Since its inception, the OSCE has been committed to two key goals, which are particularly crucial at the present time: cooperation and security. Today, against the backdrop of the violent disturbances in the Middle East, nothing is clearer or more urgently in demand.

 Address by FM Liberman to the OSCE Ministerial Council

 

FM Liberman in Vilnius with colleagues from Jordan and Egypt (Photo: MFA)

Dear colleagues and friends,

I would like to open by commending the Lithuanian Chair for its successful chairing of the OSCE in 2011 and to wish success to the incoming Irish Chair in 2012. In particular, we note with appreciation the OSCE’s continuing commitment to the teaching of the Holocaust and to the fight against anti-Semitism and xenophobia, exemplified by the tireless efforts of Rabbi Andrew Baker, the personal representative of the chairperson in this field.

Since its inception, the OSCE has been committed to two key goals, which are particularly crucial at the present time: cooperation and security. Today, against the backdrop of the violent disturbances in the Middle East, nothing is clearer or more urgently in demand.

Coming from the Middle East, I compare our region with Europe and try to understand where the differences lie. On the face of it, Europe is undergoing one of the most severe economic crises since the Second World War. There may be profound disagreements between certain European countries, but this does not lead to mass violence or to violent international clashes. Needless to say, the situation in the Middle East is starkly different.
The primary question which presents itself in these circumstances is: why is it Israel, in particular, that maintains economic and political stability? In fact, not only are we keeping stability, in recent years Israel has made great advances, becoming an important world player in the fields of hi-tech and science.

In the last decades, Israelis have been awarded 10 Nobel Prizes, six of which for scientific research. Aside from China, there are more Israeli companies listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange than from any other country outside North America.

Despite extremely difficult climatic conditions, Israel has become a world leader and pioneer in the field of water desalination and irrigation technologies. Israel desalinates today some 300 million cubic meters of water a year. Moreover, about 70% of Israel’s irrigation water is purified.

Thus, in looking at the complex situation in the Middle East, I reach two conclusions:

Firstly, it is clear to everyone today that the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians is not the heart of the turmoil in the Middle East. There is no connection at all between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the uprisings in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Egypt and Syria, or the unrest in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. 

There are many reasons for all of these disturbances in the Arab world, including ethnic friction and basic demands for individual liberty and democracy. But without a doubt, the primary motif is the very difficult economic situation, underscored by socioeconomic disparities and an unjust division of resources.

Thus, Arab leaders would do well to advance cooperation with Israel in technology and scientific knowhow, rather than to continue inciting their public opinion against us. Had they done so in the past, those who have been recently deposed might well have avoided their fate.

The second point is that a necessary condition for the establishment of a society that rejects violence on the path towards resolving internal and international political disputes is the formation of a successful middle class, which serves as the backbone of a healthy society.

When one looks at Europe, one sees that the more successful a country’s middle class is, the more successful and stable the country itself is. Thus, international efforts with regard to the Middle East should be focused on developing the middle class, which goes hand in hand with economic development.

No abstract or theoretical formulae will work in practice, in the absence of a strong middle class and equitable division of national resources. On the contrary, excessive attention to highly charged political issues will impede the advancement of economic development, without which, a more stable and secure regional environment will remain a distant dream.

Thus, my suggestion is to bypass highly disputed political issues, which cannot be resolved in the present. Once economic growth is allowed to take root and enable the formation of a strong middle class, I have no doubt that the difficult political issues, which seem unresolvable today, will lend themselves to resolution.

This is the basic wisdom which has successfully guided the OSCE for 40 years and this is the lesson we should apply to the Middle East, in order to genuinely advance the cause of security and  cooperation in the region.

Thank you.