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Netanyahu Not Intimidated by Arab Threats Against Israel

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Israeli Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu has declared that Arab threats would not affect how his government pursues the peace process.

“We are not impressed by various declarations of [Arab] leaders, nor do threats intimidate us. In fact, they have an opposite effect,” Netanyahu said Thursday.

Netanyahu made his comments as Arab leaders planned to convene in Cairo next week to discuss the right-wing leader’s election and its impact on the peace process. Several participants already have expressed concern that the incoming Israeli government would take steps hindering continuation of the peace process.

While Netanyahu has pledged to continue the peace process, in particular negotiations with the Palestinians, he had taken a more hard-line stand than the outgoing government of Shimon Peres. Netanyahu opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state, and any withdrawal from the Golan Heights.

The top priority in any peace accords his government pursues will be security, Netanyahu said.

“The supreme test of any agreement we make, and any agreement that has been made will be security,” Netanyahu said Thursday, adding, “There will be no compromise on this issue.”

Netanyahu made his remarks during a meeting with Uri and Yehudit Dassberg, the parents of Efrat Unger, who, together with her husband, was shot dead in a drive-by shooting Sunday in central Israel.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu said he still expects to present his government for Knesset approval next week.

As negotiations continued to form a coalition, Netanyahu’s Likud Party and the National Religious Party, which won nine parliamentary seats in the elections, reportedly reached agreement Thursday on ministerial appointments.

Under the Likud proposal, accepted by the NRP, the religious Zionist party would head up the Education Ministry, and the Transport and Energy portfolios, which are to be combined into one ministry, according to Israeli news reports.

The Likud-NRP accord also called for rotating the Religious Affairs portfolio between the NRP and Shas, the fervently Orthodox Sephardi party, which won 10 Knesset seats.

Likud continued to negotiate with other potential coalition partners, including Tsomet. The Third Way and Yisrael Ba’Aliyah.

But Yisrael Ba’Aliyah leader Natan Sharansky was also reported to have rejected a Likud offer for the Industry and Trade portfolio, along with two deputy ministers in the Ministries of Absorption and Education.

Sharansky was quoted as saying that he was committed to bringing social change, and could not do so with those appointments.

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