Communicated by Minister of Defense Bureau

Minister of Defense Ehud Barak addressed the Jerusalem branch of the Labor party:

The Middle East is a tough neighborhood – it’s not Western Europe here and it’s not North America. We have many challenges. Hamas in the Gaza Strip is one of those challenges. We brought calm to the area, but I’m telling you that we need to do a lot more to protect the area’s residents if there is a renewal of the firing. All of the ministries have to help strengthen the area’s residents, who have withstood a very difficult test for seven years.

We have Hizbullah in the north; UNSC Resolution 1701 is not working, it’s a total failure. They are not succeeding in stopping Hizbullah’s buildup, nor the arms smuggling, nor their redeployment in Southern Lebanon. There is some danger that the delicate balance there will be upset and we are following the situation daily.
Of course, there is the Iranian threat, further away.

The army and the security services are working day and night to ensure that the IDF remains in top form, that it maintains its deterrence, and that it will pass the test if it is forced upon us. We don’t have a choice, because we live in an environment where the weak don’t get a second chance – in this region, there is no mercy. In this region, you survive only if you’re strong and alert and ready to act. By virtue of our readiness, we can allow ourselves to make the diplomatic efforts that we are making today. Also in the diplomatic process with the Palestinians, we are simultaneously trying to improve their standard of living and to reach an agreement with them. The chances cannot be estimated, but I hope we will witness the breakthrough that all of us want so much.

At present, we are in the first stages of contacts with the Syrians, to see if it is possible to remove them from the circle of hostility. We know from personal experience that they are hard people; we have a long history of fighting, on and under the surface, and there is no assurance that these contacts will bear fruit. But they are very important and it is important that we forge ahead and examine the possibilities.