SOUTHFIELD After a weekend of appearing on national news networks to comment on a recent spate of violence in the Middle East, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke yesterday at a Metro Detroit fundraiser, discussing the challenges Israel is facing.
His visit to Michigan came after a series of bombings that killed 25 people this past weekend, bringing Israeli and Palestinian relations as well as terrorism to the forefront again in world news.
“Nothing justifies the blowing up of children, the blowing up of a bus, the blowing up of the World Trade Center,” he said.
As for getting rid of terrorism, he said it”s crucial to get to the roots. “If you shoot down a kamikaze pilot, there will be another kamikaze pilot,” Netanyahu said. “The only way to defeat this warfare is by sinking the aircraft carrier, and the aircraft carrier in this case is Yasser Arafat”s terrorist addiction. We must say to Arafat what the United States has said to the Taliban: Surrender terrorism or surrender power.”
Netanyahu also discussed the land conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, comparing it also to when the Arabs occupied Spain and Spain prevailed. “Does anyone say you did a terrible injustice to the Arabs?” he said. “In both cases the original owner of the land refused to give up the claim. We have a deed that goes back way before Spain”s and a good book to go along with it.”
“It”s not their land,” said Netanyahu, recounting his response in a recent interview on CNN during which he was told by an anchorwoman, “But the Palestinians say you stole their land.”
As far as peace in the Middle East is concerned, Netanyahu said that rights are a central issue.
“Eventually we will have to make a deal with our Palestinian neighbors, but what impedes the deal is their claim that we have no rights whatsoever in that land.”
More than 250 University students traveled to Southfield to attend the event, which was held at local synagogue Congregation Shaarey Zedek. The Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit made the opportunity available to students, University Hillel Program Associate Stephanie Ballantyne said.
“Especially because of everything that”s going on in Israel now, it”s prominent and Netanyahu was on the news all weekend long. It”s important that they get a reality check and not just what the news is feeding them,” she said. “The news is starting to be more fair but Netanyahu is a very eloquent speaker. He gave us more hard facts we wouldn”t be able to know otherwise.”
Ballantyne added that it was important that students were showing their support for Israel by attending the event. “It”s a time of crisis in Israel and we need to show our support as American Jews. Going to an event like this tonight with a very high-profile speaker, it”s not the safest thing to do, but everyone is rallying and going regardless,” she said.
Engineering sophomore Avi Jacobson said he attended the event because he was interested to hear about current issues from someone who had once been in power but that he hoped for more concrete discussion.
“I wish he would have spent less of his time explaining why he thinks he”s right and that the Palestinians are wrong and instead defined for us what would constitute a true partner for peace,” Jacobson said. “What”s lacking from the Israeli side is a statement of long-term goals and a political strategy.”
LSA sophomore Eve Posen said she hoped to find out what Netanyahu would advise America do to in response to terrorism. “Now that we”ve experienced it first-hand, hearing about how to deal with it makes more sense and seems really important,” she said.
“He focused more on what we should be thinking about with terrorism, about how America and Israel are the only ones fighting it and it”s not true,” Posen said. “And when he started to talk about Israel and how they have a claim to the land he was very one-sided and his points were valid but they”re not acceptable to get peace.”