Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out on Sunday night against anti-judicial reform protesters, saying they were “joining forces with the PLO and Iran” in harming the Jewish state.
“The protesters have made blocking roads a normal event, refusal [to serve in the military] normal, and they are defaming Israel before the world,” said Netanyahu ahead of his departure to the United States.
“I was the head of the opposition and I did not slander Israel in front of the world,” he added.
The comments come on the heels of last week’s contentious Supreme Court hearing on petitions to strike down an amendment to Basic Law: The Judiciary passed by the Knesset on July 24. The law bars justices from using “reasonableness” as a justification for reversing decisions made by the cabinet, ministers and “other elected officials as set by law.”
Protest leaders are planning to hound Netanyahu during his entire seven-day US visit, and last week projected a message onto the UN building in New York City reading: “Don’t believe Crime Minister Netanyahu. Protect Israeli democracy.”
“The slogan projected on the UN building wall is just a small taste of what is awaiting the indicted defendant Netanyahu on his visit to NYC,” the protesters said in a statement. “We will be waiting to greet him. In the air, on land and at sea. The whole world will know that Netanyahu is a liar. We will not allow him to disgrace Israel and deceive world leaders with his speeches.”
Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
“Today, the world is seeing—and I will certainly emphasize this—that Iran is violating all of its commitments, that it brazenly lies, and that it intends both to develop nuclear weapons and continue its aggression in the region,” said Netanyahu on Sunday night.
Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed off on sanctions waivers paving the way for international banks to unfreeze $6 billion dollars in Iranian funds.
As part of an emerging deal, the Biden administration has also agreed to release five Iranian citizens held in the United States, in exchange for five American prisoners detained in Iran.
Netanyahu previously slammed the prospective US-Iran agreement, saying, “Arrangements that do not dismantle Iran’s nuclear infrastructure do not stop its nuclear program and only provide it with funds that go to terrorist elements sponsored by Iran.”
The prime minister is beginning his US trip in San Francisco, where he will meet “the current leader of the most dramatic development in the new age and perhaps in general, Elon Musk,” said Netanyahu prior to his departure on Sunday.
“I will discuss artificial intelligence with him and I will also work toward encouraging him to invest in Israel in the coming years. He is, to a large degree, paving the way that will change the face of humanity and also the face of the State of Israel,” said Netanyahu. “Israel needs to be a leader in artificial intelligence. Just as we turned it into a leader in cyber, so we will do in this field as well.”
Netanyahu’s delegation is expected to include Foreign Minister Eli Cohen; National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi; Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer; Health and Interior Minister Moshe Arbel; Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman; and Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog.
The Israeli premier is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly on Friday.
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