Israel Musings November 12, 2013: Netanyahu focuses on Iran and peace talks in JFNA General Assembly address

ISRAEL MUSINGS

ISRAEL MUSINGS: OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Netanyahu focuses on Iran and peace talks in JFNA General Assembly address

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Jewish Federations of North America’s annual General Assembly on Sunday evening, Nov. 10, 2013 in Jerusalem where he continued to warn against a deal with Iran that does not completely dismantle…READ MORE
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Full Text Israel Political Brief November 10, 2013: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Remarks at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly

Source: PMO, 11-10-13

יום ראשון ז’ כסלו תשע”ד

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers an address to the Jewish Federation of North America's General Assembly, Jerusalem, Nov. 10, 2013; Netanyahu spoke of the proposed Iran nuclear weapons deal and the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks

AG for JFNA

Transcription

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.

Israel Musings November 8, 2013: Netanyahu warns against ‘historic mistake’ in Iran nuclear talks

ISRAEL MUSINGS

ISRAEL MUSINGS: OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Netanyahu warns against ‘historic mistake’ in Iran nuclear talks

By Bonnie K. Goodman

As the P5+1 nations meet with Iran in effort to dismantle the country’s nuclear program on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland, they are considering lifting some economic sanctions placed on Iran in exchange for Iran…READ MORE

Full Text Israel Political Brief November 7, 2013: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Remarks at the Conference on Joint Strategic Dialogue between the Government of Israel and World Jewish Communities

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

PM Netanyahu’s Remarks at the Conference on Joint Strategic Dialogue between the Government of Israel and World Jewish Communities

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.

Israel Brief July 21, 2013: Gilad Shalit accompanied children’s aliyah flight from New York

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Gilad Shalit accompanying aliyah flight from N.Y.

Source: JTA, 7-21-13

A chartered aliyah flight bearing 106 children and accompanied by former captive soldier Gilad Shalit left New York for Israel….READ MORE

Israel Brief May 23, 2013: Sheldon Adelson & wife Miriam donate another $40 million to Birthright Israel Foundation

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Adelsons donate another $40 million to Birthright

Source: JTA, 5-23-13

Casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, donated another $40 million to the Birthright Israel Foundation….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief April 10, 2013: Russian Jews urge PM Benjamin Netanyahu to ignore US Jews’ call for ceding land

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Russian Jews urge Netanyahu to ignore US Jews’ call for ceding land

Source: Haaretz, 4-10-13

Russian Jews urge Netanyahu to ignore U.S. Jews’ call for ceding land. The prominent Russians, including the president of the Russian Jewish Congress, wrote that their message was a reaction to the April 3 letter initiated by the dovish Israel Policy….READ MORE

Jewish Brief March 13, 2013: New Pope Francis I Former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio Said to Have Good Relations With Argentina’s Jews

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New Pope Said to Have Good Relations With Argentine Jews

The Roman College of Cardinals on Monday evening elected Jorge Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, as its new Pope

Source: Arutz Sheva, 3-13-13

Newly elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina appears on the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica after being elected by the conclave of cardinals, at the Vatican, March 13, 2013. White smoke rose from the Sistine Chapel chimney and the bells of St. Peter's Basilica rang out on Wednesday, signaling that Roman Catholic cardinals had elected a pope to succeed Benedict XVI. REUTERS/Tony GentileNewly elected Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina appears on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica after being elected by the conclave of cardinals, at the Vatican, March 13, 2013. White smoke rose from the Sistine Chapel chimney and the bells of St. Peter’s Basilica rang out on Wednesday, signaling that Roman Catholic cardinals had elected a pope to succeed Benedict XVI. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

The Roman College of Cardinals on Monday evening elected Jorge Bergoglio, the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, as its new Pope. Bergoglio, who has taken the name Francis I for his office, is the first Pope to be chosen from outside of Europe….

Bergoglio is said to have had good relations with Argentinian Jews. He was praised by local and U.S. Jewish community leaders for his response to the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association. In 2005, Bergoglio signed a joint statement against terrorism together with Jose Adaszko of the Israel Mutual Association of Argentina, and Omar Helal Massud of the Islamic Center, with an emphasis on preventing attacks such as the 1994 bombing….READ MORE

Full Text Israel Political Brief December 16, 2012: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Letter to US President Barack Obama Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting

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PM Netanyahu’s Letter to US President Obama Following the Events in Connecticut

Source: PMO, 12-15-12

Following is the text of the letter that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent to US President Barack Obama:

“Dear President Obama,

I was shocked and horrified by today’s savage massacre of innocent children and adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

We in Israel have experienced such cruel acts of slaughter and we know the shock and agony they bring.

I want to express my profound grief, and that of all the people in Israel, to the families that lost their loved ones.

May you and the American people find the strength to overcome this unspeakable tragedy.

With my deepest condolences,

(Signed)

Benjamin Netanyahu,
Prime Minister of Israel”

Israel Political Brief September 23, 2012: Israel envoy to UN: Act to right wrong to Jews expelled from Arab lands

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Israel envoy to U.N.: Act to right wrong to Jews expelled from Arab lands

Source: JTA, 9-23-12

The United Nations must act to right the “historic wrong” done to Jewish refugees expelled from Arab countries, said Israel’s U.N. ambassador to the world body, Ron Prosor….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief September 16, 2012: President Shimon Peres stresses family in Rosh Hashanah message to Diaspora, tolerance to Israelis

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Peres stresses family in Rosh Hashanah message to Diaspora, tolerance to Israelis

Source: JTA, 9-16-12

Israeli President Shimon Peres in a Rosh Hashanah message called Diaspora Jews “full partners” with Israel….READ MORE

Full Text Israel Political Brief May 22, 2012: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Remarks at the MASA Mega Event — Tells Masa Participants: Israel is Your Country

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Netanyahu to Masa Participants: Israel is Your Country

Photo by GPO

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addresses the thousands of young Jews who came to Israel as part of the Masa Israel project.

Source: Israel National News, 5-22-12

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed on Tuesday the thousands of young Jews from around the world who came to Israel as part of the Masa Israel project, which is co-sponsored by the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency.

In his speech, Netanyahu called on the participants to make aliyah to Israel and to defend Israel in their countries.

“You come from many different countries, but deep down this is your one ancestral home,” said Netanyahu. “Israel is your homeland, Israel is your birthright, and Israel is your future.”

He added, “We embrace and welcome all of you who are coming here physically to join us to build a Jewish future and we send with love all of you who are planning to go back to your countries. You’re taking back with you the truth. You can speak the truth about Israel, and that’s what I expect you to do.”

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky mentioned Aaron Zindani, the Jew who was murdered in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, and said to the youth, “We must do everything to protect the Jews of Yemen and Iran. On a day like this, when someone was killed just for being Jewish, you should know that if you are thinking about making aliyah you should not hesitate, but do it now.”

The Masa Israel project brings each year about 10,000 young Jews from around the world for study and volunteer in Israel. The project aims to strengthen ties between Israel and the Jewish world. Upon their return to their countries, many participants assume key positions in their communities and become ambassadors of Israel in their countries. In recent years, many Masa Israel participants have made aliyah.

PM Netanyahu’s Remarks at the MASA Mega Event

Source: PMO, 5-22-12

Natan Sharansky just said something absolutely shocking.  He said that there are differing opinions among Jews.  No!  That may imply that you have four people with four opinions.  See, it’s not true – it’s four people with eight opinions.  We debate, we argue, we discuss, we disagree.  Then we agree.

I’ll tell you what we agree on.  See, when Natan, who is a hero of the Jewish people, when he was jailed in the Soviet Union and he could have avoided going to jail; all he had to do was give up his desire to come to Zion, to come to Israel.  All he had to do was do that.  But he wouldn’t.  So they put him on trial, and they sentenced him to a long prison term.  And then they asked him, “Do you have anything to say?”  He said, “To you, this court, I have nothing to say, but to my people and to my beloved wife, I say, ‘Next year in Jerusalem'”.  That’s what we agree on.  This year in Jerusalem.

I am very happy to see all of you here, this year in Jerusalem.  I know that you’ve come here from many countries.  I have to say that I saw some of you outside, but you come from all over the world.  You come from Mexico, from Britain, from France, from Australia, Canada, Brazil.  What about Russia?  Or from the Ukraine?  But I gather there is no one here from the United States?

So, you come from many different countries, but deep down this is your one ancestral home.  This is your country.  Israel is your homeland; Israel is your birthright; and Israel is your future.  So, I want to ask a direct question: how many of you plan to make Aliyah?  Stand up if you’re making Aliyah.  That’s great.  Let’s give them all a round of applause.  Thank you.

Now, first of all, we embrace and welcome all of you who are coming here physically to join us to build the Jewish future, and we send with love all of you who are planning to go back to your countries, and I think Natan said a very important thing: you’re taking back with you something very, very precious.  You’re taking back with you the truth.  You can speak the truth about Israel.  And that’s what I expect you to do.  You see, there are many people around the world who, day in and day out, malign Israel.  It used to be acceptable to spread the vilest lies about the Jewish people, and now, unfortunately, it’s acceptable to spread the vilest lies about the Jewish state – to slander and malign Israel.

But all of you have gotten to see the truth for yourselves.  You’ve seen what a great nation this is.  You’ve seen the signs.  You’ve seen the technology.  You’ve seen the progress.  You’ve seen the growing, bustling cities.  You’ve seen fun.  There’s a lot of fun in Israel.  By the way, it’s not true that it’s only fun in Tel Aviv; it’s also fun in Jerusalem.  It’s great.  You’ve seen that Israel is an open, pluralistic society.  You’ve seen that in the Middle East, where the rights of women, gays, minorities – anyone who’s different or anyone who’s a minority or anyone who’s not cut from that rigid ideological cloth – you see that in Israel people are free; people are endowed with rights; that Israel as a liberal democracy stands out.  And you’ve seen about something else: how this nation cares about each and every individual.

You know, today we had a terrible tragedy in the North.  It was an entire family, eight souls that were lost in a tragic car accident.  And you know, the whole country is focused on one survivor, a little girl called Rachel.  Rachel, the entire nation is with you.  The entire nation embraces you.  Everybody embraces this little girl, and that’s the truth about Israel.  The whole world wondered how we could unite and sacrifice so much for a single soldier, just to return one soldier: Gilad Shalit.  We did that because we care about each and every life.  See, our enemies think that because they celebrate death – they have a cult of death – they think they’re strong and they think that because we celebrate life, we’re weak.  But it’s exactly the opposite.  We’re strong because we celebrate life and we’re strong because we’re prepared to defend our lives.  And Israel will win because Israel loves life.

I want you to go back to your countries, and I want you to do two things.  One: I want you to reconsider Aliyah, that’s the first, because you have a brilliant future here, brilliant future.   This is a cutting edge country – in technology, in agriculture, in medicine, in art, in literature.  In anything.  This is a country not only of a lot of opinions, but a lot of talents.  You know we have more Nobel Prizes per capita than any other country in the world?  Maybe one of them is sitting here.  We have tremendous opportunities for young people, but we have something that we can offer you that I think you’ve figured out in the time that you’ve been here, and when you leave, you’ll have a perspective.  This is where the heart is.  This is where the Jewish past and the Jewish future blend.  This is where you can shape not only your own individual lives, but the lives of our people, and we’ve travelled for nearly 4,000 years – 3,000 years in this city alone – to ensure our future.  Be part of it.  Don’t pass it up.  You can give deep meaning to your lives.  So I want you to reconsider Aliyah, and defend Israel.  Defend Israel by saying the truth and defend Israel by being proud – proud of your heritage, proud of your Jewish identity, proud of the fact that together, we’re building and ensuring our common Jewish future.

Thank you very much.  Thank you Masa.

Israel Political Brief May 6, 2012: Michael Oren: Israeli envoy calls for Israel support, respect for religious pluralism in AJC Speech

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Israeli envoy Michael Oren calls for Israel support, respect for religious pluralism

Source: JTA, 5-6-12

In two speeches calling for increased Jewish unity, Israeli U.S. Ambassador Michal Oren urged stronger Diaspora support for Israel and greater Israeli respect for the diversity of Jewish life in America.

“Sometimes it seems that we, Israelis and American Jews, not only inhabit different countries but different universes, different realities,” Oren said in a May 4 speech in Washington to an American Jewish Committee gathering of about 400 young Jewish activists from around the world….

“Ironically, at a time when support for Israel in this country is at a near all-time high — indeed it’s one of the few truly bipartisan issues — we Jews seem increasingly divided,” Oren said in his Washington remarks. “Let me be clear: At stake is not merely Israel’s policies or rights of American Jews to criticize them. At stake is nothing less than the unity of a Jewish people.”…

“The pro-Israel person sees Israelis — left, right, religious, secular — not as some distant ‘other’ but as part of a whole — a dynamic, creative, rambunctious and precious whole,” Oren said in Washington. “The pro-Israel people are those who view even those who disagree with them politically as part of their people, as mishpochah,” or family….

“In Israel,” he said, “to be pro-‘the Jewish people’ is to guarantee respectful space for egalitarian prayer at the Kotel, to maintain a dialogue over the conversion issue, to enable open debate about those Israeli policies that impact all of world Jewry.”

Israel Political Brief March 25, 2012: Israeli lawmakers inaugurate Diaspora caucus

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Israeli lawmakers inaugurate Diaspora caucus

Source: JTA, 3-25-12

Israeli lawmakers from across the political spectrum launched a caucus to strengthen relations with Diaspora Jewry.

At least 40 Knesset members have joined the ad hoc committee co-founded by coalition chairman Zeev Elkin of the Likud Party and Nachman Shai of Kadima, which met for the first time on Tuesday.

The lobby will provide an open forum to discuss issues involving the Diaspora, but it cannot set official policy. It was formed at the initiative of Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, according to reports.

A new study of Israelis conducted by the Jewish Agency found that 91 percent of respondents believe that Israel should help Jewish communities abroad. Another 91 percent said they believed that Diaspora Jewry would stand with Israel in the face of a threat from Iran or other enemies.

Jewish Agency Secretary-General Josh Schwartz presented the study at the committee meeting.

“Jewish children were attacked in their school in Toulouse just because they and their parents wanted to maintain a connection with their Jewish heritage and the Jewish state,” Sharansky said at the meeting “This murderous attack proves to us again in the most tragic way that the enemies of the Jewish people and the enemies of the Jewish state are one and the same. The State of Israel and the Jewish people face the same threats.”

Israel Political Brief March 25, 2012: Israel’s Interior Ministry checking whether Toulouse terrorist visited Israel

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Israel checking whether Toulouse terrorist visited

Source: JTA, 3-25-12

Israeli authorities are investigating a French media report that Toulouse terrorist Mohammed Merah visited Israel.

Merah’s passport, found by French police after he was killed in a shootout Thursday, showed that he visited Israel, Syria, Iraq and Jordan, the Le Monde newspaper reported.

Merah had confessed during the more than 30-hour standoff at his apartment in Toulouse to a gun attack on the city’s Ozar Hatorah school on March 19 that killed Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30, and his two young sons, as well as the 7-year-old daughter of the school’s principal. A self-described al-Qaida member, Merah also was wanted for the murders of three French troops.

Israel’s Interior Ministry said it had no record of a Merah’s name among tourists who entered the country in recent years, but police and secret service authorities said Sunday the possibility that he had visited under another identity was still being checked.

Asked about the possibility that Merah had come to Israel, perhaps to reconnoiter for an attack, Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor told Channel Two television Saturday, “I heard about this in the press. I don’t know what the facts are, exactly.”

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