Following Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's address to the Knesset plenum Monday night, chairman of the opposition Benjamin Netanyahu took the stage and delivered a compelling, if biting, speech. He recounted his efforts to help the government in its PR war, but was quick to criticize the government's policy.
According to Netanyahu, "There were failures in identifying the threat, in managing the war, in dealing with the homefront…There is no doubt that we must learn our lesson and correct our mistakes. We were asleep and we received a wake-up call."
"In 2000, we withdrew from Lebanon without guarantees and without security agreements, and this action brought about Hizbullah's speech about spider webs, which was adopted by Hamas. The resulting Intifada made us decide, out of pain and out of good will, to withdraw unilaterally once more," Netanyahu declared.
"These unilateral withdrawals deteriorate our deterrence, and lend credence to our enemies, a credence that improves their ability to bombard our cities and towns. This concept (of unilateral withdrawals) is now disappearing, and rightly so," he added.
Like Olmert, Netanyahu opened his speech with condolences, noting both the harsh incidents and united Israeli spirit seen in recent days: "All of our hearts skipped a beat when our soldiers went to battle to protect us and all of our hearts grieved alongside the families of fallen soldiers or the citizens who fell victim to attacks on our cities."
Ahmadinejad most bitter enemy since Hitler
Netanyahu emphasized that "This is a moment of unity and a moment of self examination. I don't mean simply learning lessons from the recent conflict. I think that we need to examine our collective self as a state, based on one basic principle – every living thing must do two things in order to survive: it must identify dangers and it must arm itself sufficiently to protect itself from these dangers."
Netanyahu stated the importance of nurturing military, state, economic and spiritual strength: "A hundred years ago, our people did not have such capabilities. A leader, Herzl, saw the burning coals of anti-Semitism and understood that there was a threat of a fire that would threaten the Jews of Europe and eventually the Jews of the rest of the world. Today I say: we are standing before a grave danger. A new potential fire threatens our people. Not only our soldiers, citizens and economy, but our very existence."
"Yes, in each generation there are those that rise up seeking our destruction. But since Hitler, there has not risen such a bitter enemy as Iran's president, Ahmadinejad, who openly declares his desire to annihilate us and his development of nuclear weapons in order to carry out this desire. Until he carries out his scheme, he is using his covert forces: in the south, Hamas, a Sunni force, and in the north, Hizbullah, a part of the Shiite arc that extends from Tehran to Lebanon," Netanyahu elaborated.
The opposition chairman praised security and rescue forces, as well as citizens in the line of fire and "a third force, that came forward, the force of the entire nation…people enlisted privately…businessmen, teachers, nurses, spiritual leaders, artists, ordinary people."
"The nation opened their hearts and pockets and homes," he continued. "In times of trouble, the people of Israel are all brothers and, in times of trouble, we must understand that the fate of one is the fate of all and that all people of Israel are responsible for one another." Regardless, Netanyahu stated that private donations would not suffice and that government intervention would be required.