ISRAEL MUSINGS: OP-EDS & ARTICLES
- November 25, 2013
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 25, 2013
Source: PMO, 11-25-13
יום שני כ”ב כסלו תשע”ד
Following is an excerpt from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks today in the Knesset:
“I would be happy if I could join those voices around the world that are praising the Geneva agreement. It is true that the international pressure which we applied was partly successful and has led to a better result than what was originally planned but this is still a bad deal. It reduces the pressure on Iran without receiving anything tangible in return and the Iranians who laughed all the way to the bank are themselves saying that this deal has saved them.
I spoke last night with US President Barack Obama. We agreed that an Israeli team led by National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen will leave soon for the US to discuss the permanent agreement with Iran.
That agreement must lead to one result: The dismantling of Iran’s military nuclear capability. I remind you that only last week, during the talks, the leaders of Iran repeated their commitment to destroy the State of Israel, and I reiterate here today my commitment, as Prime Minister of Israel, to prevent them from achieving the ability to do so.”
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 25, 2013
Source: PMO, 11-18-13
יום שני ט”ו כסלו תשע”ד
Mr. President, my friend, Francois Hollande, welcome to Jerusalem. Welcome to the capital of the Jewish people for the past 3,000 years. The people of the State of Israel greet your arrival with fondness, with feelings of genuine friendship. You said yesterday that you are a true friend of Israel; I agree. We thank you for your strong support of our efforts to fortify Israel’s security and to establish a true peace with our neighbors. We appreciate your position that nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran is a danger not only to Israel but to the entire world.
Mr. President, yesterday as you arrived in Israel, I said that France’s contribution to human culture was tremendous and indeed it is. Philosophers such as Descartes and Montaigne, men of science such as Lavoisier and Laplace, encyclopedists such as Diderot and Voltaire – I can tell you personally that my father was the editor of the Hebrew Encyclopedia and he always spoke of their contributions, and those of statesmen such as Montesquieu and de Tocqueville, medical researchers such as Louis Pasteur and Marie Curie, writers such as Victor Hugo and Emile Zola, artists such as Renoir and Rodin, and the list goes on and on – what a contribution to humanity.
However, few know of France’s unique contribution to Zionism.
I previously wrote about how support by the leading countries of the world for Zionism began at the turn of the 20th century. It was anchored in a new vision of the Jewish people, one that developed following the period of enlightenment and revolution in France.
The philosophers of the time emphasized the natural rights and freedoms of each and every person. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, one of the greatest philosophers and intellectuals of the Enlightenment of the 18th century, well understood the unique status of the Jewish people.
The Jews, he wrote, represented an irregular situation: Athens, Sparta and Rome had been destroyed and had passed from the world, their peoples disappearing from the planet, but Zion did not lose its children. And Rousseau, who espoused rights for everyone, then took care to add the following sentence. He said, “I will never believe that I am hearing a serious argument by the Jews as long as they do not have a free country, and their own schools and universities where they can express themselves and argue without fear – only then can we know what they have to say”.
With this statement, Rousseau was among the first people to tie personal freedom with national freedom, and this perception only grew stronger during the 19th century: that only the national rehabilitation of the Jewish people in the Jewish homeland would lead to a real resolution to the problem of the Jewish people. It would return the Jews to a normal status, not only as a nation, but also as individuals, just as Rousseau thought.
Even Napoleon, it is said, shared the desire to see the Jews return to their land, at least that is what the Zionist leaders believed when they quoted a statement attributed to Napoleon in 1799, when his army was only 40 kilometers from Jerusalem. “Hasten, Jews! Now is the moment… to claim… your political existence as a nation among the nations”. This attitude was strengthened later by French writers and poets who visited Israel, like the well-known French poet Lamartine, who wrote with great emotion, “This is Judea; this is the place of the Jewish people”.
Mr. President, the Speaker of the Knesset rightly mentioned the impact the Dreyfus trial and the rising anti-Semitism at the end of the 19th century had as one of the factors that motivated Herzl to pursue political Zionism, but just as important was the impact of positive factors on the Jewish people, such as Emile Zola, who stood forcefully against anti-Semitism, and French President Clemenceau, who enthusiastically supported the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel at the Versailles Conference in 1919.
This was also the attitude of the wonderful French journalist, Albert Londres. Londres visited Israel in 1929, after he passed through many Jewish communities in Europe. He saw the poverty of the Jews in the East and he also saw their lack of security in the West. Londres arrived in Israel and wrote, “Whoever sees the children of Abraham in the Carpathians or on the Vistula River, and 15 days later arrives on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean discovers that they have become the children of Theodor Herzl and feels a thrill of amazement. A Jew had a dream; he saw his miserable brothers and sisters tear off their chains, take flight, cross the sea and rejuvenate their image on the land of their forefathers – they were slaves, now they will be free. In their souls, shame has been replaced by pride. Confidence will take the place of fear, and each of them can shout from their windows, ‘I am a Jew, this is my glory'”.
Londres, who was perhaps the greatest journalist in France during the modern era, certainly of the 20th century, was perceptive and in 1929 recognized clearly the depth of Arab resistance to Jewish settlement as it was taking shape in the Land of Israel. He visited in Tel Aviv, wandering the streets, becoming enthused by what he saw, and he wrote, “In 1908, there was not a single home here. In 1929, there are nearly 5,000. ‘I shall rebuild you and you shall be rebuilt’ is written on the town’s seal”. Then he added, “From the day the first stone was laid, the Arab answered, ‘I will destroy you and you shall be destroyed'”.
I remind you, my friends, in 1929, there were no so-called “settlements”, as they are called today. The true desire of our enemies was to drive us out of Tel Aviv and indeed out of every place in this land. Well, they did not succeed – not to drive us out of Tel Aviv and not to destroy us. They did not succeed in preventing the establishment of the State of Israel, but even when the country was established, they did not stop trying to achieve their goal. And here, Mr. President, we had the help of France – during the period of the underground organizations, before the establishment of the country, during the first fateful years of its existence, France stood by our side. I think there is one person who can testify to this more than any other and that is our President, Shimon Peres, who played a central role in developing the relationship between Israel and France. Since those early years, there have been ups and down in our relations, but I must say that the fundamental ties between Israel and France have never been undermined.
Mr. President, in this house I have said several times that I accept the solution of two states for two peoples in the framework of a genuine peace that puts an end to the conflict, alongside strong security arrangements for Israel. Not all members of this house agree with this statement, but most of us agree on one thing: for the peace to be genuine, it must be a two-way street. The Jews cannot be asked to recognize a Palestinian nation-state without a demand that the Palestinians recognize the nation-state of the Jewish people.
Sir, just hours ago, you met with the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. I call on him from here today: let us break the stalemate, come to the Israeli Knesset and I will come to Ramallah. Stand at this podium and recognize the historic truth. The Jews have a connection with the Land of Israel stretching back nearly 4,000 years. The Jews are a people with the right for self-definition. Genuine peace will end all Palestinian claims on the State of Israel, including national claims on the country’s territory and sovereignty.
Mr. President, genuine peace is the aspiration of every person in Israel, and that includes hundreds of thousands of French speakers who immigrated to Israel – they are an integral part of our country, our society, our economy and all fields. This community has made a tremendous contribution to establishing the State of Israel and ensuring its future. Its sons and daughters have strong ties with their brothers and sisters, members of the large Jewish community in France. Unfortunately, the community in France must face anti-Semitic harassment. And I know, my friend Francois, you are acting tirelessly with determination and perseverance to stop this phenomenon.
Yesterday, we visited Yad Vashem together and I saw how closely you studied the depictions of the horrors and I witnessed your emotion. I also remember our emotional visit to Toulouse after the horrifying massacre at the Jewish school there. I would like to tell you again here: no attempt to frighten us or destroy us or uproot us from this place – no such attempt will succeed. The State of Israel is strong, am Israel chai [the people of Israel live].
My friend Francois, welcome to our country.
Bienvenue á la Knesset, Bienvenue á Jérusalem.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 18, 2013
Source: Arutz 7, 11-18-13
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 18, 2013
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 18, 2013
Source: PMO, 11-14-13
יום חמישי י”א כסלו תשע”ד
Toda raba, toda raba; thank you.
I want to thank all of you. By the end of this Masa, I’ll be thanking you in Hebrew and you’ll all understand. But you understand anyway.
I want to welcome my good friend Natan Sharansky; the Deputy Minister of Education, Avi Wortzman; the Director, the Head of the Directorate of Masa, Aaron Abramovich; and the new Director-General Liron. She worked for me, and she’s great. And all the members who are here, from Masa and from the Jewish Agency, and most of all, all of you from Masa.
Now I’m going to talk about Masa, and masa means journey. The Jewish people are on a great journey. That journey began here, in this land, almost 4,000 years ago, when Abraham came here. And we’re here, and we are going to stay here, forever.
Now, there are those who don’t want us to stay here. And they are openly declaring their intention to destroy the Jewish state. They’ll never achieve that, because we won’t let them. Leading them is the regime in Iran. And Iran is pursuing a plan to build nuclear weapons for that purpose. Now, I’m not impressed with the reports that we hear that Iran has not expanded its nuclear facilities. And the reason for that is they don’t need to. They’ve got enough facilities, enough centrifuges, to develop and to complete the fissile material which is at the core of an atomic bomb. They have that, and the test today is not whether they add to the capacity they already have. The question is will the international community rollback what they have. Rollback means that they dismantle centrifuges and that’s not included in the proposed deal in Geneva. That’s what we seek to do. I understand that there’s an argument that people make. They say: “If we don’t strike this deal…”. This bad deal with Iran, from our point of view, from the international community, that’s a bad deal. But people say: “If we don’t strike this bad deal with Iran, Iran will walk away from the deal.” Well, I have news for you. They’re not going to walk away from this deal. It’s a dream deal for them. In fact what has to be done is to get a good deal for us, not for Iran. A good deal for security; a good deal for peace. And you’re not going to achieve that with smiles; you’re going to achieve that with pressure – sustained pressure of sanctions. That’s what’s required. This is part of our journey. This is part of our effort. But I guarantee you one thing. Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons.
Now, we’re celebrating, we’re celebrating the tenth anniversary of Masa, and in this decade, 85,000, eighty-five-thousand young Jews, young men and women came here from so many countries into these Israel programs. And this year 11,000 participants, more than triple the annual figure before Masa program are here. I don’t think all of you fit here, but you came here from all over the world. You came here from Russia, from France, from the United States, from Great Britain, from Brazil, from Canada, from South Africa, from the Ukraine, from Venezuela, from Turkey, from many, many lands.
You came here from many lands to this land, and this is your land. And you decided to devote a year of your lives to live in Israel and you can see the dynamism of this country, the energy, the initiative, the diversity, the beauty, and you’re learning to be part of this land, part of our people, part of Israel. You are.
You’re working with wonderful programs to protect the environment, to help elderly Holocaust survivors, to work with youth at risk, to meet your counterparts, your young Israeli counterparts who are here working with you. In fact, I want to tell you, I have personal knowledge about this. I know firsthand because my younger son Avner is here with Gar’in Atid and they love working with you. Avner, why don’t you come up with the Gar’in. תבואו, עלו לבמה, come on. Come on.
No, the Gar’in too. Come on, come on, all of you with Gar’in Atid. Come over. Come on. בואו.
בואו הנה, בואו. לצד הזה.
So the last time Avner and I stood on a stage is when he won the Bible championship, and now these are the champions who are here, and there. All of you, you are all champions, champions of Masa. And I know, because he tells me, you know, at the times that he’s allowed to go home. He comes home and he says, Abba, these are great kids and this is a wonderful program. And he brings the kids who are with him from abroad and they’re wonderful kids, and they get to know Israel and they get to be the ambassadors of Israel.
Now, I want to tell you something. Twenty percent, that’s the statistic, I checked it, 20% of you who are here are going to come back permanently, as olim, and Avner just whispered in my ear, he said, say it. [Avner: “It’s not enough”]. It’s not enough. We want more. We want more of you to come. This is your home. And I want you to know, whatever you decide after this masa, whatever you decide, I hope as many of you decide to come back here and join us permanently, but I want you to know that Israel, wherever you are, is always your home. This is the meaning of Masa.
So congratulations to all of you, and we’ll see you here, again and again and again.
Toda raba; thank you
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 14, 2013
Source: PMO, 11-13-13
יום רביעי י’ כסלו תשע”ד
It is on these kinds of occasions that we say: “all’s well that ends well”. We are celebrating the appointment of a woman as Governor of the Bank of Israel. This is new and important, but I believe that more important than the gender issue is your personal achievement and the fact that you have reached this position.
This is an exciting day for you, your family, your mother, your husband and your children. I am sure that you, as well as your family, wish your father Noah could have been here. I knew him and admired him for his historic deeds. He was a man passionately committed to bringing justice where justice was missing, and I know that this principle has guided you in your public life no less, and perhaps even more, than any other.
We built a country here from ruins and created something out of nothing. I know that this is a joyous day for the workers of the Bank of Israel, to have a Governor from the ranks of the Bank. I was impressed with your leadership over the past six months. I would define it as cold and calculated. Not cold at heart, but calculated, adapted to the needs of the economy and primarily to financial stability. Now, we will all be tested on the basis of the outcome, as a former government minister would define it.
The test first of all is to continue the growth, continue our low unemployment rates – exceptionally low in today’s Western world. We belong to the Western economy, we belong to the global economy. This is not a trivial thing, because the State of Israel has great needs. Our needs are equal to those of two great powers, and we would happily settle for the GNP of Germany or Britain, but we do not have it. Nevertheless, we are, in a certain sense, a national miracle – an international miracle, and certainly an economic one. Our per capita GNP continues to rise and will soon exceed that of Europe’s leading countries. It has already exceeded that of large European countries, and I believe we can continue along this path because we are in the age of information. Not in a decade of information, but in a century of information.
We need first and foremost to nurture our own abilities. We have been discussing it continuously. We have to provide opportunities for the enormous creative power that exists within our people, and it is indeed an enormous creative power. The President always says to me: look at what I find when I travel around this country. I see this great creative force that ultimately translates itself into a great output.
I know that we are expected to work together as a team – I and the Minister of Finance and Karnit. We get into a room, and nothing comes out. It is completely quiet outside and often stormy inside. We make a decision and go. And the Bank of Israel is entirely sovereign. This should be clear. This is one of the unique things that we have created. There are some countries which still refuse to acknowledge it, but not us. This joint leadership will be tested on the basis of many things.
I have read about some of the things you have been dealing with, several of which we have been doing together – the committee to increase competitiveness, the committee for socio-economic change, the committee for the examination of the security budget, the committee for the financial viability of the National Insurance Institute, the national strategy committee, and so on and so forth. We are constantly engaged in this, because reality keeps changing and we need to address it and to show results.
I believe that there is one more thing that we need to do, and the President spoke about it. We need to create a sense of justice or at least a sense of decency in the economy. We must not become one of those countries whose citizens believe that their success is not the result of their efforts, talents or education, but rather the product of some system of connections. This tension always exists, and we must reduce it as much as possible.
I was very impressed with a book I recently read by Prof. Luigi Zingales, an economist of Italian origin who is currently residing in the US. He claims that there is a difference between being pro-market and pro-business. He argues that pro-business in the sense of big business means supporting the cartelization or the monopolization of the economy, whereas pro-market means the opposite – encouraging competition. Competition is good provided that there is no combination of factors that work to prevent competition, be it the government, private business or other factors. We should, to the best of our ability, allow real competition, refrain from centralization, ensure fairness and allow for the distribution of financial and other resources to produce the tools for growth and for the distribution of the products of growth. This is not a simple task because Israel is characterized by a great deal of centralization. This is the reason that approximately four or three and a half years ago, I established the centralization committee, and we have been working on it to this day. We will have to continue to pursue this and to guarantee the foundations of fairer and more equitable competition. Not entirely equitable because that does not exist in reality, but there is a middle road here, and Israel is committed to it, apart from all the other things that we will have to do.
I believe, Karnit and Yair, that we are capable of achieving this goal. Knowing you, and I have come to know you better recently, I believe that this mission is within our reach. I believe Israel faces formidable challenges, but also has a bright future. We stand out in the global economy. We cannot disconnect ourselves from it, but we want to excel within it and this is what we are doing and I believe that we will continue to do this. I want to congratulate you on this special day. May we all be blessed with the fruits of our common labor.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 13, 2013
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 12, 2013
Source: PMO, 11-10-13
יום ראשון ז’ כסלו תשע”ד
Thank you Michael, and thank you all. He was subtle, wasn’t he? Well, wait until you hear me.
I want to start with the most important thing: the most important thing is to assure the security and the future of the Jewish state, the one and only Jewish State of Israel. For decades we have been struggling mightily against a regime that calls for our destruction and it pursues nuclear weapons in order to achieve our destruction. Other’s destruction too, but first ours. It is a vital interest for other countries – the United States, the Europeans, many others, the Arabs, in my opinion the Chinese and the Russians as well – but for us it’s a matter of our existence. And the international community has placed demands on Iran to cease and desist the building of capabilities to produce atomic bombs that will threaten us and threaten the peace of the world. They put together a sanctions regime that has brought Iran to its knees, crippling sanctions. The purpose of those sanctions was to get Iran to dismantle – dismantle – its nuclear enrichment capabilities, which are used for atomic bombs and its heavy water plutonium reactor, which is used for atomic bombs.
This is what the sanctions are for. They’re not for preventing civilian nuclear energy or medical isotopes. I suppose Iran is building those ICBMs in order to launch medical isotopes to the Iranian patients orbiting the Earth. It is to prevent fissile material – that’s the material that you put inside an atomic bomb – that’s what those sanctions were about. To dismantle the centrifuge installations, underground military installations, centrifuge halls, and the plutonium reactor.
Now there’s a deal. Why the Iranians came to deal is obvious: because the sanctions are biting, biting their economy, crippling that regime. So they came to the table because they have to. And what is being offered now, and I’m continuously updated in detail. I know whereof I speak. What is being proposed now is a deal in which Iran retains all of that capacity. Not one centrifuge is dismantled. Not one. Iran gets to keep tons of low enriched uranium and they can take these centrifuges, which are not dismantled, in the halls, underground, which are not dismantled – using advanced centrifuges that they’ve already installed, some of them, that are not dismantled – and they can rush within a few weeks, maybe a couple of months, that’s all, and create at the time of their choosing, the fissile material for a bomb.
Iran does not give up anything of that. It makes a minor concession that is meaningless in today’s technology and in their current capacities. In other words, none of the demands of the Security Council resolutions, which the P5+1 powers passed are met. None of them! But what is given to them is the beginning of the rollback of sanctions. This means that the sanctions that took years to put in place are beginning to rollback with several billions of dollars of assets that are freed up; the automotive industry contracts that is central to Iran’s economy freed up; petrochemical industry freed up; matters that involved gold and even petroleum revenues freed up some.
There are people here who deal in the marketplace. The price of anything is determined by future expectations. The pressure on Iran today is based on future expectations. That’s the pressure that’s built up in Iran. That’s the pressure in the international community. But when you start letting up sanctions, rolling back sanctions, you are signaling in Iran that it’s reversed. For the first time, you go down. And people understand it’s over.
This is the deal that is proposed now. Iran does not roll back its nuclear weapons-making capacities at all, but the P5+1 are rolling back sanctions. That’s a bad deal. It’s a dangerous deal because it keeps Iran as a nuclear threshold nation and it may very well bring about a situation where the sanctions are dissolved or collapsed. It’s a bad and dangerous deal that deals with the thing that affects our survival. And when it comes to the question of Jewish survival and the survival of the Jewish state, I will not be silenced, ever. Not on my watch.
When the Jewish people were silent on matters relating to our survival, you know what happened. This is different. We are the Jewish state. We are charged with defending ourselves and we are charged with speaking up. And it is time now to speak up – all of us. All of us have to stand up now and be counted.
I can think of nothing that is as important and as crucial. We shall continue to work with the rest of the world, and it’s good that we have now a few days because this is not only in the interest of Israel; this is in the interest of the entire world. Yes, we speak up, but I think there are other nations in this region and perhaps beyond who can now unite and say: we do not want a nuclear Iran and we stand together to make sure that Iran dismantles its enrichment capacities, its heavy water plutonium reactor, all the things that they need to make nuclear weapons. They’re not entitled to it and it is possible right now, given the precariousness and vulnerability of the Iranian economy, to press forward the demand for Iran to dismantle its nuclear bomb-making capacity. That’s what I expect from every one of you, and I know it’s achievable. And it’s important.
I know that there have been many times that we have stood together. You have stood together with us. I have to stand more comfortably. Well, I have a list of all the people who are here and I want to acknowledge all of you, my dear friends. First of all, my friend of many, many decades, Michael Siegal. Michael, you’re a true champion of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
And Dede Feinberg and Jerry Silverman and Michael & Susie Gelman and Ronny Douek and recently elected Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat, doing a great job. Well, one mayor deserves another, Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, welcome.
Well now, I know something about Philadelphia. It’s the City of Brotherly Love. We’re all brothers and sisters here in a common cause, so welcome back to Jerusalem all of you.
Every five years, the Jewish Federations convene the General Assembly here in Israel. Well, that’s a fact. You’ve come here in good times, and you’ve come here in difficult times. You have come here when we have have faced violence and terrorism. You kept on coming and so I am very glad to welcome you here. And you demonstrate by doing this to the entire world that there is a vibrant, united Jewish world, and that is exemplified first by the tremendous bond between Israel and the Jewish communities of the United States and Canada. You are our partners. You are our brothers and sisters, and we are one big Jewish family. And like all families, we have to face challenges together. That’s what families do.
I mentioned Iran, and I mentioned those ICBMs. What is Iran targeting when it’s building those ICBMs? Not us. They already have rockets to reach us and missiles. They need those ICBMs to reach North America. It’ll take them a few years – not many by the way. And they could be nuclear tipped ICBMs. That’s the plan coming to a theater near you. Do you want that? I don’t hear you. Well, do something about it. We are. This is the greatest threat. I began with it, I continue with it. Iran must end enrichment at all levels, because they don’t need it. They must take out from their territory all the fissile material. They must stop the construction of the heavy water reactor in Arak. And Iran must dismantle the considerable military nuclear infrastructure, including the underground facilities and the advanced centrifuges.
It’s not my position. This has been the position of the international community. I stress it again. So here’s what you see over time: what you see is as you go from 2005, 2004, Iran is steadily building its nuclear weapons capability and the international community is steadily diminishing and reducing its demands. It’s almost a perfect scissor’s movement. That’s the bad news. The good news is that parallel to the increase in Iranian capabilities, just to give you an idea, they had I think in 2005 around 170 centrifuges. You know how many they have today? About 18,000. That’s not 100% increase – it’s a hundred fold increase. This in the face of all international resolutions. That’s not surprising because this is a regime that, in the face of all international resolutions, murders tens of thousands of innocent people, including children, in Syria. It participates, its keeps Assad going. There is no Assad regime; there’s an Iranian-propped Assad regime. It’s a regime that practices terror as we speak on five continents; a regime that supplies Hamas and Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah with endless rockets to fire on Israeli civilians; a regime that remains committed to our destruction and subverts just about every single country in the Middle East, and let me tell you, beyond the Middle East. It’s a regime that tries to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington and sends its killers either directly or through its proxy, Hezbollah, to Bangkok, to Nigeria, to Bulgaria, everywhere. This regime cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapons. It’s a historically pivot.
So the good news is that the international community did do something powerful and the powerful thing was to get those sanctions that followed Iran’s building of its capabilities and now, when Iran is on the ropes, now when Iran has to come to negotiate, now when Iran understands that if they don’t make a real compromise, they’ll get more sanctions – now you let it out? Now you say, well, if we don’t acquiesce to their demands, they’ll continue? They can’t continue because their economy will collapse. And even if they do, they’ll maintain their capabilities now? I always said that the combination of crippling sanctions and a military option – that has the power to stop Iran and everything I see tells me that. I think it’s important to have steady nerves and a firm purpose and stop this program. We can do it.
In any case, you know that the idea of the Jewish state and the purpose of the Jewish state is to enable Jews to defend themselves. This is something that we could not do before we had the Jewish state. But we can do it now and we shall always, always defend ourselves and defend our state.
I heard the learned commentaries of experts who explained to us that Israel cannot defend itself. They must know something I don’t know. This is our purpose. This is our goal. This is our way of assuring our destiny. And we have not come nearly four millennia in our odyssey over time, from the time that Abraham set foot in this country to the present, to have the likes of the ayatollahs threaten our life. We will always defend ourselves and our state.
We also want to see peace with our Palestinian neighbors. I want to see peace with our Palestinian neighbors. I am ready for a historic compromise. We need to end this conflict once and for all, and to end it, there’s a simple principle. That principle is: two nation-states, two states for two peoples. Not one state for one people, the Palestinians, and then another state for two peoples. No. Two states for two peoples, which means that if the Palestinians expect us to recognize the Palestinian state for the Palestinian people, they must recognize the Jewish state for the Jewish people.
Now, you’ve got to ask yourself a simple question: not why am I raising this obvious, simple, basic demand; but why have they persisted in refusing to accept it? Why? Why do they refuse to accept the simple principle of a Jewish state? Now, I’m not asking it for them to affirm our identity. I don’t need that. I know our history, believe me; I know our attachment to this land; I know our own nationhood. I’m asking it because I want them to give up any demands, any national demands, any claims on the Jewish state. That’s what peace is about. It’s not to make a Palestinian state from which they continue the conflict to try to dissolve the Jewish state, either through the “right of return” or through irredentist claims on our territory in the Negev and the Galilee or anywhere else. It’s to finally come to grips with something they have refused to come to grips with for close to a century – that the Jewish state is here by right, that is has a right to be here. And they must recognize that right and teach their children to recognize that right and to accept it.
I think this conflict began in 1921. My grandfather came here in 1920 in Jaffa, got off the boat to a little boat and then in a dinghy came to Jaffa port; went from there to the Jewish immigration office in Jaffa. In 1921, a mob attacked this immigration house because the Palestinian Arabs were opposed to any Jewish immigration at all. This was followed in 1929 by the massacre of the ancient Jewish community of Hebron. Horrible, disembowelment of children, beheading of babies, horrible. And that was followed by system attacks on the Jewish community from 1936 to 1939. And that was followed by systemic efforts by the Palestinian leadership, led by the Grand Mufti, Haj Amin el-Husseini, during the war years in Berlin with Hitler to advocate the Final Solution. Don’t expel the Jews, he said, destroy them. And that was followed finally after the tragedy that befell our people, with a declaration and a resolution by the United Nations for two states – a Jewish state. They didn’t say a Palestinian state, by the way. They said an Arab state, but that’s all right. We accepted and they refused. And then from 1947 until 1967, system attacks on us, an attempt to snuff out the life of the Jewish state by three Arab countries and several Arab armies in May of 1967 that we foiled in the great victory of the Six Day War.
So from 1921 to 1967, nearly half a century – 46 years – there were systemic attacks on the very nature of a Jewish state. Not on settlements – there weren’t any. Not on our presence in the territories – we weren’t there. What was this conflict about? Not on the absence of a Palestinian state. They rejected it; we accepted it. This conflict was not about settlements, about territories, even though these issues will have to be resolved. It wasn’t even about a Palestinian state. It was and still is about the Jewish state. They have to recognize the Jewish state.
And you know, afterwards, when we left Gaza, every square inch of it, and they kept on firing rockets at us, and we asked them: why are you firing rockets at us? Is it to liberate Judea and Samaria, the West Bank? They said, yeah, sure, but that too. We said, what do you mean, that too? They said, well, it’s to liberate Palestine – Ashkelon (they call it Majda), Ashdod, Beer Sheva, Jaffa. So that’s the bad guys, the guys who are lobbing the rockets on us. What about the other part of Palestinian society, those who don’t engage in terror (and it’s good they don’t engage in terror)? I ask them, so will you recognize the Jewish state? We recognize the Israeli people, we recognize the State of Israel. No, no, no, that’s not what I asked. Will you recognize the state of the Jewish people? You have a state. Palestinians can go there if they choose. We have a state. Jews can come here – a Jewish state – if they choose. Do you recognize that? No. Do you recognize that you won’t have any national claims wherever the border is drawn? No answer.
This conflict is about the Jewish state. Have I made that point, you think, subtly enough? You get it. Alright. So now let’s ask the second question. Because, you know, since 1921 until today it’s almost a century of unremitting incitement and an education of hatred. Now, I don’t mean in Hamas or Islamic Jihad. I mean in the Palestinian Authority: textbooks, schools, kindergartens. I showed John Kerry a teacher teaching young kids – four year olds, five year olds. What will you be? Shaheedim, martyrs (that’s suicide bombers)? And what will you struggle for? Palestine? What is Palestine? From Kiryat Shmona to Umm-Rash-Rash (that’s Eilat). From the river to the sea.
That’s what they teach. In their textbooks, Israel disappears. It completely disappears. In their state-controlled media – what a wonderful term – in their state-controlled media, they control everything. That’s what they put forward. We had a wonderful initiative that President Peres and I put forward to bring the Barcelona team, the soccer team, to Israel to play with the Palestinians and then to play with Israel, combined Jewish-Arab games in Israel. In the Palestinian territory, they played in Hebron. When they came to President Peres a day later, there was a song in Hebrew, in Arabic, we talked of peace, we talked of two states for two peoples, we had an exhibition game – Jewish children, Arab children from Israel… that was Israel. A day earlier – I found out that a day later but a day earlier in Hebron, in the soccer stadium, the Palestinian football federations, an official arm and an official spokesman and he said to the Barca team: welcome to Palestine. Palestine is from the river to the sea, from Lebanon to the Red Sea, from Eilat to Rosh Hanikra, the Arab name for Rosh Hanikra.
There is a century of this. The minimum thing that we can demand, aside from demanding the end of incitement, but to get a deal is that the official position of the Palestinian leadership recognize the Jewish state. That’s a minimum, but I don’t delude myself. This will be a long process. But it must begin with that. Otherwise, what are we saying? That this plan to dissolve Israel in stages will continue? Of course not. But we also have to recognize that it may not take root. It may not. We have at best a cold peace. I hope for a warm one. By the way, a cold peace is better than a hot war. But a warm peace is better than a cold peace. I hope for a warm peace, beginning with that recognition of the Jewish state and the abandonment of the “right of return” and all those other fantasies that are still harbored in Palestinian culture.
But we have to know that even if the Palestinian leadership puts an end to 90 years of rejection, and even if they recognize the Jewish state, we know that in this volatile and violent region, that can be reversed. We know that in our region, there can be no durable peace that is not based on security. A peace agreement that is not based on absolute, robust security arrangements for Israel, by Israel, will not stand the test of time. We want a peace that endures. We need a peace based on security. That’s the other fundament. We need security to defend the peace. But we also need security to defend Israel in case the peace unravels. And in our region, peace has a tendency to unravel now and then, if you haven’t watched around us. You have.
Now for this genuine peace of a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state, for this peace I am willing to make difficult decisions. I am willing to be both creative and flexible. But I cannot compromise and will not compromise on the safety and security of the one and only Jewish state. And the Palestinians, of course, will have to compromise too. They’ll have to compromise and accept the legitimacy and necessity of robust security arrangements that ensure that Israel’s security border does not begin four miles from Ben-Gurion airport and a few hundred meters from this hall.
You know, Israel is the most challenged country on Earth. There is no other country, no other power, that is challenged for its very survival as we are, and we are one of the smallest countries on Earth. We need to have very robust security arrangements, and these are the two essential foundations for a secure peace – mutual recognition of two nation-states and robust security arrangements. This is what we need – we need many other things, believe me, many other things. For example, we have this minor attachment – well, I’m joking – we have this small… no, we have this huge, historic attachment to our capital, Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people. It’s always been our capital; it always will be our undivided capital.
But I don’t want to do the negotiations here. I do want to say that I hope that this current round of talks will lead to peace. I hope the other side, like me, is ready to make tough decisions for peace. I stood at Bar Ilan University – it’s a religious university – and I expressed my willingness to recognize a Palestinian nation-state alongside their recognition of a Jewish nation-state. That wasn’t easy. In my previous government, I agreed to an unprecedented freeze on construction in the settlements. Believe me, that wasn’t easy. But there is something even harder, maybe the toughest decision I made. I agreed to the release of terrorist prisoners. They served 20 years. They killed a lot of people. I’ve made difficult choices to try to advance the peace, but it must be a two way street. It cannot be that the Palestinians are forever pampered by the international community; that their incitement goes by without a tick; that their refusal to recognize a Jewish state goes by without a bat of an eyelash; that their inefficacy in fighting terrorism is accepted or lionized as a great capacity. It’s time that the international community, certainly the serious members of the international community, understand this is a two-way street because peace is not a one-way street and it won’t be. To stick, it’s going to be very tough, not only for Israel. Everybody says that. It’s going to be very tough for the Palestinian leadership. It must be, otherwise it’s not a genuine peace. And we don’t want a fake peace. We’ve had enough.
So the question is, will they rise up to it? I don’t know. It’s in their interest. I hope that they stand up, not only for themselves – and I think they would if they accepted what I’m saying, but they would ensure a future for their children and for their grandchildren and for future generations. But they must be able to give the Beir Zeit speech. They must be able to give the Beir Zeit speech. A Palestinian leader must do what Anwar Sadat did. He said, it’s over, it’s gone. No more war. No more bloodshed. But he was speaking for Egypt. A Palestinian leader must stand and say, I accept the Jewish state. That’s a simple litmus test of seriousness.
We have another kind of peace that we have to foster and continuously promote – it’s our internal peace. We call it shalom bayit, peace in our house. That’s always guided me as Prime Minister. I always said I have to keep the peace of the Jewish people. I am the Prime Minister of Israel, Israel is the Jewish state. I have to worry about the inclusion of Jews from every part of the Jewish world.
The Kotel is in Israel, but the Kotel belongs to all the Jewish people. And I have been working with you – not merely for you, with you – because I think we have to consult together and reach solutions together. I asked Natan Sharansky, a great Jewish leader, to bring the Jewish people a solution, to bring me a solution, and I think he has. I asked my Cabinet Secretary, Avichai Mandelblit, a very able, very able public servant, to help along with that. We have now a solution; it reflects my desire to have a solution for all of you, by all of you, with all of you. And I am convinced that we can soon have this solution in place.
We have also been working closely to have young Jews from North America and from around the world, come to Israel. When I was Prime Minister the first time – this is my third term. In my first term, people came to me, Michael Steinhardt and Charles Bronfman, came to me with a revolutionary idea of having Taglit. They said they’re putting up the money, but they said, you know, there’s one small factor: you have to put up money too. And when we spoke about it with the Cabinet and with others, they said, what? Israel will pay money? You remember this, Natan. Israel will pay money to bring American kids here? And I said, yeah, it’s our future, and yes, we’re going to do it. And we’ll put our money where our mouth is. And we did 15, 16 years ago. And we’ve done it since. It’s been a tremendous success – Taglit, Masa, Hefzibah. We’re committed to this.
Now, as you know, we have a new initiative, a broad and deep initiative to unite the Jewish people, to initiate programs to help reach the inner cords of identity of the Jewish people around the world. We know we’re challenged by the internet age. We know that it fragments people. We cannot change that; we don’t intend to change that; we don’t intend to go against the internet. We intend to use the internet. We’re not going to go into horse and buggies. We understand it’s a new age. In fact, Israel is leading technologically this tremendous development. But we also know it challenges our unity. We also know that the forces of assimilation and intermarriage are there. We also read these recent polls. We understand: we have a challenge. You understand, together, that we have a challenge. And we have sponsored this initiative to work together, think this through together, and then put forward programs to help solidify the core of the conviction and identity that is so central to securing our future.
When I think of the challenges that the Jewish people have undergone, challenges that no nation has undergone, no people have undergone, and we’ve been able to overcome them over nearly 4,000 years – challenges to our physical survival, challenges to our spiritual survival and cohesion. I know that we have that inner strength to guarantee the Jewish future. I know it and you know it; and together we’re going to achieve exactly that – to defend and secure the Jewish people and the one and only Jewish state. I say that here in our eternal capital, Jerusalem, and I know, I know that you stand with me.
Thank you very much, all of you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 10, 2013
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 10, 2013
Source: PMO, 11-10-13
יום ראשון ז’ כסלו תשע”ד
Photo by GPO
David Ben-Gurion died 40 years ago, just one month after the end of the Yom Kippur War. The depression and despondency experienced by the people of Israel at the time mingled with grief over the death of the bold and active leader, who navigated the path of the Zionist enterprise with dedication from its most decisive moment.
It was at that low point after the Yom Kippur War that we well remembered what we were taught by Ben-Gurion – the return of the people of Israel to their land involved dealing with difficulties and complex challenges and it was not our fate or our destiny to give up, but rather to emerge victorious and ensure the existence of the people of Israel in their land forever.
“In establishing the country”, wrote Ben-Gurion, “we ascended a steep mountain. We do not have the option anymore of standing still – either we will roll down to the abyss or we will advance and climb the mountain to the pinnacle”. Throughout his entire life, Ben-Gurion aspired to climb to the pinnacle, and he called on us to follow in his footsteps.
He dedicated 73 of his 87 years to advancing Zionist goals, since the age of 14 when he founded an organization with his friends in Poland to encourage immigration to Israel and to learn Hebrew. Until his last days, he continued working towards the Zionist ideal.
I think that the Declaration of Independence and the establishment of the state – these were the crowning glory of his life’s work, but he did a great deal both before and after that. Let us remember his determined leadership of the people at other fateful crossroads which were no less crucial to our existence. He made fateful decisions related to administering the State and military systems during the War of Independence to emerge victorious; he bore the responsibility for and took the initiative to establish the IDF and fortify its strength against our enemies.
In a speech he gave in 1956 before senior IDF officers, which was only published decades later, Ben-Gurion said, “In the circle of the Middle East, if we are not strong enough to face all our neighbors’ armies, we may be obliterated from the face of the Earth, but we also live in the circle of the world and nothing is decided only by the forces in the Middle East”. Of course he was right on both points – we must fortify our strength as it guarantees our existence. It is what differentiates our fate from that of our people during the generations that preceded us.
At the same time, we look around us and see the international reality, in which we must also operate. But in this regard too Ben-Gurion added something: despite the importance he attributed to the deeds and words of nations, he said that at the end of the day, what matters is what the Jewish state will do. He expressed it a little differently – I am paraphrasing him – and he was right.
In this regard, for example, when he made his most fateful decision, the nations – including our closest friends – objected, but he determined that in this case, what was important was what the Jewish state would do before it was a state – so that it could be a state: to recruit others as much as possible at fateful crossroads, to act as needed in accordance with what was important, what was necessary, what was critical for the Jewish state, to ensure its future and existence.
Ben-Gurion believed in extending a hand in peace to the Arab countries, to all our neighbors, parallel with putting together a powerful deterrent force – again, combining our inner strength with a broad perspective. This combination was noticeable in other areas as well – by declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel and strengthening its status through mass immigration; by instilling a perception of nationhood – which must continually be strengthened against sectionalism; by working against harming institutions on which the state was dependent for its very existence, including the legal and law enforcement systems; by strengthening the values of the pioneer spirit, while providing a personal example when he decided to settle here, at Sde Boker, and help in making the Negev flourish.
In each of these aspects, our first Prime Minister was like a ladder planted on the ground with his head reaching the heavens. I quote this because I read it in the weekly Torah portion yesterday. He was a founding father who stood at the heart of the centers of activity, a man of vision who could foresee the future. He believed we would be reborn only if we took advantage of new technologies and science, while at the same time, he understood that this rebirth would have no value if it was not based on our people’s origins, Jewish origins – particularly the foundation of the Torah. He was right in this as well.
In the 40 years since his passing, we continued to fortify our strength, to build our country, to absorb immigrants from around the world, to develop our economy, to reach significant achievements in the fields of education, culture and science. We fulfill his command to strengthen the spiritual component of our national existence.
We ensure that every boy and girl – at least we are working towards this – that every child in Israel connects with our historic and cultural roots and study the Torah, but this did not emerge from thin air. Rather it rests on the physical and spiritual foundations of the vision laid by David Ben-Gurion.
If I had to pick one fundamental principle of his doctrine, a principle that guides me and the members of my government, I would choose these words: “The fate of Zionism will be determined in Zion”. As a sovereign people, we have the right and the duty to defend ourselves and our existence by ourselves. The lesson we learned from Jewish history, especially from the Holocaust, but not only from the Holocaust, is that we will never again be helpless and under the threat of destruction.
What did Ben-Gurion think is the fundamental cause of the Israeli-Arab conflict? He understood that at the heart of the conflict stood the Arab world’s refusal to recognize the existence of a Jewish-Zionist state in the Land of Israel. I can tell you that certain things have changed since then, at least partially, when we signed the peace agreements with Egypt and with Jordan, but many of the Muslim countries, the Arab countries, still refuse to make peace with us, and Iran even threatens us with destruction. However, there is another change as a result of what is happening in the region – and a great many things are happening in the region: there is a crumbling of the systems in the Arab world, and attention should be paid to this because many of the Arab countries, even the most important among them, see eye to eye with the State of Israel on the issue of Iran’s nuclear armament. And I think the leading powers in the world should pay attention to this: if Israel and Arab countries agree about something, that is important. It is no small thing. This indicates an important change in a pivotal field, and it may indicate other things as well.
We are interested in advancing peaceful relations with our Palestinian neighbors, together with the Arab countries, but this all depends on one thing – it depends on many things but at the end of the day it depends on one thing: on Israel’s strength, which has been increasing from Ben-Gurion’s time until today. This is in concert with our neighbors’ understanding – all our neighbors immediate and distant – that Israel will stand up to any party that threatens it with destruction. Israel will react strongly and painfully against anyone who places our security to the test. We do this every week, if not every day.
For the past several months, we have been conducting negotiations with the Palestinians on a number of disputed issues, while being uncompromising with regard to Israel’s essential interests. In every negotiation, there are compromises, and there will be compromises, but mutual ones. However, there are some things we cannot compromise on because they are the foundations on which we stand. We are conducting negotiations with integrity and fairness, but we will not rush them. We are negotiating in accordance with the mutuality shown by the other side.
If I may express my personal hope, I hope for a Palestinian Ben-Gurion to stand before us: one who will give the “Beirzeit” speech to his people; who will declare an end to the conflict in its profoundest meaning – not a recognition of the fact of the State of Israel’s existence, but rather of its right to exist, or of the right of existence for a nation-state for the Jewish people; who will educate his people to peace even if it takes a generation – a process that does not start with statements to foreign leaders, but rather statements in Arabic, in the Palestinian Arab press, in schools – truly standing behind these statements as we truly believe that we need to coexist in peace with our Palestinian neighbors, accepting the principle of two nation-states. This is difficult to say; it is not an easy thing. It was not easy for me either; it cannot be easy for either side. It demands standing up; it demands courage. We wish for someone who will call on his people to adopt the idea that we have spoken of today – both the President and I: we say two nation-states. This is a condition and it cannot be avoided. It requires courage, both on our side and on theirs. I hope a leader on the Palestinian side as brave as David Ben-Gurion will stand up, educate his people to peace and abandon once and for all the hopes and expectations that a Jewish state will dissolve with time, whether through violence, terror or any other way.
My friends, David Ben-Gurion’s doctrine is relevant in many other fields as well. Again in this week’s Torah portion we read, “And you shall spread out powerfully westward, eastward, northward and southward” – I will not refer to westward or eastward, but will refer to northward and southward. We are spreading northward and southward. At a later date, we will hold a Cabinet Meeting in the Galilee, but today we held it here, at this symbolic place, in order to spread southward. We are working to realize David Ben-Gurion’s vision in a manner that combines many of the things he believed in: vision, technology, science. To this I also add roads, trains, fixing the bureaucracy related to lands. Goodness gracious, it never ends, but it is essential.
Moving the IDF bases to the south: this is vital and it is exciting. The cyber headquarters at the university that you, MK Braverman, worked so hard to establish. I mention you as a typical Ben-Gurionite at Ben-Gurion University. I add what I believe in.
I believe that if we invest in government infrastructure and take the components of our national security and add to them 40 kilos in market power, 40 tons, the Negev will flourish. It already is; the change is tremendous. And I promise you here and now, the next decade will lead to tremendous benefits, and I promise you, Shimon, in this decade the population here will not be 8%, which is something that has been fairly static. That’s about to change – 8% of the total population, there is going to be a tremendous change here.
The critical mass of the genius of our people, the enterprise our people exhibits, the open territory here, the space, the sun, the climate which is becoming a positive force – all these are merging together to again – actually for the first time – realize Ben-Gurion’s vision regarding transforming the Negev and Beer Sheva and its surroundings into a region to which the entire world will pay attention, especially with regard to technology and cyber.
I take this opportunity to thank my fellow ministers who are helping in this matter. Today we spoke of incremental steps, but mostly of revolutionary steps that will change what once was and cancel out the simplistic consensus that says that the strong are in the center and the weak are on the periphery. This will be completely erased. And I am convinced that if Ben-Gurion were here with us today, his heart would be filled with pride. He would urge us to buckle down, to implement and work tirelessly as long as the path stretches in front of us, as long as there is much work to be done, but we will do it and faster than you think.
I am convinced that Ben-Gurion would be extremely proud. We will continue to work in the coming years inspired by his vision and his legacy – until they are fully realized.
May the memories of David Ben-Gurion and his wife Paula be blessed and engraved in the heart of the nation forever.
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 10, 2013
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 10, 2013
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 10, 2013
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 8, 2013
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 8, 2013
Posted by bonniekgoodman on November 7, 2013
Source: PMO, 11-7-13
יום חמישי ד’ כסלו תשע”ד
Photo by GPO
Thank you, my good friend, Natan Sharansky. You speak of leaders? You’re a leader – a leader of the Jewish people. And there is a fire that burns inside you and that flame spreads, and I think it’s consumed everyone here and it has made that partnership between us, I think, has made the launching of this program natural, real and ultimately successful. But we need every one of you, and so many who are not here to support it – and you do. I include among that you, Duvdev, my good friend: you’re committed to this, as is my Director General, Harel Locker, who spoke to you about spirit. We need – how do you say this? Kemach and Torah.
[Recording cut off]
Dvir Kahana and Alan Hoffman again. We have here our new ambassador – Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer. He was instrumental in launching this. And many of the representatives of the government ministries who are charged with our side of this, and you representing so many Jewish communities throughout the world.
I understand, Moritzia, that you speak about our collective genius. We’re definitely sure about the collective – we’ll have to live up to the other part of that. But the Jewish people have shown a remarkable genius in many fields, and the most important one is to continue the thread of our existence through thousands of years, through extraordinary challenges, maintaining our identity; not always able to secure our existence. We’ve lost tragically not only in the last century. But we’ve been able to rise up, reestablish our national life in our ancestral homeland, build a state, build an army, build an economy, build technology, build culture.
And now we’re charged with the task of securing the Jewish future, which to me always means, first and foremost, the Jewish state, but the Jewish state for the Jewish people – all of the Jewish people. Now there are two challenges, great challenges that face the Jewish state and the Jewish people. And we have to address and meet both challenges.
The first one is the challenge posed by Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. Israel understands that there are proposals on the table in Geneva today that would ease the pressure on Iran, ease the pressure on Iran for concessions that are not concessions at all. This proposal would allow Iran to retain the capabilities to make nuclear weapons. Israel totally opposes these proposals. I believe that adopting them would be a mistake of historic proportions. They must be rejected outright. The sanctions regime has brought the Iranian economy to the edge of the abyss and the P5+1 can compel Iran to fully dismantle its nuclear weapons program. This means ending all enrichment and stopping all work on the heavy water plutonium reactor. Anything less will make a peaceful solution less likely. And Israel always reserves the right to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.
This is one of the central lessons we have learned in our history when we were powerless to defend ourselves, by ourselves and against any threat. We don’t forget our history. We use it to chart our path to the future. And we have done so with remarkable success. Every time you come to Israel, I’m sure that you see the tremendous development that takes place, the rise of our economic prowess, the tremendous initiative and enterprise that you see in this country. Can you imagine? A Jewish state with Jewish businesses? You’re not laughing. This was a different state. I mean, we had a tremendous investment in infrastructure and in state-building, but we didn’t have the tremendous genius – I use that word genius – of our people come to full fruition until we opened up our economy and now Israel is widely recognized as a global power in technology. We contribute to medicine; we contribute to communication; we contribute to anything from genetic research to food, unusual foods, crop yields, irrigation. We have cows that produce – well, which country has cows that produce the most milk per cow? Well, you think it’s France or Holland? No, it’s Israel. Number one country in recycling by far of water? Israel. And so on and so on and so on. It’s endless.
But we always recognize that what we have to do in developing our country and defending our country is not only for us. We’re a link in the chain of generations of Jews who have dreamt about resuscitating the Jewish collective life by reestablishing our sovereignty in the Land of Israel but also by ingathering the exiles and by creating a human bridge to Jewish communities around the world. And I feel that deeply. I am aware of our history. I think I’m intimately familiar with it. And I know that what has kept the thread of our life through the generations was the ability of successive generations of Jews to maintain our culture, our history, our values, our identity.
The Jewish were unique in this because we were one of the few if not the only broadly literate people in antiquity, and we were literate when nobody else was, in ancient times and throughout the Middle Ages. This is a remarkable thing in the age of knowledge. Today we’re in a century of knowledge. The Jews were for centuries in centuries of knowledge. Fathers taught their sons to read and write. That was part of our inherent faith and traditions. And this created a potent power and a potent tradition. Reading, writing, arguing – truth wasn’t fixed, narrow. It evolved through discourse, through debate. Our whole Talmudic system was based on this idea of this expanding fruit of knowledge.
But throughout that, we carried our traditions forward. And this is what made our success possible. This is what made the dream of returning to Zion and reestablishing the Jewish people possible.
I think that this collective identity is under threat today. It’s under threat because we live in an age of fragmentation, fragmentation and in many ways – ridud [Hebrew]? My English! Ron, help me out. Shallowness? We’re not that deep in this modern age. Knowledge is theoretically available to all, but it doesn’t mean that all sees it. It’s there but it can be paper thin. Even though it’s instantly available, even though there are libraries today that are unimaginable and you can get them at your fingertips. You can get any piece of information. That is not knowledge and that is not identity. That is information; it’s available but it doesn’t necessarily form the foundation of identity, of culture and of conviction. It can have the opposite effect. That is unstoppable, mind you. We’re investing in fast fiber; we’re investing in digital education; we’re investing in all those things that are part of the modern world. But we have to invest in something else. We have to use these instruments, but also create a firm base of identity and conviction. That’s a big challenge. It’s not easy.
I’ve always thought that we have to use the instruments of tomorrow today to shape tomorrow. And therefore I thought it’s particularly important to embrace this initiative and work together to get this partnership with the Jewish world to secure the Jewish future. It’s something that you have been involved in. You’ve been thinking about it. You’ve been talking about programs. You’ve been talking about spirit. And you’ve been talking about the flour. We’ll put more flour. Did you tell them, Harel? Yeah, more flour. But you’ve got to get some flour too. I mean this is, in all things, this is a joint cooperative action.
And I think that’s what underlies my belief in how we succeed. We work together. And I always thought that. In my first term… this is my third term as Prime Minister. I want you to know [applause]… Well, I’m not that old, you know? But I want you to know that when I was considerably younger and you reminded me, Natan, how we met with Michael Steinhardt and Charles Bronfman. I thought at that time already that Israel was no longer crawling, already walking and in some ways already beginning, well at least to trot if not to run. And I thought that we were able to begin to put back to the Jewish world. We’d been the recipient of aid and I thought that the proportion of aid as part of our GDP was shrinking anyway, but that the larger resource and the more important resource was not the assistance we were getting from the Diaspora, but the assistance that we could give to the Diaspora to maintain our common identity. And therefore we put some flour in this and Taglit was the first program and I think we dealt with it in ’97, as you say. It changed; it pivoted the idea that basically Israel was the recipient, the Diaspora were the donors and that was it. That changed economically in many ways, but it was a cultural change in which we said, no, we’re going for a partnership to strengthen Jewish identity. How? By getting young people to come here.
That developed into Masa, which I later had the opportunity to assist, both as Finance Minister and of course as Prime Minister, and other programs like Hefzibah. But now what we’re dealing with is broadening it, broadening this to a variety of programs that will create a critical mass of understanding and knowledge and identity and conviction to carry us through our journey and to the next few decades. And I think it’s very exciting and very important.
I don’t say that we don’t have immediate problems; we do. I’ve always adopted the policy from my first term as Prime Minister of partnership. I always viewed the Prime Minister of Israel, a post that I occupy with great reverence, to my responsibilities for all Jews. I thought that we have to make sure that we work as much together and avoid the pitfalls that could break us apart.
One of these issues that we’ve dealt with lately; actually in the last government we began to address it with Avichai Mandelblit. Avichai, stand up so they see you. I charged him with this now, but we began on the question of the Kotel, making sure that it’s the Kotel for all the Jewish people. I began that project and Avichai took it with Natan. I asked Natan and the new Cabinet Secretary, who by the way was a JAG, is that what it is? JAG? What is that? Judge Advocate General.
But he comes at it not with a legalistic mind, but with a very warm Jewish mind, heart, which is what I think has guided Natan with the proposal that you presented to me which I adopt with enthusiasm. I think it serves to illustrate a point: we are trying to solve problems, not for you but with you. We’re not standing there on a hilltop – it happens to be a hill – but you’re standing there with us. And I encourage this partnership, this exchange, this dialogue, this process. And I find it expressed in this process. I want to expand it to something that will give us the critical core of partnership for the Jewish people, between the Jewish people and the Jewish state, for the coming generations.
We’re about to celebrate Chanukah and Chanukah was both a physical and a moral struggle. We were nearly overwhelmed and perhaps it was at that point that the thread of Jewish existence, which had been around for about 1,500 years, could have been snapped. It could have been snapped not only by the physical submission of the Jews to a foreign power, but the cultural submission of the Jews to the Hellenistic culture that could have erased our traditions and severed our future. And this was resisted mightily by a few people who inflamed, if you will, the rest and produced what appears to be a miraculous victory against one of the greatest forces of the day – the Seleucid Empire was a great force at the time. We emerged victorious there but we also emerged victorious in securing the Jewish traditions and the Jewish faith, and without that victory, I’m not sure that the Jewish people would be here more than 2,000 years later.
Well, we’re faced with equal challenges today. We’re armed with our knowledge of the past and our hope for the future with the examples of the Maccabees and with our sense of being responsible for each other. Kol Israel arevim ze l’ze. That’s exactly how I feel. I know that’s exactly how you feel and that’s the most important thing to make sure that we have a secure, common future for the Jewish people.
Thank you very much.
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