JERUSALEM – Israel's new deputy foreign minister on Thursday delivered a defiant message to the international community, saying that Israel owes no apologies for its policies in the Holy Land and citing religious texts that it belongs to the Jewish people.
The speech by Tzipi Hotovely illustrated the influence of hardliners in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new government, and the challenges he will face as he tries to persuade the world that he is serious about pursuing peace with the Palestinians.
Hotovely, 36, is among a generation of young hard-liners in Netanyahu's Likud Party who support West Bank settlement construction and oppose ceding captured land to the Palestinians. Since Netanyahu has a slim one-seat majority in parliament, these lawmakers could complicate any attempt to revive peace talks.
With Netanyahu also serving as the acting foreign minister, Hotovely is currently the country's top full-time diplomat.
In an inaugural address to Israeli diplomats, Hotovely said Israel has tried too hard to appease the world and must stand up for itself.
"We need to return to the basic truth of our rights to this country," she said. "This land is ours. All of it is ours. We did not come here to apologize for that."
Hotovely, an Orthodox Jew, laced her speech with biblical commentaries in which God promised the Land of Israel to the Jews. Speaking later in English, she signaled that she would try to rally global recognition for West Bank settlements, which are widely opposed.
"We expect as a matter of principle of the international community to recognize Israel's right to build homes for Jews in their homeland, everywhere," she said.
Hotovely will manage the ministry's day-to-day functions, but Netanyahu will remain in charge of foreign policy.
During the recent election campaign, Netanyahu angered his Western allies by saying that he would not permit the establishment of a Palestinian state on his watch. On Wednesday, he told the visiting EU foreign policy chief that he remains committed to a two-state solution.
Netanyahu's spokesman, Mark Regev, declined comment on Hotovely's speech, but said Netanyahu's statements Wednesday reflected his policy.