Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the following remarks at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting this morning (English captions available):
“I agree completely with US President Trump’s sharp criticism of UNRWA.
UNRWA is an organization that perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem. It also perpetuates the narrative of the right-of-return, as it were, in order to eliminate the State of Israel; therefore, UNRWA needs to pass from the world”, PM Netanyahu said.
“This is an agency that was established 70 years ago, only for Palestinian refugees, at a time when the UNHCR deals with global refugee problems. Of course this creates a situation in which there are great-grandchildren of refugees, who are not refugees but who are cared for by UNRWA, and another 70 years will pass and those great-grandchildren will have great-grandchildren and therefore, this absurdity needs to stop”, Netanyahu added.
“I have made a simple proposal: UNRWA support funds need to be gradually shifted to the UNHCR, with clear criteria for supporting genuine refugees, not fictitious refugees as happens today under UNRWA. I have brought this position to the attention of the US. This is how to rid the world of UNRWA and deal with genuine refugee problems, to the extent that such remain”.
“Today, I will submit for Cabinet approval the formation of a team that will move forward on the construction of artificial islands. Israel is one of the most crowded countries in the world; it is predicted that by mid-century it might well be the most crowded in the world. We have coasts on which we have built infrastructures such as desalination plants, power stations and other infrastructures. This proposal is designed to build, off Israel’s coasts, artificial islands that will absorb all these infrastructures, clear the coasts and – of course – provide more area”, PM Netanyahu said.
“I have been thinking of this since my first term as Prime Minister in 1996. Back then we started the project of artificial islands but it was halted due to opposition from environmental elements and there were also feasibility questions. What has happened since then, over the past 20 years, is that the technology of artificial islands has greatly changed and developed and it has also evolved in the sense of being more environment-friendly. We can answer all of the financial and ecological feasibility issues. This is certainly within our grasp”.
“Other countries have done great things on this matter. We are learning from them and therefore, this visionary project is important for the State of Israel. I have assigned the work to [National Economic Council Chairman] Prof. Avi Simhon; we are already holding a series of discussions. The first step in advancing the construction of artificial islands off the coasts of Israel is to form the team today”.
“Third, the Tourism Minister will brief us on the excellent state of tourism in Israel. A few months ago we welcomed the three millionth tourist, a woman from Romania. Today there are 3.6 million tourists. I hope that in the coming year we will pass the 4 million mark and this will be, of course, an important improvement”.
“The tourism market brings money into the State of Israel. It is like exports. It is an important part of our economy. It provides employment to various sectors of the population, which exports do not always do. Therefore, I also see this as important from a social perspective, as well as from an economic perspective. It is also important vis-à-vis our public diplomacy abroad. Tourists who come here leave with a much more positive attitude to the State of Israel and spread this around the world,” Netanyahu concluded.