As international disapproval mounts over Israel's decision to move forward with plans to build in disputed areas of Jerusalem and the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged on Tuesday to keep building in the capital and continue supporting the Jewish settlement movement.
Netanyahu addressed Likud-Beiteinu supporters as he and former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman officially launched their joint election campaign.
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"With God's help we will continue to live and build in Jerusalem, which will continue to stand undivided under Israeli sovereignty," he said. "Over the past few years we've done a lot to empower the settlements and will continue to do so."
Netanyahu's address (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
In his speech at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, Netanyahu called on Israeli voters to ask themselves what kind of prime minister they want to lead the country next term.
"When they enter the polling station I urge them to ask just one question," he said. "Who do they think is the most suitable person to be their prime minister and lead Israel for the next four years? Who do they think is most equipped for dealing with the Iranian issue and with the threat of terrorism? Who has the experience and the responsibility to deal with the financial crisis? Who is the most suitable man to secure our children's future?
"Citizens of Israel, don't waste your vote," he said. "Voting for the sectorial parties would be a mistake that will weaken Israel."
Popular Israeli singer Sarit Hadad performed during the event.
Netanyahu with Sarit Hadad (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Lieberman, in turn, addressed the settlement issue as well.
"We have one dispute with the global community," he said. "This dispute is about the construction in Jerusalem and in the settlement blocks. This is why we need a united and strong government that can withstand the pressure.
"This is the difference between us and the Left," he said. "We want to build up Jerusalem, while they want to divide it."
Lieberman postulated that the merger between his party, Yisrael Beiteinu, and Netanyahu's party, the Likud, will ensure the joint ticket "a landslide victory."
He continued to shoot down the merger's opponents, including Tzipi Livni, Yair Lapid and Shelly Yachimovich, asserting that Netanyahu was the only leader capable of dealing with threats posed by Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.
PM with Lieberman on Tuesday (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Lieberman urged Israel's citizens to vote for Likud-Beiteinu "so that the world will know that a strong and central force represents the people of Israel, and that a few loudmouths are irrelevant."
Lieberman recently stepped down due to an impending indictment that challenges the legality of his decision to appoint Ze'ev Ben Aryeh as an ambassador. Following the campaign launch on Tuesday evening Lieberman reported for questioning as part of the investigation.
Earlier in the day, the former minister told a Russian-language news website, Cursor, that if the legal proceedings against him aren't completed before the elections, thus barring him from assuming a ministerial role, he will instead take charge of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
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