Netanyahu takes on the world in Israeli election campaign

Tue Jan 8, 2013 12:02pm EST
 
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By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - It's Bibi against the world on a campaign trail that took the combative Israeli prime minister to a Jewish settlement on Tuesday.

Enjoying a wide opinion poll lead before a January 22 election, Benjamin Netanyahu has been lecturing the international community - vocal in its criticism of settlement expansion on occupied territory and his hints of military action against Iran - about what it should really be worried about.

The right-wing candidate, known by his childhood nickname "Bibi", has been striving in campaign appearances to strike a common chord in a country where a song titled, "The whole world is against us", was once a hit.

"The great danger to the world is not from Jews building in our ancestral capital in Jerusalem, it's from nuclear weapons in Iran," Netanyahu said on Monday in a speech in the holy city, to which both Israel and the Palestinians stake claims.

A day later, he travelled to Ariel, a major Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, where his government's granting of university status to a college last month drew international condemnation.

Tweaking his message to match the locality, Netanyahu said: "The danger to the world is not from the university in Ariel or Israeli construction in the neighborhoods of Jerusalem. The danger comes from Iran, which is building nuclear weapons."

Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful energy only.

Netanyahu has long been at odds with even Israel's closest Western allies over settlement building in the West Bank, territory captured in a 1967 war that Palestinians seek as part of a future state.   Continued...

 
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands next to a free-electron laser (FEL) during a visit to the Ariel University Centre in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ariel January 8, 2013. Israel upgraded the Ariel campus to a university last month, a move that has put the school at the centre of a debate at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: how the settlements will figure in defining a future Palestinian state. REUTERS/Dan Balilty/Pool