17.12.2003 Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday slammed talk of a unilateral withdrawal from the territories, saying “one must get something in return for any measures taken. Concessions must come in response to something.” Speaking at the Herzliya Conference on security, Netanyahu said, in an apparent jibe at the Geneva Accord and talk by Minister Ehud Olmert that he has a plan for a unilateral withdrawal, “the multiplicity of diplomatic plans interferes with the prime minister’s direction of policy.”
The finance minister also insisted that Israel currently does not have a Palestinian partner for negotiations on a permanent status agreement. He argued that a new Palestinian leadership could not prosper in a “poisonous Palestinian society which creates battalions of suicide bombers.” Netanyahu also called for construction on the West Bank security fence to be speeded up to separate between population centers on both side as well as preventing a “demographic exodus” of Palestinians from the territories to Israel and creating security and economic stability. He said the government will allocate an additional NIS 700 million next year for the controversial barrier. “We will build this fence, the sooner the better,” Netanyahu told the conference. Netanyahu said the extra funds for the fence will come from raising taxes on diesel fuel, a measure that went into effect late Tuesday. Netanyahu added he has instructed ministry officials to continue to allocate all the amounts needed to set up the barrier, to ensure budgetary considerations are not a delaying factor. Netanyahu added that Israel does not face a demographic threat from the Palestinians who will be under Palestinian control and will enjoy “self determination” in the future, but rather faces a threat from the Israeli Arab population. He believes that it is of the utmost importance to maintain the Jewish majority in the country a d for this the economy must be improved to encourage more Jews to immigrate from the Diaspora and improve the education of “Jew and Arab, boy and girl, man and woman.” Netanyahu warned that should the Israeli Arab sector grow to 35-40 percent of the population, Israel will become a bi-national country. Hadash MK Mohammed Barakeh said in response that Netanyahus comments are nothing more than lowly, ugly racism. He called on the finance minister to end the incitement against the Arab population and to stop viewing its natural growth as a problem. MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) said in response that Netanyahu was fanning hostilities toward the Arab sector. He who talks of the Arab citizens as a threat is legitimizing racism, he said.