While stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program is by far the most vital national security challenge we face, the unprecedented instability afflicting the entire region poses an enormous challenge for our common security as well. Violence and fanaticism are spreading throughout the Middle East.
(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)
Following is an excerpt from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recorded remarks (Sunday, 7 December 2014) to the 11th Annual Saban Forum in Washington, DC:
The prestigious Saban Forum discusses so many of the important issues facing America and Israel today. And of these, none is more important to our common security than Iran’s ongoing pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The November 24th deadline for an agreement has come and gone. That’s fortunate because a deal was not signed last month that would have effectively left Iran as a threshold nuclear power. And even though Israel isn’t part of the P5+1, our voice and our concerns played a critical role in preventing a bad deal. Now we must use the time available to increase the pressure on Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons capability.
While stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program is by far the most vital national security challenge we face, the unprecedented instability afflicting the entire region poses an enormous challenge for our common security as well. Where once seemingly coherent nations and clearly defined borders stood, we now see chaos – in Iraq, in Syria, in Libya, in Yemen and Lebanon.
The entire region is hemorrhaging. Violence and fanaticism are spreading throughout the Middle East, and ISIS’s savagery is merely one example of it. The collapse of the old order has made clear to pragmatic Arab governments that Israel is not their enemy. On the contrary, Israel and our moderate Arab neighbors have much to gain by cooperating. And this cooperation could, in turn, open the door to peace…
… Like the moderate Arabs, I want Israel to have peace with the Palestinians: a genuine peace, an enduring peace, a secure peace. I stress the word secure because for years I demanded that any peace agreement be founded upon robust security arrangements. That was always understood by Israelis, but I hope, I sincerely hope that it’s now better understood internationally for there can be no peace without real security and there can be no real security without a long-term IDF presence to provide it.
For nine months we negotiated with the Palestinians, but they consistently refused to engage us on our legitimate security concerns, just as they refused to discuss recognizing Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, while at the same time insisting that Israel recognize a nation-state of the Palestinian people.
The talks didn’t end because Israel announced that it would build apartments in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem – neighborhoods that will remain a part of Israel under any conceivable peace agreement.
The talks ended because the Palestinians wanted them to end. The talks ended because President Abbas unfortunately chose a pact with Hamas over peace with Israel.
Unfortunately, the Palestinian leadership is simply not prepared, and I hope this changes, but it’s not yet prepared to truly confront violence and fanaticism within Palestinian society, within their own ranks. The jihadist murderers in the tragic attack on the Har Nof synagogue were not focused on how many apartments Jews were building in Jerusalem. They were focused on killing Jews. After Secretary Kerry spoke with him, President Abbas condemned the Har Nof murderers, but still blamed Israel for their heinous actions. And Abbas remains in a political pact with those who celebrated the murder of the rabbis, three of whom were also American citizens.
Regrettably, the Palestinian leadership not only refuses to confront that extremism, at times, it even fuels it. It engages in incitement day in and day out. Just look at their webpages. Look at their websites – it’ll make your hair stand on end. And I think it’s important to confront this. I don’t think sticking our head in the sand promotes real peace and I don’t believe that false hopes promote real peace. I think they just push peace further away.
Real peace will only come with leadership that demands from the Palestinians to accept the three pillars of peace: one, genuine mutual recognition; two, an end to all claims, including the right of return; and three, a long-term Israeli security presence. Now, I will never give up on this triangle of true peace.
Israel seeks peace. I seek peace, but for peace we need a Palestinian partner willing to stand up to Palestinian extremists – as other Arab governments are now doing throughout the region. I hope that we will find such a partner – a partner who will recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, who will take our security concerns seriously, who will end all claims…
…Last week, we celebrated the 67th anniversary of the United Nations’ call for the establishment of the Jewish state. Today, we are proud that the Jewish people have achieved our national self-determination in a genuinely democratic state, one that guarantees equal rights for all its citizens, regardless of race, religion or sex – as promised in our Declaration of Independence. And this will not change. In standing up for Israel’s identity as the nation-state of the Jewish people, I will never agree to legislation that undermines Israel’s democratic character. Not now, not ever…
…The great bond between Israel and America is anchored in our shared democratic values and our friendship was demonstrated again over the summer when President Obama and the Congress provided Israel with that additional funding for Iron Dome, which has saved so many lives. And that friendship was demonstrated yet again last week when an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the House followed the Senate in approving the US-Israel Strategic Partnership Act. I thank our many friends from both parties in the House and the Senate who – like me -are committed to strengthening even further the US-Israel alliance.