Peace agreements will be achieved when the other side understands that Israel wants a proper peace but is prepared to kill to protect its vital interests.

Excerpts from address by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to the 8th Herzliya Conference

The age of illusions is now over for Israel. On the right, the illusion that we can perpetuate our control over another people using a strong arm alone has dissipated. On the left, the illusion that we are leading up to a utopian "New Middle East" has dissipated. With the death of these illusions, a vast majority of the public understands that the Middle East is a harsh reality.

Both Israel’s hawks and its doves have had to abandon their extreme beliefs in recent years. The right realizes it cannot hold on to all the territory it wants, and the left admits there will be no utopian "New Middle East."

Israel cannot be defeated militarily, and it cannot be worn down with terrorism. Peace agreements will be achieved when the other side understands that Israel wants a proper peace but is prepared to kill to protect its vital interests.

The current Israeli government, like past governments, has the historical responsibility – politically and morally – to use any and every chance, any chance at all, to reach a settlement. If there is an opportunity, we cannot afford to miss it. It is important that we fulfill the vision of wide-spectrum joint projects that will change the region, solve basic issues concerning water, the economy, and the environment, and which will serve as a gateway to political cooperation.

The current government, as every government in Israel, has the primary job of ensuring peace and security and protecting its people and their heritage. I have worked towards this and so have others. This is how the current prime minister, Ehud Olmert, acts, and I wish to support him in the long and tiring journey towards peace. I do not know if we will reach an agreement by the end of 2008, but I do know that if we do not, it will not be because of us. Israel has never been the one to prevent peace.

It is clear that a two-state solution for two peoples is vital to Israel. Its basic principles must include: an agreed and known border which reflects security and demographic considerations, including large settlement blocs; the return of the refugees to a Palestinian state; an end to the conflicts and mutual demands; and the necessary security arrangements needed by Israel. Until then we will maintain the IDF’s freedom of action in fighting terrorism wherever it may be, and we will develop a technological and operational solution to the threat of the rockets (such as the "Iron Dome" and others), which we have been working on full steam.

We must put more and more pressure on Gaza. What is important to us is that the residents of the western Negev and Sderot live in peace. If this "peace" means "war" on the other side, then there will be war. We have tried almost everything, and they continue the fire against Sderot and the Negev. I know it is harsh, but I care about our peace and tranquility more than theirs.

I say again – we will solve the problem of the Kassam rockets as we have solved other problems in the past: the terrorists in the Jordan Valley, the shelling of the towns at the foot of the Golan Heights, and the suicide bombers in our streets. So it will be now, and we will solve the problem of the Kassams.

The Iranian nuclear threat remains critical against the backdrop of stability in Israel and the entire world. Against Iran there is much to be done in the intelligence realm, as well as sanctions, and other diplomatic possibilities, without discarding any one of these options. We will not accept an Iran which possesses a nuclear capable military and we are working in all areas. This matter must not be discussed too much. Words will not stop missiles.