We believe that containing Iran’s aggression, containing and stopping also its nuclear program, is essential for the stability of the world and for the advancement of peace and democracy in our region and beyond our region.

 Joint press conference with PM Netanyahu and Chilean President Piñera


PM Netanyahu with Sebastián Piñera (Photo: GPO) 

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: I want to welcome to Jerusalem President Sebastián Piñera from Chile and his ministers. 

We just had a very warm and important conversation. 

We admire your leadership, President Piñera. We had last week some other visitors from Chile, the coal miners, and they gave us an example of faith and courage; and you gave us an example of faith and courage. 

You identified the problem; you immediately identified the solution; you reached out to the world to bring the solution; and you brought the coal miners from under the ground outside. The whole world watched with great amazement and admiration as did we in Israel. So you should know how deeply that is appreciated. 

The coal miners, I asked them a question: What is the lowest point on earth? And they said the Dead Sea, they came from there. And I said: No, you were in the lowest point of earth. And you brought them out. 

So it’s wonderful to see you here, as it was wonderful to see them here in the Holy Land, to see also their reservoirs of faith, the places that have inspired all of humanity. I know that you visited Israel before, but this is the first time in 40 years that a president of Chile visits Israel. In these 40 years there have been some enormous changes. We’ve built up our economy; you’ve built up your economy, along free market principles, along liberalization. 

We see the world changing around us rapidly. There is an earthquake and a sandstorm seizing the entire area from Afghanistan to Gibraltar. There is one stable country in between and that’s Israel, because we are firmly anchored in democratic values, and we hope for the best in our region.

We want to see the Arab world and many of the Islamic countries transform into real, stable democracies. This is good for peace, providing that it happens.

But as we discussed, we are concerned with the possibility that one country, Iran, will be immune to all the pressures of democratization; will continue to butcher its people; will continue to abuse human rights, women, gays; and will continue to propel terrorism and violence and instability to the rest of the world, including your part of the world.

Therefore we think that pressure should be placed on Iran as forcefully, as openly, and in as a determined fashion as it is put now, for example, on Libya. If there are calls to put Libya, and Libya’s leader and his generals on a watch list of human-rights violators, who could be held responsible for international crimes, there is no reason why Iran should be exempted from that, because they are doing exactly the same thing as we speak.

We believe that containing Iran’s aggression, containing and stopping also its nuclear program, is essential for the stability of the world and for the advancement of peace and democracy in our region and beyond our region. So I was very glad to hear your firm stance on the need to stop Iran and its nuclear program. I think this is important. I know that Chile will take an important role in this vital international struggle.

The other thing we discussed is the Palestinian-Israeli area, the attempts to achieve peace. I explained to President Piñera – and I think this point was made equally by the foreign minister – that we are prepared to sit down and negotiate peace. And the Palestinians have found a variety of excuses not to do so. 

But ultimately, as you have said, Mr. President, the way to achieve peace is to indeed sit down and negotiate; it cannot be imposed from the outside; and it must be done through the negotiations of the party. We stand ready to negotiate; we hope our Palestinian partners will respond in kind.

Again, it’s good to see you here in Jerusalem.  We talked about all the area of cooperation between us: solar energy, desalination, trade, investments, technology cooperation, and many other fields. We view you as a great friend.  We view the Chilean people with friendship and with admiration, and we hope to see you again in Jerusalem, and maybe to visit Santiago soon. Very good to see you.

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera: It’s a great honor and privilege to be the first Chilean President to visit Israel.

Let me tell you, Mr. Prime Minister, that your country and yourself have all also given very strong proof of courage and leadership, and we have learned a lot from that.

We have discussed with Prime Minister Netanyahu many areas where Israel and Chile can collaborate, and are very important areas for both countries. The challenge of energy: new kinds of energy, clean energy. Therefore we are looking forward to collaborating in terms of solar energy, wind energy and also to get water from the ocean by desalination of water, which will allow us to have our dessert blooming, as you’ve done in your own country.

Another area is agriculture where you have also been very innovative. Your technologies in that area will be very helpful. We also would like to collaborate in terms of investment and trade and we have talked about possibilities of starting negotiations for a free trade agreement and also a tax agreement in order to avoid double taxation.

There are so many other areas, like innovation, science, technology, where Israel has reached a very privileged position and therefore we are looking forward to undertake joint projects that will allow both countries to benefit from these efforts.

At the same time we also discussed with Prime Minister Netanyahu the Israeli-Palestinian situation.  Chile has just recognized the Palestinian state, because we have always thought that Israel has the right to live within secure borders, internationally recognized borders in peace, in order to be able to develop itself and increase the quality of life of its people.

But we also think that the Palestinian people have the right to have their own state, a free state, democratic state. That is why when we recognized the Palestinian state we made it very clear that the best way to reach a strong, secure, durable peace is by direct talks between the two countries. Because, if they reach an agreement, then peace will be built over rock and not over sand.

We are fully aware that there are many issues that will have to be addressed. Like the borders, security issues, refugees and many others. We are also very much aware that is has to be a secure peace in order to be a durable peace.

You know very well, Prime Minister Netanyahu, what are the key, long term interests of Israel and I won’t advise you on how to reach that peace process. The only advice I would like to give you, is that if you can reach that peace process in a secure way, don’t lose the opportunity.

Also we share our vision that the peace-loving countries of the world should not allow Iran to become a nuclear power, because that will be a big problem and danger and threat not only for the Middle East, but for the whole world. I think that the world should stand strong on this issue, with economic sanctions and without giving up any other option. 

And therefore, Mr. Prime Minister, I’m very happy because I think we will be able to strengthen our relationship in a very fertile way so we will put our forces together in all those areas: energy, agriculture, desalination of water, technology, innovation, entrepreneurship, in order to collaborate and be able to do what a Prime Minister and President are supposed to do, to work hard to improve the quality of life of our own people.

So I’m very happy with this visit to Israel and I look forward to strengthen our collaboration and I’m sure that we’ll do so and I hope that next time we’ll be able to receive you, Prime Minister Netanyahu, in my country. Thank you very much.

Question: [inaudible]

PM: Well, we’ve been calling for direct negotiations from day one of this government. On day one we called for direct negotiations. On day two, I made a speech in Bar Ilan University calling for two states for two peoples. On day three we removed about 400 checkpoints, earth barriers, and other things to facilitate the growth of the Palestinian economy. On day four, we agreed to a ten month moratorium on new construction in the settlements, something that no government did for 18 years before that. On day five we agreed to an extension of that moratorium by three months.

Unfortunately, everything that we did, these five things, were met with no response by the Palestinian Authority. They just placed preconditions and terms, every way to avoid sitting down and discussing peace. They tried to go around the peace negotiations. I’ll tell you why, because peace is hard. It’s been hard for me. It will be hard. You have to make concessions and you have to look at the people in the eye and tell them not everything that we’d hoped for would be possible; there have to be compromises on both sides. 

But whereas Israel and I have been willing to move on this road, I’ve not seen the parallel willingness to do the same. Because their relying on a Pavlovian reflex of the international community.  Basically they say, we don’t have to negotiate, we can sit back, we can teach our children to idolize mass killers – they named a public square in Ramallah ten minutes from here, for a terrorist who murdered 400 innocent Israelis. They can do that and get away with it.

Well, they can only get away with it if you let them get away with it.  If you tell them clearly, as I think Chile and a few other countries have said: No, come to negotiate, you can’t avoid a negation. Come and talk peace. Talk peace to your own people, not only to foreign diplomats or foreign journalists. Talk peace to the Palestinian people. 

Tell them they’ll have to give up the ghost.  Tell them Israel is here to stay. Tell them there’s going to be a Jewish state next to a Palestinian state forever. Tell them that Israel will not be swamped by the offspring of Palestinian refugees, because we accepted the offspring of Jewish refugees here, and we’ve made a life for them, you will make a life for them there. Tell them that there will be genuine demilitarization of the Palestinian area, so what we saw in Lebanon, where we walked out and Iran walked in doesn’t happen again. So what we saw in Gaza, when we walked out and Iran walked in, doesn’t happen again. So it doesn’t happen a third time.

A demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes a Jewish state – that is the solution. But we cannot get to the solution; we cannot get to the end of the negotiations if we don’t get to the beginning of the negotiation.

Israel is prepared to begin this negotiation.  Israel is prepared to end this negotiation. Therefore the question should be addressed not to me, not to the Prime Minister of Israel. It should be addressed squarely to the Palestinian President and to the Palestinian government. You have another opportunity. Next time you’re there, ask them this question.

Thank you very much.