JERUSALEM (JTA) – Benjamin Netanyahu linked himself to Barack Obama and said he is Israel’s candidate of change.
Netanyahu, the Likud Party leader and a front-runner in the February election for prime minister, offered a multi-pronged approach for saving Israel economically and making peace with its Arab neighbors during a plenary session Wednesday of the United Jewish Communities General Assembly.
The former prime minister told the crowd of several thousand lay and professional leaders of the Jewish federation system on the G.A.’s final day that his economic policies — including lowering taxes and reducing the welfare rolls — when he served as finance minister moved Israel away from “virtual collapse” in 2003 to a booming economy.
Now with the global economy collapsing, Netanyahu said Israel could capitalize on the declining world market by dropping taxes even further to inspire foreign investors. As a small country, Israel would “only need a trickle” of potential wealth from the global community to significantly improve its position, he said.
In linking himself with Obama, Netanyahu citied several meetings with the U.S. president-elect and used the Obama mantra of change in what amounted to an American-style stump speech.
On the peace front, Netanyahu said he favors pursuing achievable incremental agreements rather than chasing an elusive final-status deal, and wants to focus on bolstering the “moderate parts of the Palestinian economy” to foster the conditions for political agreement.
“Peace and security require a new direction, and an economic challenge that requires reinvigoration, and we intend to do both,” Netanyahu said.
“Any change involves overcoming vested interests. There are always champions of the status quo. There are always the naysayers,” he said. “You have to show that consistency of vision and purpose that can change the lives of Israelis, the lives of Israelis and Palestinians."
Netanyahu was the second of three major candidates to address the G.A. Defense Minister Ehud Barak of the Labor Party spoke Monday. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of the Kadima Party spoke later Wednesday.