TORONTO (JTA) — Israel will not repeat "mistakes" from the past that allowed Iran to gain a foothold on the Jewish state’s borders, Israel’s prime minister pledged in Toronto.
Benjamin Netanyahu, addressing thousands of enthusiastic members of the Jewish community Sunday prior to the United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto’s annual Walk With Israel, vowed that Israel will never again create military vacuums that Iran would fill.
"We must not repeat the mistakes of the past," he told the cheering crowd. "When Israel left Lebanon, Iran moved in. When Israel left Gaza, Iran moved in again. We cannot afford to have that mistake repeated with the same consequences a third time. We cannot afford a third Iranian presence on the hills overlooking Tel Aviv."
That means any future Palestinian state must be "effectively demilitarized," Netanyahu said before heading to Ottawa to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
It was the first time since 1978 that a sitting Israeli prime minister addressed Toronto’s Jewish community. Netanyahu’s speech was seen as a thank-you for the Harper government’s staunchly pro-Israel stance.
Netanyahu said the people of Israel "are prepared to make compromises for peace but they’re not — and I’m not — prepared to make any compromises on our security. Israel will never ever give up the power to defend itself.
"And just as we are asked to recognize a nation-state for the Palestinian people, the Palestinians will have to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. The Palestinians will have to recognize the Jewish state," he said emphatically.
Israel’s "first and foremost" challenge is to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, Netanyahu said.
Prior to his address, Netanyahu met privately with Jewish community leaders and with media publishers and editors.
Following his Canadian visit, the prime minister was scheduled to head to the United States for talks with President Obama, but the meeting was canceled in the aftermath of the rioting aboard a Gaza-bound ship that killed nine international activists.