Knesset returns with a power of work ahead

Peres

ISRAEL’S parliament returned to work after its long annual recess this week, beginning a Knesset period that could make key decisions on war and peace.

The chamber will immediately start to grapple with the strategic challenges in the Middle East, especially in Iran and Syria. And it will straight away start debating the peace process and legislation that could make or break a peace deal.

President Shimon Peres opened the Knesset session with a speech that called on MPs to put aside their pessimism on peace. “We shouldn’t take blind risks but neither should we miss opportunities because of scepticism and cynicism,” he said. “I am aware of the dangers. I know the difficulties. In my role today I will continue to fulfil my state duties to support the peace process.”

In what appeared to be a retort to politicians on the right who are calling for negotiations to stop in the light of terror attacks Peres said that “negotiations aren’t born out of trust, they create trust.”

The most important peace process-related legislation on the Knesset’s agenda is a bill that will require a referendum before any territorial withdrawal as part of an agreement with the Palestinians. The right champions the bill as delivering democracy while the left sees it as an unnecessary stumbling block to peace.

For Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the most important challenge of the new Knesset session is to cement his political support on the issue or Iran, and send a strong message to the international community that Israel is united behind him.

“It would be a historic mistake to relax the pressure on Iran now, a moment before the sanctions achieve their goal,” he declared. “There can be no giving in at this time and the pressure must be continued.”

Opposition leader Shelly Yachimovitch criticised Netanyahu for being “apocalyptic,” saying that Jews have survived a history of calamities and will survive the Iranian threat.

NATHAN JEFFAY

Members of the Knesset returned to work this week after an annual recess.

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