JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told American Jewish leaders — and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah — that Israel is strong and can defend itself.
Netanyahu, speaking Wednesday evening at the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations meeting in Jerusalem, responded to Nasrallah’s threat earlier in the day that Hezbollah would take over Israel’s Galilee region in a future war. Nasrallah also threatened to harm senior Israeli leaders.
"Just today, Hezbollah’s leader announced that he intends to conquer the Galilee. I have news for you: He won’t," Netanyahu said.
"Anyone hiding in the bunker should stay in the bunker," the Israeli leader continued, switching from English to Hebrew. "Let no one doubt Israel’s strength or our ability to defend ourselves. We have a determined government, a strong army and a united people. We seek peace with all our neighbors. However, the IDF is prepared and ready to defend the State of Israel forcefully from all our enemies."
Netanyahu also addressed the continuing changes in Egypt, saying that its future remains in the air.
"All of us know one thing — that ultimately, the people of Egypt are those who will decide their own fate," he said. "But Israel cannot profess a neutrality as to the outcome because above all, we want the Egyptian government to remain committed to the peace with Israel. Every single Egyptian should know that the people of Israel are committed to peace, both with them and with all our other neighbors."
Netanyahu said Israel would be prepared no matter what the outcome.
"I cannot simply hope for the best," he said. "I must also prepare for the worst."
As he has done with other leaders and policymakers, Netanyahu alerted the Presidents Conference delegates to the possible dangers ahead, including a new Egypt that will support Iran and terror. He reiterated that Israel is committed to peace with its neighbors.
"While we have not yet achieved a final peace with the Palestinians, or with the Syrians or with the Lebanese, we have not lost hope, and we won’t lose hope," Netanyahu said. "We remain committed to achieving peace with all our neighbors. All our neighbors should look at the value that the peace contributed to Egypt and Israel. "
The Presidents Conference meeting ended Thursday.