Israel Political Brief February 12, 2014: EU Parliament President Martin Schultz’s address to the Knesset causes uproar and walkout

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EU Parliament President Martin Schultz’s address to the Knesset causes uproar and walkout

President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz adresses the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on February 12, 2014.  (Photo credit: Flash90)

President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz addresses the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on February 12, 2014. (Photo credit: Flash90)

Leaders from Israel’s Right leaning parties, including Economics Minister Naftali Bennett and his Bayit Yehudi party left as European Parliament President Martin Schulz addressed the Knesset on the last day of his Israel visit and made incorrect statements about Palestinian freedoms and access to water.

The comment that caused Knesset members to be upset was when Shulz asked; “One of the questions these young people asked me which I found most moving – although I could not check the exact figures – was this: how can it be that an Israeli is allowed to use 70 litres of water per day, but a Palestinian only 17?”

Bennett demanded that Schulz apologize for his ‘lying propaganda,’ and PM Benjamin Netanyahu stated it was “selective hearing” on the part of the EU President.

Sources:

“Lawmakers walk out of European Parliament president’s Knesset address,”  JTA, 2-12-14

“Netanyahu accuses EU Parliament chief of ‘selective hearing’ after Bennett walkout,” Haaretz, 2-12-14
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Full Text Israel Political Brief February 12, 2014: European Parliament President Martin Schulz’s Speech Addressing the Knesset — Transcript

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European Parliament President Martin Schulz’s Speech Addressing the Knesset

Source: Times of Israel, 2-12-14

President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz adressess the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on February 12, 2014.  (photo credit: Flash 90)

President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz adressess the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem on February 12, 2014. (photo credit: Flash 90)

I stand before you today as the German President of a multinational European Parliament. I am well aware that it is by no means self-evident that the German language should be heard in this House, and I should like to express to you my gratitude for allowing me to address you in my mother tongue.

It is a great honour for me to be in Jerusalem as a guest of the Knesset, the body which is the heartbeat of Israeli democracy, the body which symbolises the realisation of the hope cherished for so long by the Jewish people for a homeland of their own; following centuries in which the Jewish people were betrayed and persecuted throughout the world; following the unprecedented break with all civilised values which the Shoah represented; and following the barbaric murder of six million Jews.

I was born in 1955. I am a German who did not experience at first hand the atrocities of National Socialism, but the crimes committed by the Nazis were the reason I became involved in politics and their repercussions have influenced political thinking from the start. I bear the same responsibility as every other German for the mass murder perpetrated in the name of my nation. In the name of my nation, the Jewish people were forced to endure suffering for which no reparation can ever be made. I bow down before the memory of all those who were murdered.

As a German who holds political office, and international political office at that, I regard it as my first duty to honour the following pledge: Never again. Never forget.

We must make sure that the act of commemorating past disasters which have befallen humanity engenders a sense of responsibility for the present and the future, and that we let this sense of responsibility guide our actions.

Letting this sense of responsibility guide our actions means standing up for freedom, for democracy and for human dignity every day.

We are all witnessing with dismay a return to ways of thinking which we thought had long been consigned to history, in the form of anti-Semitism, ultra-nationalism and populism. This merely strengthens me in my conviction that we must stand firm together – every one of us – against all those who stir up hatred. I believe that what the philosopher Edmund Burke said still holds true: ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’.

We have no choice, therefore, but to act responsibly. Acting responsibly means observing the principle enshrined in Germany’s Basic Law that ‘human dignity is sacrosanct’.

Acting responsibly means, for us, nurturing the European unification process, because integration between our States and our peoples was the response we Europeans found to the wars, destruction and murders which disfigured the first half of the 20th century. Unification and integration have helped us to banish the old demons and have immunised Europe against the threat of war.

Acting responsibly means, for us, openly acknowledging Israel’s right to exist and the right of the Jewish people to live in security and peace. The European Union will always stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel.

Dear Members of the Knesset,
For the sake of our children and our children’s children we must remember. For the sake of future generations, who will never have the opportunity to talk with survivors of the Shoah, we need events and places which help us remember.

Yesterday I had a deeply moving experience. Together with Judge Gabriel Bach I visited the Yad Vashem memorial. I had the honour of meeting Judge Bach for the first time two years ago, on International Holocaust Memorial Day, which we celebrated at the European Parliament for the third time only a few weeks ago, together with members of the European Jewish Congress and survivors of the Shoah. I find Judge Bach’s life story very inspiring, and meeting him has restored my faith in justice. The fact that a 10-year-old boy who was driven from his homeland by a Nazi criminal in 1938 should later, as Deputy State Prosecutor of a democratic Israel, put that criminal, Adolf Eichmann, on trial, shows that there is such a thing as justice in this world. And that justice is something worth fighting for every day!

Ladies and gentlemen,
Israel embodies the hope cherished by a people of being able to live a life of freedom in a homeland of their own. As a result of the actions of brave men and women, Israel represents the realisation of that very human dream. Throwing off the shackles of prejudice and persecution, in order to live in freedom and dignity – this is a desire shared by many people throughout the world.

Today, Israel is a robust democracy, a vibrant, open society with all the conflicts that implies, and a modern economy. The kibbutzim which once made the desert bloom have been replaced by hundreds of start-ups and high-tech research centres in which work is being done which will lead to the inventions of the future; minute microchips and robots, computer tomography and ultrasound scanners. Israeli researchers are world leaders in many areas. Israel has only eight million inhabitants, but it can boast seven major research universities, including the Technion in Haifa and the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, and 12 Nobel Prize winners!

Israel has built a society founded on the values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. Israel and the European Union share these values. They are the ties which hold our partnership, our friendship, together. They are the basis for the answers we are seeking together to the challenges of the 21st century: climate change and water scarcity, refugee problems, peace and security. They are the basis for our scientific and economic cooperation.

If you will allow me, I will deal first with security and peace.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Arab Spring has brought with it revolutions and upheavals in the region which are presenting Israel and the EU with new challenges. Together, we can exert a positive influence on developments in our neighbourhood. This is a responsibility we cannot ignore.

The changes and upheavals I referred to a moment ago are leaving many people uneasy, and with good reason. Syria is experiencing an ever more brutal escalation of violence. The Assad regime would rather massacre its own population than give up power! Even children are being tortured and killed. The opposition is also guilty of perpetrating appalling massacres and recruiting child soldiers. We condemn the savage violence in the strongest possible terms. The killing must stop!

Two days ago in Jordan I visited the Al Zaatari camp, which houses 90 000 of the 2.2 million Syrian refugees. I was deeply shocked by the human suffering I witnessed there, but I was also deeply moved by the generosity which has led the States in this region to open their borders to refugees from the civil war and do whatever they can to provide them with food and a roof over their heads. Israel, too, is saving many lives by giving medical care to people damaged physically and mentally by the Syrian war. Sometimes I wish we in Europe would show the same kind of commitment.

But there are also grounds for hope: Tunisia’s new constitution is a document to gladden the hearts of all democrats. The EU will always support those who commit themselves to upholding democracy and universal human rights.

This sense of hope is creating a new opportunity to establish peace in the region.

I understand that bitter experience may make some people reluctant to extend the hand of peace. People in this chamber know much more about the Holocaust than I do. There are people in this chamber who risked their lives in wars waged to secure Israel’s survival. For years on end, Israel’s neighbours challenged its very right to exist.

No one has forgotten the open threats made against Israel by the last Iranian President, or the fact that not so long ago political gatherings in Tehran ended with the words ‘Death to Israel’.

For that reason I can readily understand why Israel regards an Iran which has the capability to launch nuclear missiles as a threat to its existence. That is a threat not just to Israel, but to world peace in general.

This is why the EU is monitoring the implementation of the preliminary agreement very closely. Let me assure you that there is one thing on which the EU and Israel agree: Iran must never acquire nuclear weapons. In our eyes, diplomacy and dialogue are the best way of ensuring that, since it is in all our interests that this issue should be resolved peacefully and that everything should be done to prevent another war in the Middle East.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Security is a very abstract concept, but it has an immediate impact on people’s lives.

We in Europe have little understanding of the physical and emotional scars which terrorism leaves behind, what it means for parents in Sderot and Ashkelon to live every day with the fear that their children may die in a rocket attack on their way to school. I was the father of children who could go to school without fear. For that reason, Israel has the right and the government the duty to protect its people. We condemn the rocket attacks on innocent people in the strongest possible terms. Terrorist attacks are crimes for which there is no justification.

It is only the peoples directly involved who can make peace in the Middle East. It is only the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves who can make peace between their two peoples. We Europeans support them on that difficult road, which will require both sides to make painful concessions.

We know that the Israeli people want peace. Courageous men such as Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres held out the hand of peace and signed agreements in Madrid and Oslo. The hopes embodied in those agreements have not always been fulfilled, and this has made some people pessimistic about the prospects for peace in the future. Others, only a small minority to be sure, are even actively working to scupper any peace agreement which might be signed.

On the Palestinian side as well, courageous men and women are working for peace. In recent years, building on their impressive ‘no violence’ policy, Mahmud Abbas and Salam Fayyad have developed modern institutions and done much to establish law and order.

Two days ago I spoke with young people in Ramallah. Like young people everywhere in the world, their dream is to train, study and travel, to find work and to start a family. But they have another dream as well, one which concerns something most young people take for granted: they want to be able to live freely in their own country, with no threat of violence, with no restrictions on their freedom of movement. The Palestinian people, like the Israeli people, have the right to fulfil their dream of creating their own viable democratic state. The Palestinians, just like the Israelis, have the right to self-determination and justice.

One of the questions these young people asked me which I found most moving – although I could not check the exact figures – was this: how can it be that an Israeli is allowed to use 70 litres of water per day, but a Palestinian only 17?

(In the wake of this question, members of the right-wing Jewish Home party heckled Shultz, with Moti Yogev MK declaring “that’s a lie, the Palestinians are lying,” and several walked out of the chamber. Left-wing MKs later criticized them for their behavior.)

Ladies and gentlemen,
Today, the upheavals in the Middle East are creating a new opportunity for peace.

The future of young Palestinians, but also the future of young Israelis, hinges on the way Israel responds to these changes.

For without peace there can be no security. Military power can quell disorder, but it cannot create peace.

Ariel Sharon, may he rest in peace, said something for which I admire him: ‘It is impossible to have a Jewish democratic state, and at the same time to control all of Eretz Israel. If we insist on fulfilling the dream in its entirety, we are liable to lose it all.’

From the outset, the whole rationale behind the two-State solution proposal was to make it possible for the Palestinian people to live in dignity, and on the basis of self-determination, and to safeguard peace and security for all Israelis. Despite all the obstacles in the way of its achievement, we must remain true to the objective, born out of a desire to build a better future, which the two-State solution represents. Even if this objective is achieved, the security of the Israeli state will remain an issue of major importance.

For that reason, we support the US commitment to mediation and the tireless work being done by Secretary of State John Kerry.

One of the main bones of contention is Israel’s settlement policy. As you are no doubt aware, both the European Parliament and the United Nations have adopted numerous resolutions which criticise the ongoing process of building and expanding settlements and call for it to be halted. In the eyes of the EU and the entire international community, the fact that East Jerusalem is cut off from the West Bank is certainly an obstacle on the road to a peaceful settlement.

The blockade of the Gaza Strip is your response to attacks on Israeli civilians and I can understand that. But it is stifling all economic development and driving people to despair – despair which in turn is being exploited by extremists. The blockade may in fact undermine, rather than strengthen, Israel’s security.

How can we break the vicious circle of violence?
This was the question which lent the initial impetus to the European unification process, and the founding fathers of the European Union came up with the answer. My grandparents’ generation would have regarded reconciliation with the arch enemy France as impossible. But the impossible came to pass, through a simple acknowledgement of the fact that if Europe was not to continue tearing itself apart on the battlefield we Europeans had no choice but to make peace and work together. I believe that if we want to grant people a life in dignity there is no alternative to peace for the Israelis and Palestinians today.

It was because our neighbours were prepared to hold out the hand of reconciliation to Germany, which had started the war in the first place, that Germany was able to find its place in the international community once again and become a stable democracy. As Yitzhak Rabin put it so aptly, ‘peace is something you make with your enemies, not with your friends’.

Yes, we achieved reconciliation. Then, through the efforts of courageous men and women, who planned for and organised peace, the idea took root in people’s hearts and trust grew.

I firmly believe that a negotiated settlement, the outcome of which is an Israeli State and a Palestinian State living side by side in peace, is realistic. The European Union believes this as well, which is why, once a definitive peace agreement has been signed, we have pledged to provide unprecedented support, in the form of funding and human resources, under a special privileged partnership. The agreement reached by the Foreign Ministers in December will also afford Israel and a future State of Palestine easier access to the European market, will facilitate trade and investment, will enhance cultural and scientific exchanges and will lead to closer cooperation in the area of security. Let me seize this opportunity to make a clarification: the EU has no intention to boycott Israel. I am of the conviction that what we need is more cooperation, not division.

All too often issues of security and peace overshadow other aspects of our relations which are hugely important for people in Israel and Europe – social justice and equal opportunities are cases in point.

The financial and economic crisis has brought with it increased levels of poverty and unemployment in Europe. Huge numbers of young people are jobless, and as a result more and more of them are losing faith in politics. This is hardly surprising if we consider that the most open-minded and best educated generation which Europe has ever had is watching as its prospects are destroyed by a crisis for which it was in no way to blame.

Everywhere, even in countries whose economies are performing well, poverty and despair are spreading to the middle classes and the weakest members of society are being marginalised more and more. The marches of the indignados which reached our capitals in spring 2011 were repeated a few months later in the heart of Tel Aviv.

Giving young people fresh hope in a better future is certainly our most important task as politicians. To do this, we must also safeguard the competitiveness of our economies in the globalised 21st century. Only in this way will jobs – good jobs – be created.

Our economic ties are already close. The EU is Israel’s most important trading partner and our cooperation in the area of research, science and technology is the basis for our future economic strength. Our competitiveness in a globalised world will hinge on two things – innovation and education.

The Israeli-European research community is already into its third generation and its members are forging ever closer links. Israel’s formal involvement in the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, which will start soon, will take our cooperation to a new level. Horizon 2020 is the largest research and innovation programme there has ever been. It promises to yield more breakthroughs and discoveries because it will provide backing for every stage in the process of turning ideas tested in the laboratory into marketable products. Scientific cooperation is already the most successful aspect of our partnership. I am convinced that as a result of our cooperation under Horizon 2020 new records will be set. I am also particularly delighted that more and more Israeli students are taking part in the Erasmus Mundus exchange programme.

You and I are the heirs of the founding generation of the State of Israel and of the European Union. We must safeguard that heritage.

Parents all over the world are prepared to make sacrifices for their children, to do everything they can to give them a good future. It is now up to us, the heirs, to show the same boldness, drive and vision in safeguarding the State of Israel and the European Union for future generations. The words which should guide us in that endeavour are those spoken by the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Willy Brandt, a man who fought against Nazi Germany and knelt before the memorial to the Jews murdered in the Holocaust. ‘Peace is not everything, but without peace there is nothing.’

Full Text Israel Political Brief October 15, 2013: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech at Special Knesset Session Marking the 40th Anniversary of the Yom Kippur War

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Address by PM Netanyahu Special Knesset Session Marking the 40th Anniversary of the Yom Kippur War

Source: PMO, 10-15-13

יום שלישי י”א חשון תשע”ד
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Photo by GPO

Translation

The Yom Kippur War was a time of trial for the State of Israel, which found itself in a fateful battle against those who sought its destruction. The blow that we suffered in the first few days necessitated the mobilizing of all forces in the war effort.

With talks about the “destruction of the Third Temple” in the background, the soldiers of the IDF demonstrated unparalleled bravery on both the southern and northern fronts. Those who forced us into a war we did not seek encountered national unity and the willpower of a determined nation. Within a few days, the IDF soldiers succeeded in turning the tables: we moved from defense to offence, and by the time the cease fire was announced, the IDF was already on its way to Cairo and Damascus.

Today, forty years after the attack that sent shockwaves throughout the country, we salute the heroic soldiers who rescued us from the traps of complacency, vanity and misconception.

Distinguished guests,

The war left a painful wound in our souls and a deep scar in our flesh. The bottom line, however, is that we won a major victory. The lessons of that war have remained with us for the past four decades, and they are interwoven into the lessons we have accumulated from all the other wars and battles we fought.

The first lesson is to never underestimate the threats and never underestimate the enemy. Never ignore the warning signs. One cannot assume that our enemies will necessarily act in accordance with our assessments. They can be surprising and unpredictable. We paid the price of repression and self-deception, and we will never make that mistake again. Israel will always stand guard.

The second lesson is that the option of a preemptive strike cannot be automatically dismissed. Not every situation necessitates such a strike and all options must be weighed carefully, but there are times when the fear of an international response is diminished in comparison with the price we could pay for absorbing a strategic strike for which we will have to respond late, maybe too late.

A preemptive strike is one of the most difficult decisions a government is required to make, because it will never be able to show what would happen had it not taken action. At the same time, the major difference between the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War lies first and foremost in the fact that in the Six Day War we initiated a preemptive strike to extricate ourselves from the noose imposed on us by our enemies, while in the Yom Kippur War, despite the warning signs, the government chose to absorb the full force of the enemy’s attack.

The third lesson is the strategic importance of buffer zones. Our presence in the Golan and the Sinai enabled us to prevent infiltration deep into the territory of Israel. Following this experience, no one could comprehend forfeiting these buffer zones, even in peace arrangements. Therefore, it was clear that in the peace negotiations with Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula would have to be demilitarized. Such demilitarization, which has existed for almost 40 years, is essential. Without it, I doubt that the peace would hold. This demilitarization has been in place for almost 40 years, since the signing of the peace treaty with Egypt.

And there is a fourth lesson as well. Peace is achieved through strength. In the Yom Kippur War, despite the enemy’s excellent opening terms, our neighbors learned that they could not defeat us by force. This understanding is a result of the war. Five years later, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and the Prime Minister of Israel, Menachem Begin, signed a peace treaty. A peace agreement would later be reached with Jordan, and we are making genuine efforts to achieve peace with our Palestinian neighbors.

Peace can only be achieved if the hostile countries around us understand that Israel is powerful enough and that it will not disappear and will not be uprooted. The Yom Kippur War changed the face of Israeli society, necessitating a very painful and ongoing soul-searching. The failures, the debacles and the weaknesses entailed an in-depth and fundamental correction. This is an ongoing effort and we work on it constantly. It is first and foremost because of that war, but as I said earlier, in retrospect, Israel emerged stronger from the war.

Forty years ago there were less than three and a half million people living here. Today, we are more than eight million. Our economy expanded, and it is stable and prosperous. Just to clarify – our population has more than doubled, our economy is 25 times larger. It is as if you took the Israeli economy during the Yom Kippur War and placed 25 such economies side by side – this is the State of Israel today. Israel is a creative and advanced state, with a free and vibrant society, a society of remarkable achievements. And we continue to move forward and reach new heights. Our greatest achievement, however, was gained during the agony and despair of that terrible attack on Yom Kippur. Sporadic rumors about the falling of friends and acquaintances turned into a massive flow, and all forces needed to be mobilized to bear the terrible grief.

My brother Yoni participated in the battles on the Golan Heights. I wish to read you a portion of a letter he wrote to my parents, the first letter after the fights: “It was undoubtedly the most difficult war we have ever known. It was, at the very least, more intense and more terrifying, with more casualties, more successes and more failures than the battles and wars I have known. But it is because of the initial failures – failures in the military assessment, in the interpretation of the intelligence, in war doctrines, in political assessments and in the complacency of the entire nation – that the victory was so great. The army is strong and good and it has proven its abilities beyond any doubt. And when I say the army”, he wrote, “I mean not only the regular army, but the entire people. The soldiers succeeded, at a very heavy cost, to ward off the enemies, but it is the people who won the war”.

He was right, but the price we paid was unbearably high, the highest since the War of Independence. More than 2,100 of our finest sons fell in the Yom Kippur War, and thousands of others were injured. Some still bear the scars, some are with us here today.

Today, the 11th of Cheshvan, marks the passing of Rachel the Matriarch, the mother of the nation, who shares in the agony of her sons in their time of trouble. The Prophet’s promise to Rachel echoes in our ears: “Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for there is reward for your accomplishment.”

We mourn the loss of our sons and our friends and we send our best wishes for recovery to the wounded. There is reward for their actions. Thanks to their courage and perseverance, our independence and the existence of our nation from generation to generation were secured. May their memory be blessed.

Israel Musings October 15, 2013: PM Netanyahu kicks-off Knesset winter session with focus on Iran and peace talks

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Netanyahu kicks-off Knesset winter session with focus on Iran and peace talks (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The Israeli Knesset returned for the winter session on Monday, Oct. 14, 2013, with a ceremony that included speeches by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Opposition Leader Shelly Yachimovich from the Labor Party…READ MORE

Full Text Israel Political Brief October 15, 2013: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech at the Opening of the Winter Knesset Session

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PM Netanyahu’s Statement at the Opening of the Winter Knesset Session

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset during the opening of the winter session, on October 14, 2013. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset during the opening of the winter session, on October 14, 2013. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Source: PMO, 10-15-13

יום שני י’ חשון תשע”ד

– Translation –

First, I am sure that the members of Knesset and all of Israel’s citizens join me in sending condolences to the family of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, of blessed memory, and his many followers, as we mark seven days since his passing. Rabbi Ovadia was one of a long line of Jewish scholars who devoted their lives to studying the Torah and adapting halachah to the ever-changing needs of the people of Israel. Many of us, and I too, were moved to see how he continued to labor over the scriptures until the very end, even when his health deteriorated, knowing that he was making his contribution to the eternal heritage of the people of Israel.

Members of Knesset, during the summer break, three dramatic international developments took place in our region – in Iran, Syria and Egypt.

First, Iran. For years, we have been successful in creating a broad international front against Iran’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons. Under our advocacy and thanks to the efforts of the United States and many other countries, harsh economic sanctions were imposed on Iran. Due to this pressure, Iran’s economy is currently very close to its breaking point. But we must admit that despite the pressure, the regime in Tehran has not relinquished its goal to develop nuclear weapons. But it has done something: it has changed its tactic to achieve this goal. It is now willing to make insignificant changes to its nuclear program, changes which would leave it with the ability to develop nuclear weapons, in return for easing up the sanctions, which could bring about a collapse of the entire sanctions regime.

Now, due to its systematic violations of the Security Council’s resolutions, Iran can rapidly enrich uranium from a low 3.5% to 90%, which is the enrichment level required to create fissile material for nuclear weapons. Therefore, Iran is willing to give up enrichment to the mid-level 20%, which it no longer needs, for a significant ease in the sanctions. This is to say that Iran is willing to give very little and to receive very much, if not everything.

My friends, there is no reason to allow this Iranian move to be successful. There is no reason why we should back down from Security Council resolutions which require Iran to suspend its enrichment capabilities and its heavy water project in Arak, which, by the way, has only one purpose – nuclear weapons, not civilian energy. Anyway, why does Iran need nuclear civilian energy when it has so much oil, so much gas, for generations to come.

It would be a historic mistake to ease up the pressure at this time, a moment before the sanctions achieve their objective. Now, more than ever, we cannot let up and we must continue the pressure. We must remember that international pressure is what brought about the internal shift in Iran, it is what caused Iran to offer any concessions at all, it brought them to the negotiating table, and it is what could lead them to actually abandon their military nuclear program.

I will tell you one more thing: Despite common conceptions, easing up the pressure will not strengthen the trend of moderation in Iran. On the contrary, it will actually strengthen the unyielding perception of the real leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Khamenei, and will be taken as a significant victory on his behalf. I believe that many around the world understand that nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran does not threaten Israel only.

Mr. President, you were right when you said that Iran continues, unobstructed, to develop intercontinental missiles that can carry nuclear warheads, which is the sole purpose of these missiles, they have no other objective. These missiles can reach any part of the Middle East, Europe, the United States and other parts of the world. The entire region would be under grave danger as would global peace. However, there is no doubt that nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran would be aimed at us first. The Iranians openly declare that to be their intention, and that is why Israel will not allow Iran, who has made our annihilation its mission, to obtain nuclear weapons.
With regards to Syria, for many years we said that a rogue regime which has unconventional weapons could purposefully use it one day. We also said that a combination of economic pressure together with a credible military threat could bring such a regime to surrender these weapons.

My friends, both of these things have happened in Syria. The regime in Damascus used chemical weapons against its citizens, and due to an American military threat, was forced into accepting measures to destroy these weapons. This procedure of dismantling the chemical weapons in Syria is important, positive and vital, but only if it is done to its fullest extent. Therefore it is important that any country that can help with this, does whatever it can on this matter, as will Israel.

But I want to ask you something: What would the international response be if Syria would propose disposing of 20% of its chemical weapons and keep all other capabilities? That is exactly what Iran’s offer is. Just as we must ensure that Syria does not deceive the international community and that it completely dismantles its chemical weapons, we cannot allow Iran to continue its military nuclear program and leave it with nuclear breakout capabilities. At the same time, we will continue our policy which prevents Syria from transferring dangerous weapons to Hezbollah.

With respect to Egypt, we attribute great importance to our peace with it. Our peace with Egypt is an anchor of stability in the heart of the Middle East. Nobody knows as well as we do how important any anchor of stability is. The peace between us is based, first and foremost, on solid security arrangements and on international understandings, understandings that must be maintained at all costs.

The events that have been unfolding in our region prove that the radical Islam’s assumption of power is not inevitable nor irreversible. Two years ago, the start of the “Arab Spring” brought about a sense of euphoria. I did not share it, and some of you, or even many of you, also had your doubts, but on the other hand, there was a concern that the victory of radical Islam was inevitable.

Gentlemen, it is not inevitable, because many of the peoples in the region have a deep desire to shake off the radical power of Iran, of the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaida and their proxies. I think that this is an important development and I would go as far as saying, a development with historic significance.

For the first time since the establishment of the State of Israel, a growing understanding is taking root in the Arab world, and it is not always said softly. This understanding, that Israel is not the enemy of Arabs and that we have a united front on many issues, might advance new possibilities in our region. I also hope that it might help the peace process between us and the Palestinians, which I will discuss shortly.

But I can say that at this point in time, many countries in the region look to us with hope, because they sense the consistency and decisiveness of our positions and our willingness to act to defend ourselves if necessary. Today, many understand that it is good that we did not get swept up in that Arab Spring euphoria, and that we were smart enough to lead the State of Israel outside the regional turmoil responsibly and with discretion.

My friends, my job is to see the reality as it is, certainly the reality of the region. The citizens of Israel and their safety is constantly before my eyes, and it is my responsibility to ensure that they can continue their routine lives of calm and prosperity in this stormy region.

Besides the turbulence and trouble we must deal with, every now and again, we also have moments of pleasure and national pride. A few weeks ago, an Israeli company was sold to Google for a billion dollars, and today another sale was announced of another company being sold to Facebook for hundreds of millions. Despite the unfortunate reports of impending dismissals, we must remember that Israel’s unemployment rate is among the lowest in the Western world.

Although we are opening the winter session today, I remind you that we are still benefitting from summer savings time. The citizens of Israel appreciate the fact that facing the worst turbulence in our region since the establishment of the State of Israel, our security situation has improved in the last few years, and despite a global economic crisis, Israel’s economy continues to grow. I promise the citizens of Israel: we will continue to improve the quality of life, we will continue to work to lower the cost of living so that we all may live with economic welfare and be proud of our country. We are required to adopt a clear-headed responsible policy on internal matters, which we were also told to do by the President and the Speaker of the House, and rightly so.

We have several missions ahead of us during this winter session: to bring about a change in the system of government, which will strengthen governance; to pass a referendum law, so that the people of Israel can make the decision on any peace agreement; and to distribute the burden more fairly, without siccing one population on another, and maintaining unity among the people. I intend to hold discussions with the heads of the coalition parties to enable passing these laws, and yes, I also intend to get support, as much as possible, from members of the opposition, in part at least.

But before all this, I see before me matters of defense and border security. Our decisive security policy has been reflected in many anti-terrorism missions, not all of which are reported, and in the Pillar of Defense Operation. This policy is proving itself, and the present calm, the most quiet we have not had here for over a decade, is proof of that. However, Members of Knesset, we take the recent terrorist acts in Judea and Samaria very seriously, and we are acting swiftly to bring the perpetrators to justice.

In regards to securing our borders, we have completely stopped the illegal immigration. In the last six months we have had no border infiltrators, zero. Israel is in fact the only Western country to have completely succeeded in stopping illegal infiltration of its borders, which was threatening the Jewish and democratic nature of the State of Israel. First 3,000 came, then 6,000 every month. Multiply that by 12 and you have 80,000 per year. You all know the meaning of this. It would pose a threat to the future of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and this is an important achievement.
We will continue to work to return the tens of thousands of illegal immigrants who crossed the border before we completed the border fence in the south. I am aware of the suffering of the citizens of the South, southern Tel Aviv and other places in Israel. I was in Eilat before the fence was built, and in other places, and I spoke to the local people who cried – there is no other word. I promise you that just as we stopped the border infiltrations we will also make sure we remove those who came in before we put a stop to it. One must also understand that the fence was not the only thing that stopped the infiltration, but also economic legislation, intensive international activity, holding facilities and others. If need be, we will present new legislation that will conform to the ruling of the High Court of Justice, and that will ensure one thing – complete control over our borders.

Meanwhile, we will continue the economic development of the State of Israel, including developing new and important markets, headed by China. I was there on a visit that started cooperation on a very high level with the Chinese Government. Ministers go there and my economic adviser, Prof. Eugene Kandel, was there now. We are moving forward because we only need a tiny slice of a vast market to fulfill the growth needs of the State of Israel, and we need growth for the welfare of our citizens and also for our security needs. Many countries appreciate how Israel functions economically, many of these countries’ economies are far less successful.

But we are doing another thing, and you probably see it, Members of Knesset. We will continue to create new ways to bring the center of Israel closer to the periphery and the periphery, closer to the center. We will do this by continuing to invest in roads, bridges, overpasses and railways. We are determined to break out of the area spanning between Hadera and Gedera, and we have already brought this message to other regions of the country. Largely thanks to Government investments, the Negev is becoming alive, but, my friends, the big leap forward is still ahead of us.

The fastest growing part of global economy grows in relation to the internet. It is not linear growth, it is growing at a remarkable pace and the internet requires protection – from individual hackers, organizations, countries. The State of Israel is a great power in that field. When we established the National Cyber Bureau two years ago, I said that we would be among the five cyber superpowers in the world. Members of Knesset, I am telling you that we are there, and we are not number five. I doubt if we are as low as number four on the list.
We know that when we decided to move IDF bases to the south, we decided to realize that decision that we had discussed, to finance it. We are giving to Beer Sheva, the university, the train station there, we are bringing the intelligence units, IDF’s elite units and the defense system, the Cyber Bureau, everything will be there. Next to the university, with an industrial park, and Beer Sheva and its suburbs will become a globally leading cyber metropolitan. Mark my words. Leading cyber companies in Israel and the world are already moving to Beer Sheva and many others are on their way. This is my vision – basing the development of the Negev on Governmental infrastructural support and on business. Combining these two things is key, otherwise it remains a dream.

This is our way to turn the vision into reality. This is already affecting all the communities and towns I visited yesterday and many others – Netivot, Ofakim, Sderot, Dimona, Yerucham – they will all benefit from this. The Arab villages too, everyone will benefit from it. The railway to Eilat will no longer be a vision for the distant future, but an executable project. On Shabbat, I read the Haftarah from the book of Isaiah. It reads: “Clear ye in the wilderness… make plain in the desert a highway…” We are doing just that in practice. The journey from Tel Aviv to Eilat will take only two and a half hours. That will be a transportation revolution, the scope of which has never occurred in Israel’s history.

And in the other direction, in the North, the medical school which we opened in Tsfat was a welcome addition to the entire Galilee. So are the highways and overpasses we are building and the railroad tracks we are laying in the north. An advanced bio-technology center is being built near Tsfat, which will give a significant push to the northern part of Israel and all its residents. My vision is to abolish the periphery and have an Israel that is connected from Metula to Eilat and have the development towns finally become developed towns.

Members of Knesset, we share another goal – to achieve peace with our Palestinian neighbors. We all want genuine peace, stable and safe and not an agreement that will fall apart as soon as it is signed. This peace is based on two foundations: security and mutual recognition.

In the area of security, it is becoming clear how important our assertion that under any agreement Israel must be able to defend itself by itself against any threat, and that it will not lean of foreign forces. And mutual recognition – how can it be that while the Palestinians demand that Israel recognize the Palestinian nation state, they refuse to recognize the Jewish nation state? The Jewish people has been around for almost 4,000 years. And why should a people like ours not deserve the have the right to our own nation state in our historic homeland recognized? Why is it so difficult to accept this simple historical fact?

My friends, the question is not why we raise this basic demand, but why our Palestinian neighbors insist decisively and consistently not to recognize such a logical demand? I do not raise this demand because we need our national identity ratified, but so that the Palestinians withdraw from all of their national demands of us, and a genuine agreement requires the end of all demands, including their national demands from the State of Israel. Recognizing Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people means completely abandoning the “right of return” and ending any other national demands over the land and sovereignty of the State of Israel. This is a crucial component for a genuine reconciliation and stable and durable peace.

I understand that the Palestinian Authority’s official media broadcasts that Palestine spans from Metula to Eilat and that an agreement with Israel will be signed without recognizing the nation state of the Jewish people. As I have said before on another subject: The first part is not true, and the second part will never happen.”

Members of Knesset, we are making a genuine effort, I want you all to know that. We are making a genuine effort to end the conflict between us and the Palestinians. I do not delude myself that it will be easy, but I am determined to try. But as I try, I will not give up on our national interests in order to get a favorable headline in a newspaper, or to receive accolades from the international community. These are temporary, but we must guard our vital interests forever, and so we shall.

Facing the tremendous tumults in our world, I tell you, Members of Knesset, that the State of Israel continues to be a great success story. More than ever, I am convinced that we will overcome all of the challenges that I mentioned: we will strengthen our national resilience, we will build our country, we will develop our economy and bring success, security and peace to the people in Zion.

Israel Musings August 1, 2013: Israeli Knesset passes first reading of controversial governance bill

ISRAEL MUSINGS

ISRAEL MUSINGS: OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Israeli Knesset passes first reading of controversial governance bill

By Bonnie K. Goodman

During a busy last day before their summer recess on July 31, 2013, Israel’s Knesset passed the first reading of the controversial Governance Bill, which most notably will raise the electoral threshold from two percent to four percent…READ MORE

Israel Musings August 1, 2013: Israeli Knesset passes first reading of referendum bill key to peace deal

ISRAEL MUSINGS

ISRAEL MUSINGS: OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Israeli Knesset passes first reading of referendum bill key to peace deal (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Wanting to finish their summer legislative agenda Israel’s Knesset worked into the morning of August 1, 2013 to pass the first reading of the referendum bill. The debate over the bill became heated between Jewish and Arab members…READ MORE

Israel Musings July 24, 2013: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu promises referendum on any peace agreements

ISRAEL MUSINGS

ISRAEL MUSINGS: OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu promises referendum on any peace agreements (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces that there will be a referendum for any peace deal with the Palestinians at the weekly cabinet meeting held this week at the the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, July 21, 2013
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his plans in a Knesset press conference on Monday, July 22, 2013 that any peace agreement with the Palestinians that would be reached would have to be approved by a referendum, with the public…READ MORE

Israel Musings July 10, 2013: Israeli Cabinet approves ultra-orthodox haredi conscription law

ISRAEL MUSINGS

ISRAEL MUSINGS: OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Israeli Cabinet approves ultra-orthodox conscription law

By Bonnie K. Goodman

On Sunday, July 7, during the Israeli cabinet’s weekly meeting, the cabinet approved the Peri Bill, a new law that would end Haredi, ultra- orthodox military exceptions. The bill had its first reading in the Knesset on Wednesday…READ MORE

Israel Political Brief May 29, 2013: Israel ends controversial military exemptions for Ultra-Orthodox Jews

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Israel ends controversial military exemptions for Ultra-Orthodox Jews

Source: India Today, 5-29-13

Israel clinched a deal on Wednesday to abolish wholesale exemptions from military service for Jewish seminary students, ended a brief crisis that divided the ruling coalition parties….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief May 29, 2013: ‘Historic’ haredi draft bill ends coalition crisis

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

‘Historic’ haredi draft bill ends coalition crisis

Source: Jerusalem Post, 5-29-13‎

Clause allows exemption of 1,800 yeshiva students; Lapid says in 3 years 70% of haredim will be drafted. Lapid, Perry and Shelach hold press conference, May 29, 2013…READ MORE

Israel Political Brief May 28, 2013: Knesset Finance Committee approves VAT increase

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Knesset Finance Committee approves VAT increase

Source: Jerusalem Post, 5-28-13

The Knesset Finance Committee on Monday approved Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s plan to increase the value added tax to 18%, as committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) announced plans to seek a differentiated VAT in order to make the tax….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief May 7, 2013: Yesh Atid to oppose referendum on land-for-peace bill

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Yesh Atid to oppose referendum on land-for-peace bill

Source: Israel Hayom, 5-7-13

Yair Lapid’s faction poised to vote against bill demanding referendum and a special Knesset majority for any cabinet decision involving ceding territory in future peace deal despite coalition agreement • Likud: Lapid-Bennett alliance is disintegrating….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief May 6, 2013: Knesset panel advances plan regulating Bedouin settlements

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Knesset panel advances plan regulating Bedouin settlements

Source: JTA, 5-6-13

A Knesset committee advanced a plan that would require the resettlement of some 30,000 Bedouin….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief March 24, 2013: MKs call for leaving Seder seat open for Jonathan Pollard

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

MKs call for leaving Seder seat open for Pollard

Source: Jerusalem Post, 3-24-13‎

MKs hold mock seder ending with a toast to Pollard and a reading of a prayer for the Israel agent’s welfare….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief March 18, 2013: The Knesset approved the guidelines of the new government, ministers are sworn-in הכנסת אישרה את קווי היסוד של הממשלה, השרים נשבעו אמונים

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

הכנסת אישרה את קווי היסוד של הממשלה, השרים נשבעו אמונים

Source: Nana 10, 3-18-13

ממשלת נתניהו השלישית יוצאת לדרך באופן רשמי, אחרי ש-68 חברי כנסת אישרו את קווי היסוד בהצבעה שמית במליאה. 48 חברי כנסת מהאופוזיציה התנגדו, ו-4 נעדרו מההצבעה. לאחר מכן 21 השרים עלו אחד-אחד לבימת הכנסת ונשבעו, רגע …לפני ישיבת הממשלה הראשונה והתמונה הקבוצתית המסורתית בבית הנשיא…

קורא עוד

Israel Political Brief March 18, 2013: The 33rd government is approved by Knesset; 68 vote for, 48 against

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

The 33rd government is approved; 68 vote for, 48 against

Source: Jerusalem Post, 3-18-13

Swearing-in ceremony underway; PM presents 33rd government, says new coalition has opportunity to enact domestic reform, but first must ensure state’s existence; Yacimovich attacks coalition of “rich capitalists….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief March 6, 2013: Israeli Knesset discusses jailed spy Jonathan Pollard

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Israeli Knesset discusses jailed spy Jonathan Pollard

Source: Haaretz, 3-6-13

Israeli Knesset discusses jailed spy Jonathan Pollard. Israel made mistakes in handling of the case, says public diplomacy minister; Lapid signs petition calling for Pollard’s release….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief February 14, 2013: IDF censor backs MKs who exposed ‘Prisoner X’ affair

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

IDF censor backs MKs who exposed ‘Prisoner X’ affair

Source: Ynetnews, 2-14-13

Chief military censor tells Army Radio lawmakers who questioned justice minister over death of Australia-born dual Israeli citizen in prison despite gag order merely ‘exercised their right….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief February 12, 2013: Israeli lawmakers press for answers on dead ‘Prisoner X’

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Israeli lawmakers press for answers on dead ‘Prisoner X’

Source: JTA, 2-12-13

Knesset members pressed Israel’s justice minister for answers on “Prisoner X,” who was identified in an Australian TV report as an Australian-born Israeli who worked for the Mossad and died in an Israeli prison…..READ MORE

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