ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF
ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Remarks at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
Thank you Bob and thank you Malcolm. I’m delighted to see the current and the past President of the Presidents’ Conference, all good friends, and of course Moshe Arens, our Defense Minister. Once a Defense Minister, forever a Defense Minister. But he was Defense Minister three times. A tremendous job. And of course the Consul General of Egypt and all of you my friends.
First I want to welcome you again to Jerusalem, the eternal undivided capital of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.
We meet on the eve of the resumption of negotiations of what is called the final settlement with Iran. They’re supposed to begin tomorrow in Vienna. What is the goal? Or what ought to be the goal of these negotiations? It’s not merely to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons. I want to be more precise. It’s to prevent Iran from having the capability of manufacturing nuclear weapons. That is different. If Iran perches itself as a threshold state in which it has all the elements of a nuclear weapon in place, they’ll just have to do one little twist of the knob to get final enrichment of fissile material that is the core of a nuclear weapon, then all they’ll have to do is take these components from one side of a room and another side of a room, put them together and in a very short time, days or weeks or perhaps even hours, they’d have a nuclear weapon.
Our goal is to prevent Iran from having the capacity to manufacture or put together nuclear weapons. That is our goal. Now, if they claim to want only civilian nuclear energy, that they have an abundance and they certainly don’t need what it is they’re insisting on. They don’t need enrichment for peaceful nuclear energy. They don’t a heavy water reactor for that. They don’t need ICBMs, long range inter-continental ballistic missiles. They don’t need that for that. They don’t need a weaponization program that Iran of course refuses to open to inspection. They don’t need any of these things, but these are precisely the things that Iran insists on. And they’re precisely the elements that they have to be denied. Now, they haven’t been denied this, in the so-called interim deal. They’ve been allowed to maintain their ICBMs’ their long-range ballistic missiles program, they continue to develop them. By the way, the range is geared to Europe and soon to the United States. It’s not for us. And there’s only one purpose in the world to develop ICBMs. You don’t develop inter-continental ballistic missiles to deliver some hundreds of kilos of TNT. Believe me, nobody does that. You develop an ICBM in order to deliver a nuclear payload. Iran continues to develop that and continues to develop a heavy water reactor, and continues to develop latter-day models of centrifuges. Now they’re developing, as we speak, they’re developing centrifuges that are supposed to be 15 times more effective and more efficient than the centrifuges that they have today. That will enable them to leap-frog the distance and the time from low enrichment of uranium to high enrichment like that.
We’ve made a calculation. How much time has been saved by the interim deal? How much has Iran regressed by agreeing to distill or to dilute the 20% enriched uranium that they have to 3.5%? Well, given everything that they’re preparing, the 19,000 centrifuges that they have in place, and the advanced centrifuges that they continue to develop under the deal, the sub-total of what they’ve been sent back in time is four weeks. That’s what Iran has given to the world, which means it’s given practically nothing, but Iran has received a great deal. It’s received the easing of sanctions. It’s received the nations that are queuing up to ease more sanction with Iran and do more business with Iran. It’s very important to understand that. Iran has given zero, or practically zero. It’s given four weeks, but it’s receiving a new position in the world. It’s being legitimized. Everybody is embracing Iran because of a smile. But Iran’s moderation is a myth.
You should know what Iran is doing as we speak. As we speak, inside Iran innocent people are being executed. They’re executed in horrific ways. They’re executed with these cranes in the middle of cities, innocent people, hoisted up, executed by this regime. This regime continues to foster terrorism around the world. It sends the most deadly weapons to Hezbollah, to Hamas, weapons that are fired on our civilians. This regime, participates in the slaughter, the massive slaughter, the unending slaughter in Syria. That would not be possible without Iran. The Assad regime does not exist a day without Iran, without Iran’s money, without Iran’s weapons, without Iran’s commanders who were there on the site to tell what is left of the Syrian army what to do. But in addition to that, when that didn’t help, when everything else failed, Iran supplied Assad with the most important component. They actually gave them fighters. Khamenei instructed Nasrallah to go and bring his people to Lebanon, and there they do the fighting for Assad. There is no Assad regime without Iran. So as Assad perpetrates this savagery day in and day out, Iran is committing the savagery. Iran is supporting terrorists around the world. Iran is sending these weapons, deadly weapons to be fired on Israel’s cities, and Iran has not changed one iota its call to annihilate the Jewish state. And yet this regime is being embraced.
So I think what is needed are two things. One, we have to expose Iran for what it is. It smiles but it continues its deadly business every day. And secondly, it has to be stripped of the capacity to make nuclear weapons. What the deal that is being discussed today should achieve is one simple thing: zero centrifuges. Not one. Zero enrichment. They don’t need any centrifuges and they don’t have a right for enrichment. I think this is something that requires firmness and clarity. It may not be fashionable, but it’s the right thing, it’s the truthful thing, and I think that the only way that we could make Iran become a more moderate element, a more moderate nation and a more peaceful nation is by exhorting consistent pressure on it, political pressure, economic pressure and the demands of dismantling the Iranian nuclear program, which should be maintained throughout. I think any other route will actually produce the other result and make a diplomatic solution less likely. It will kick it away and force us into a reality that I think none of us want. We all want to see a peaceful solution. For a peaceful solution to succeed, you need more, not less, pressure.
The second thing that we’re discussing every day is how to achieve a secure and enduring peace with the Palestinians. By the way, the strength of Iran weakens that too, because Iran now controls one half of the Palestinian population. They control Hamas, they control Gaza through their proxies Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and of course they tell them what they say in Tehran, no peace with Israel, no reconciliation with Israel, continuous war in Israel. That’s what Hamas and the other terror proxies that Iran again, arms, funds and instructs are doing in Gaza. So one half of the Palestinian population is under the boot of Iran. And the other half, so far, has refused to confront the first half.
We’re trying to make peace with those Palestinians who at least have not engaged in terror and we say to them, if you want to achieve a real peace, then that peace has to be based on a real reconciliation with the Jewish State of Israel. I appreciate the effort, I must say ceaseless efforts, that Secretary John Kerry is engaging with me. We shall soon see if we have a partner in Abu Mazen, but I think if there is a partner there, then there is a way to move this process forward. And for it to move forward and for it to succeed ultimately, then it must address first the root cause of the conflict. The root cause of the conflict is not the settlements, it’s not the territories. This conflict predated it by at least half a century. The root cause of this conflict is the refusal to accept the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own in any boundaries. That remains a simple truth. Simple truths have a way of eluding common perception until they somehow land on you like a ton of bricks. Here is a simple truth that eluded all the experts and many of the commentators about the Middle East for decades. This was an area that was supposed to be preoccupied with one conflict and they always said the conflict, the core of the conflict in the Middle East, always in the singular. The core of the conflict was the Palestinian Israeli conflict. That’s what was said. Today if somebody repeated it, he should be at least laughed away. I think that you find that rarer and rarer. And that’s good, because when you see Syria imploding, and you see Iraq imploding, and you see Lebanon imploding and you see so many other parts of the Middle East imploding, Libya imploding, when you see all of that happening, you know that has nothing to do with the Palestinians.
I bring to your attention the fact that until two years ago people actually said this with a straight face. Professors, scholars, politicians, heads of state, they said the root cause of the conflict in the Middle East is the Palestinian Israeli conflict. Well that is as accurate as the next statement that they now say. That the root cause of the Israeli Palestinian conflict, inside the myriad conflicts of the Middle East is the settlements. Now, friends, you can take all the settlements and you can uproot them and the conflict will continue. You can have Israel continue, go back to the ’67 lines and the conflict will continue. How do we know that? Because we tried it. That’s exactly what we did in Gaza. We went back to the ’67 lines, we uprooted at terrible human cost and financial costs the 10,000 Israelis who were there. Did we get peace? What we got is a forward outpost of Iran from which they’ve so far fired about 12,000 rockets on our heads.
Now, what is going to prevent that from happening again? Well, what we need to see with the Palestinians who make a deal is that they’re resigned to the fact that they’ll have to make a genuine peace with Israel and that means finally recognizing the Jewish state. This will be a peace between two nation states. The Palestinians expect us to recognize a nation state for the Palestinian people. How do they have the temerity not to recognize the Jewish state, the nation state of the Jewish people? Do they not know that we’ve been here for the last 3,800 years? They don’t know that this is the land of the Bible? That this is where Jewish history and Jewish identity was forged? This is what defines us? This is how we define ourselves. We’ve been here a very long time, for God’s sake. They have no excuse, and they can try to distort ancient history and modern history, they can try to do that, but it doesn’t make it true. This is the land of Israel. We’ve been here on this land, associated with it for millennia, and now we say, we know that there has to be a very difficult decision to be made here. But in our ancestral homeland, we are the Jewish people. This is the Jewish land. This is the Jewish state. When we make an agreement it is an agreement between the nation state of the Jewish people and a nation state of the Palestinian people.
If they don’t accept that, you have to ask yourself why not? Why don’t they accept that? Why do they insist on not recognizing us? There is a reason. Because once you accept the fact that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people then you have no more claims on this land and on this country, wherever the final border will be drawn. You cannot claim the so called right of return because that claim of Palestinian refugees or their descendants will be satisfied in the nation state of the Palestinian people. Just as Jews can come here, Palestinians if they chose can go there. That claim evaporates.
Secondly, you cannot make any territorial claims on what remains as the territory of Israel. You cannot say, well there is another people there. Perhaps a sub-group of Israel’s citizens. They’re entitled to a sub-state or to separate state or to an irredentist claim. The minute you agree to the formulation of two nation states, a Jewish state for the Jewish people and a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people, you end all claims. You end territorial claims, and you end refugee claims, you end the so-called “right of return.” That is all incorporated in ending the conflict. The fact that the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian Authority adamantly refuses to accept this raises serious questions on whether they’re committed to a genuine peace. And unless they’re willing to accept it, they’re not committed to a genuine peace.
Now, even if they accept it, which I sincerely hope they do, that doesn’t guarantee that the decades of incitement that they’ve led to their own people, teaching them to seek this solution, an elimination of the Jewish states, that that will come to an end. We don’t know that. We cannot guarantee that. And I certainly am not coming into any of this Pollyannaish. I’m not looking at this wide eyed, from pink eyeglasses. I can understand that this will be a very difficult experience but it starts with a Palestinian leadership that accepts the Jewish state, accepts the end of claims, ends the conflict and disavows, shuts down, the whole claim of flooding Israel with refugees. That’s a necessity. It’s just not a guarantee. In fact, there is no guarantee. There is no guarantee that the incitement will stop, that the culture of hatred will end. And that’s why we need very solid security arrangements.
We hope that there will be a cultural change. We hope that the fruits of peace will take root in the soil. We hope that the new generation of Palestinians will embrace a different path. We hope, but we can’t base the peace on hope alone. We must base it also on security. I think we have to base it also on sound economic cooperation in every way that we can to give the individual Palestinians a stake in their future. But we cannot base it merely on our wishful thinking. It just doesn’t happen that way. Look at the Middle East as a whole. The whole land is convulsing, there are earthquakes everywhere you go. And how are we to be sure that areas that we cede to the Palestinians will not be taken over by Hamas and Hezbollah and Al-Queda and Salafis. They’re all there. So we must ensure solid security arrangements that protect the peace and protect Israel in case the peace unravels. And that is the second pillar of peace.
Now what are sound security arrangements? Are they security arrangements of which we ask UNIFIL to protect us? I don’t hear a response. Maybe EUBAM? Remember EUBAM? No? EUBAM was the European force that was placed along the Gaza-Sinai border after we departed from Gaza. I have to tell you that in its favor it lasted I think seven days. Well, maybe I’m wrong, maybe a few more, maybe a few less. But that’s about it. The minute Hamas took over, EUBAM evaporated. UNIFIL has been unable to staunch or stop the arming of Hezbollah, which by now has quintupled compared to what it was when we left Lebanon in 2006. UNIFIL was charged with preventing the rearming of Hezbollah. Hezbollah is rearmed five times and in many ways with much more deadly weapons.
Now, the charge, the mandate of UNIFIL is one. It only has one mandate. To report these violations. To report these violations – not to act against them, not to intercede, not to intervene, just to report these violations. So now Hezbollah has anywhere close to 100,000 missiles. How many missiles has UNIFIL reported? Want to guess? Zero. So who are we to rely on to enforce these arrangements? Not UNIFIL, not EUBAM. Maybe UNDOF in the Golan Heights? You know what’s happening there. We have Jihad on our fences. We have attacks literally bouncing off our fences. Sometimes they cross.
We are, of course, not indifferent to the suffering of the people there and we do take, we’ve taken hundreds of these people who were bleeding to death, suffering from loss of blood or loss of limbs. We’ve taken them into our hospitals. But UNDOF? Not UNDOF, not UNIFIL, not EUBAM. And we don’t ask for Western troops. We’re the only country that is allied with the United States in distress that is not asking for American troops or for NATO troops. We’re perfectly capable of defending ourselves by ourselves against any threat, and that’s what we need to continue.
So when we speak of robust security arrangements, these are not ones that include these illusionary, illusory arrangements that don’t foster security. And by the way, if security collapses, it’s not only the peace that will collapse, it’s also the Palestinian Authority that will collapse and other important regional structures. So when we seek a peace that we can defend, that peace and that security serves not only us, but also our partners in peace. These are the twin elements, the twin pillars of the real peace. Mutual recognition of two nation states, a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian state and it has to be a demilitarized Palestinian state that has around it and in Israel’s immediate borders the possibility of Israel defending itself with its own forces.
Now I don’t think this is a particularly complicated equation. It’s difficult, there are a lot of details in there that I haven’t discussed, as you can imagine. And I’m not saying the pursuit of peace will be easy. But I’m saying it becomes possible if you keep in mind the main items, the main elements of peace, which are mutual recognition and Israel’s capacity to defend itself by itself. I can assure you that these are not matters on which we intend to compromise. Peace always involves compromises, but I will never compromise on Israel’s security. Never. And never apologize for the fact that the Jewish people are living in their ancestral homeland. I never think of myself as an aggressor or as an outsider or some crusader kingdom. We’ve been here for so many centuries, and our attachments are so deep, that I’m always proud of the fact that the Jewish people have come home. This is our home and this is our city.
But obviously there are people who are uncomfortable with it and there is a new campaign against us, having failed to dislodge us with weapons, with armies, with terrorists, with rockets, with missiles, they now think that they’ll dislodge us with boycotts, and that’s nothing new. We’ve had that in our history as well. You know the boycotts of Jews, and I think the most eerie thing, the most disgraceful thing is to have people on the soil of Europe talking about the boycott of Jews. I think that’s an outrage, but that is something that we’re re-encountering. In the past, anti-Semites boycotted Jewish businesses and today they call for the boycott of the Jewish state. And by the way, only the Jewish state. Now, don’t take my word for it. The founders of the BDS movement make their goals perfectly clear. They want to see the end of the Jewish state. They’re quite explicit about it. And I think it’s important that the boycotters must be exposed for what they are. They’re classical anti-Semites in modern garb. And I think we have to fight them. It’s time to delegitimize the delegitimizers. And it’s time that we fight back.
I know all of you participate in this. There are two ways of fighting back. One is exposing them and the other is something that is happening and they can’t do very much about it. And I’ll tell you what it is. You know, I meet heads of state, and captains of industry, as they’re called, that is founders and leaders of big companies and some small companies and medium-sized companies. They’re all coming to Israel, including today. I had a meeting with another head of state, and they all want the same three things: Israeli technology, Israeli technology and Israeli technology. They crave it. They thirst for it, because they know that we’re in the knowledge century. They know that Israel is the repository of great genius, great creativity, entrepreneurship, innovation, scientific capability, out-of-the-box thinking. This is a tremendous capacity that we have. It’s crystalized here for a variety of reasons. It’s not always easy to explain why these things happen, but it’s very important for us to realize that we possess a great treasure – the capacity to innovate is a great treasure of profound economic value in today’s world.
And that is something that is bigger than all these boycotters could possibly address. Because people are coming here. The new powers, the old powers and the new powers. You know, the new world powers, the super-powers, Google, Yahoo. They all want to participate in this. They all understand that the world economy is being propelled forward by the internet. The internet requires cyber protection, you have to protect your bank accounts, your privacy, your communications, the power lines, the power grids, traffic lights, train schedules. All of that is run today in the digital world and all of that requires protection and we happen to have a capacity to protect it.
So for this and for many many other reasons, Israel is being sought after. And I say that the response that we have to the BDS is twofold. One, expose them, the second is outflank them. We have the economic future of the world in Israel. We have it because we support it, we develop it. And somebody said to me, you know there are only two real centers of high-tech innovation. This was said to me by a young man whose company is worth today nine billion dollars and two years ago was worth a billion dollars. And he said to me, you know, there are only two centers of high-tech innovation in the world. He said, Palo Alto and Tel Aviv. I said, correction, add Be’er Sheva. Because Be’er Sheva will be the new cyber capital of Israel. And you should see what is happening now in the south of Israel, in the Negev. This fantastic growth, this fantastic explosion. We’re putting highways and railways to the North and to the South, it makes Israel sound like an enormous country. We’re just doing what the United States did in the 19th century. But we’re doing it. We’re connecting the periphery, we’re trying to eliminate the periphery. And the most important lines that we’re paving are the fast cyber, of rather fast fiber that we’re putting from Kiryat Shmona right to Eilat. That’s the real highway. That’s the information highway. That every child, every boy, every girl in Israel, Jew, non-Jew, Christian, Muslims, Bedouins, they’re all going to be connected to it and it’s a fabulous future that we have.
I think we’re perfectly suited for the information society. We have a lot of things that we have to do, improve our education, reduce our bureaucracy, deregulate, open ourselves up and we’re consciously opening ourselves up, including to the cyber companies of the world.
We’re doing this because I believe in Israel’s future. I believe we can overcome all these challenges that we face. But we have to be clear about the challenges. We have to be clear that there’s a force against us, engine of modernism that I call, and that is the force of Medievalism that is centered in Iran, and we have to make sure that those eerie Medievalists do not get their hands on the weapons of mass death. It is perfectly possible. It is within our reach if we so wish it. And we have to achieve a durable and stable peace with our Palestinian neighbors. One that is based on mutual recognition and solid security arrangements, and we have to keep developing the State of Israel while exposing those who would rob us of the legitimacy that we so much deserve and that we have earned over centuries of suffering.
These are tasks that I know you share. We have embarked on a task to ensure the Jewish future by cooperating between ourselves and the Jewish Agency, by bringing young people here in Taglit, in Masa, and so many other efforts. I’m always delighted when I see the Birthright kids who come here. I see their eyes sparkle and glow. I see what happens to them when they touch the Kotel. I see what happens to them when they realize that this is their land. Well, this is your land as well, and I know that we have no better partners than you.
I want to thank you for everything that you’ve been doing this year and over the years on behalf of the State of Israel, on behalf of the Jewish people. It’s one and the same thing.