From the Khyber Pass to the Strait of Gibraltar the earth is shaking. We saw it in Tunisia, then in Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, and it is still far from over.

 Excerpts from PM Netanyahu's remarks in the Knesset


PM Netanyahu addresses the Knesset (GPO archive photo)

… I called the Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, and offered him aid. We do have a certain amount of experience in clearing wreckage and similar tasks, and I told him: "Mr. Prime Minister, you are suffering an earthquake, and we are also suffering an earthquake." But our earthquake is covering a very large area of the world, from Afghanistan to the Maghreb; from the Khyber Pass to the Strait of Gibraltar the earth is shaking. It is pulling down buildings in some areas, undermining their foundations in others. And the tremor continues; it will not cease.

We saw it in Tunisia, then in Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, and it is still far from over. But there are differences; each country is different, but there is one thing in common to the entire region. It is an extremely volatile region.

Where does this instability stem from? It stems from the fact that the progress and the political and economic reforms that spread across the world during the 20th century largely skipped the Arab world and much of the Muslim world. Come the 21st century, with all the new technological power and information, not only with Al-Jazeera, through the internet and social networks that we are familiar with; and it hits these societies with a harsh blow; it exposed the citizens of these countries to what they had been missing. This caused a huge turmoil as these changes did not occur gradually, allowing for economic and political liberalism.

There is one place where this shock did not occur; in this vast region there is one country that has not been thrown into tumult. This place is the State of Israel. The reason Israel is not subject to the turmoil is because we are a democratic, liberal, advanced country. We have many flaws, but basically we are one of the most advanced countries in the world, with a sound economy and growth, with freedom; it is a place where we can stand up or sit down in the Knesset, our parliament, and speak what is on your mind. We have liberty, great freedom.

Therefore we are in a period of transition, and this transition, and the instability it brings can go on for many more years. We hope for the best and we do the best we can, and hope that the Arab world, as well as Iran, becomes true democracies. If we reach that point, we have the foundations for stability and peace.

My friends, you are well aware of the fact that there are other possibilities. We must prepare ourselves for any scenario. The best way we can prepare ourselves is by reading reality as it is.  This instability that we are living in is already being abused by negative forces and a dark despotism active in all the countries that I mentioned, trying to sway the outcome into something none of us want. Such results would not be agreeable to anyone who strives for progress and for peace.

Reading reality requires us to accept that things are as they are. The world does not always see these things at first; it comes as a surprise. Most of the world has been telling us that the reason for instability in the Middle East, the epicenter of the earthquake and cause of insecurity is the Arab-Israeli conflict. That’s what they have been saying.

We said otherwise: we have a problem and we want to solve it. But we also know that this region is not stable, and I have said that here from this podium and so have my colleagues. I have said that as we search of a solution, we must take this instability into account, the extreme Islamist forces that enter every location, including places that we have left or might leave.

This is not the first time that I have said this, and not the first Knesset I have said it to. Apropos of reading reality, five years ago we said that if we leave Gaza, the Hamas would take over. You said that we were scaring the nation.

When I resigned from the government, I said that Iran would arm Hamas after it rises to power; arm it with thousands of missiles. And you said that we were alarming the people. Then we said, in the same breath, that Hamas would fire these missiles, not only at Sderot, but also on Ashkelon, Ashdod and Be’er Sheva. And again you said that we were alarming the people.

Fear is not policy, you said. And you are right. But neither is delusion. Policy is first of all seeing reality; reading it and accepting it as it is. And I call upon you today to leave that line of reasoning. Accept reality, see what is happening. This reality requires of us to accept the fact that we are in a volatile region, and all we can rely on is our own strength, our unity and our resolve to protect ourselves. We are willing to make compromises for peace, but we will not compromise our security. If we are told to agree to a peace accord that disarms us from our defenses, I tell you there will be no peace and no security. And we are adamant about that.

There is a debate in this house, on both sides by the way, whether or not we have a partner today, how much he is committed to peace, is he willing to become stable, and whether he will come. There is a debate, and we would like to see him come here, or we would go to him.

Because we will never know if we do not talk; and they refuse to talk. They say that we should give them everything they want and then they’ll come. That’s one way to negotiate…

But they don’t even say that. There is this debate, and there is another debate that everybody is aware of, whether you say it out loud or not. There might be a discussion regarding our partner today, but there is uncertainty about there being a partner tomorrow. I’ll say something that we all know – at least the Arab Members of Knesset do – that nobody can foresee what will happen to the west of us.

Believe me, even the greatest intelligence minds and agencies of many countries did not predict this, and they cannot tell us how it will end. We don’t know what we will have to our west or to our east. We don’t know if anything will happen there, and if anything will develop from there. Who can assure us that a Palestinian state in the middle of all this would hold up.

So what can we conclude from all this? If you listen you will hear.

My friends, Members of Knesset, you all know that what I say is true. You probably also know that a peace agreement will not guarantee peace in our region, where official or unofficial peaceful relations can evaporate in a flash. That happened with the de-facto relations we had with one country; economic and other ties dissipated in a blink of an eye when Iran had the revolution in 1979.

And it also happened with stronger, more formal, more established relations with another country – relations that even included joint military maneuvers – and then 400,000 tourists disappeared over night when in Davos the Turkish Prime Minister attacked President Shimon Peres and marked a drastic change in the direction of Turkish policy. I do hope things will go back as they were, of course.

Today we know that we need to be sure that peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan will survive and become stronger. That is why when we want to make peace with the Palestinians, with the Palestinian Authority, we talk about a Palestinian state. I said in my speech at Bar Ilan, and I chose my words carefully: "a demilitarized state that recognizes the Jewish state." I will not talk here about the Jewish state and recognition of the rights of the Jewish people.

But I do want to talk about the demilitarization. This is not lip service. I’m not only marking off my checklist. We also need security.

At every meeting and in every communication, in conversations with President Obama, Chancellor Merkel, David Cameron, the British Prime Minister; with all of them, with their ministers of foreign affairs, and with each one of their representatives, I explain that Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley over the years is vital, because nobody knows what will happen tomorrow.

Because we left Lebanon, every inch of it, and Iran walked in. We left every inch of Gaza and Iran walked in. The State of Israel cannot afford to step out without making security arrangements, without a suitable barrier from Judea and Samaria because we cannot have this happen a third time.
So we have had discussions, when Abu Mazen agreed to talk…  Six hours over two years, that’s right. He wanted to talk about land. I said: "By all means, I know you position on land… But I want to tell you something about my position on security. We need this presence but, in the end, so do you. You require it too. Nobody can tell us what will happen in the east," I told him. Today I could say to him "Nobody knows what will happen in the west."

But being responsible, serious, realistic and statesmanlike requires us to insist on these things and not just mention them in passing: "Yes, I mentioned them." We must fight for them with all that we have, because at the end of the day, security sustains peace, or at least it will protect us if peace unravels. So we insist, not as a precondition to enter negotiations. We have no such preconditions. It is not us who is refusing to talk.

There are truths that take a while until the world sees them. Many things were said about the Jewish people for hundreds of years, and the world accepted them. It didn’t make them right or true.

But you know that all I say here is true. We are here, insisting on the most crucial points. We come to talk about a realistic, pragmatic solution that takes into account the Middle East as it is. We must make a division in our brain. It is our responsibility as leaders to separate our hearts’ desires, the heavenly peace that we all would like to see, from the practical peace that calls for the country, and a people who has suffered so much, that has been slandered and falsely libeled, to act responsibly. I commended the United States for vetoing the resolutions.

It is in the best interest of the state today, during these historical events that are unfolding before our very eyes that we understand reality properly. It requires caution and not haste decisions; it requires responsibility and not lawlessness; it requires unity and not factionalism.