leaders have denied the Holocaust at the podium at the United Nations and on other stages, while plotting what they perceive to be another Holocaust – one that would eliminate the Jewish state,” he continued, referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad‘s General Assembly speeches.
“They do not stop the unending race towards an atomic weapon that would serve this purpose. We will prevent these threats (from materializing.) This is our first task as a government and a nation.”
Netanyahu asserted that while anti-Semitism has remained as prevalent as ever, Jews have grown capable of defending themselves since the Holocaust.
Chemical weapons a concern. Syrian solider (Photo: EPA)
The leader, who has been re-elected for another term as prime minister last week, further vowed to form the “broadest coalition possible” to better address these defense challenges.
During Sunday’s meeting, Minister Silvan Shalom expressed concern that chemical weapons could be transferred from Syria to neighboring Lebanon, where they could fall into Hezbollah‘s hands.
“We have been tracking this possibility for a while … There has been cooperation between Israel and world powers on this matter,” he said. “This kind of occurrence must be prevented.”