JERUSALEM, Israel -- Areas of biblical Judea and Samaria (West Bank) under the Palestinian Authority rule could end up with a regime change like that in Egypt or a shaking like what is going on in Syria, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Speaking at the start of a Bible study at his home, Netanyahu likened the current situation in the Middle East to the beginning of the portion of the Jewish Bible (Torah -- first five books of the Bible) being studied this week.
"Now there arose a new king over Egypt," Netanyahu said, quoting the passage from Exodus 1:8, where a new pharaoh arose that did not know the Biblical patriarch Joseph.
"Like then, like today," the prime minister told participants, which included the former chief rabbi of Israel and current chief rabbi of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and former IDF chief rabbi Brig.-Gen. Rafi Peretz.
"In Egypt, the regime has been replaced, in Syria the regime is being shaken and this could also happen in the Palestinian Authority areas in Judea and Samaria," he said. "Everyone knows that Hamas could take over the Palestinian Authority. It could happen after an agreement, it could happen before an agreement, like it happened in Gaza."
In 2007, Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority, less than two years after Israel demolished Jewish communities there and pulled out its forces in a unilateral move intended to give the Palestinian Authority space to build a state.
Netanyahu said because of the takeover that already occurred in Gaza he would not "run forward, make concessions [and] withdraw" in a hasty negotiating process with the Palestinians.
The so-called peace process has been stale-mated for years.
Netanyahu blames Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for not wanting to negotiate peace. Netanyahu launched an aggressive building campaign in Jerusalem and existing communities in Judea and Samaria after Abbas went to the United Nations General Assembly in November and asked for an upgrade in Palestinian status to non-member state -- a move Israel says abrogates the agreements between the two.
But earlier this week, Israeli President Shimon Peres (one of the instigators of the Oslo Process in the 1990s) called Abbas a "partner for peace" and said there is no alternative to a two-state solution.
With Israeli elections around the corner the issue of peace talks is once again on the public stage here.
"I think that the diplomatic process must be managed responsibly and sagaciously and not in undue haste," Netanyahu said. "Otherwise a third base for Iranian terrorism will arise here in the heart of the country. Peace can be achieved only when security is assured."
Netanyahu revived a decades old tradition of holding a Bible study at the prime minister's residence last year at the time of the Jewish Shavuot holiday. The study is called "The Prime Minister's Bible Circle."
"We absorbed the Bible not just in school but from our families. This circle is named after my late father-in-law, Shmuel Ben-Artzi, who, as you know, was a Bible scholar, among the most exemplary in the Land of Israel, who loved and taught the Bible and saw to it that this tradition, which he gave here to his children, would be given to all children in Israel," Netanyahu said this week.
"I think that this is the basis of our heritage as well as the basis of our inspiration for the future," he said.