ADDRESS BY FOREIGN MINISTER SHIMON PERES TO THE KNESSET

May 11, 1993

Mr. Speaker, Esteemed Knesset:

We are living in a world that has changed. The bipolar balance of terror has collapsed, and its place has not yet been filled by another international structure. We are moving towards a world in which there are processes of economic unification and political confrontation. And even with these confrontations, it is a world with fewer identified enemies and more unidentified problems. These changes present our foreign policy with new challenges, challenges of a world that has changed on a map that has expanded.

Today, Israel’s diplomatic globe is beginning to correspond to the geographic globe of our world, both in scope and in atmosphere. Israel now has diplomatic relations with 124 countries, and diplomatic missions in 94 of them. Incidentally, the entire Foreign Ministry staff in Israel and abroad is no more than 900 persons, thus we need not be overly impressed by the number of missions.

Our special relationship with the United States continues to be a mainstay of our foreign policy. This relationship has been enriched by a joint effort and an ongoing dialogue to further the peace process. Relations with the countries of Europe have been strengthened, and our tie with the European Community has been deepened. New horizons have appeared in Asia and the CIS. At the same time, we continue to foster our good relations with Latin America and African countries.

Now that the Cold War has ended, the Israeli-Arab conflict is no longer held in the vise of the inter-bloc struggle; countries in the region can no longer depend on the automatic support of one of the blocs, nor on its money, weapons, or political assistance.

The peace process today reflects the need of all countries in the region to rely increasingly on their own potential and to struggle with the real, existential problems of each respective country.

Changes have also occurred in foreign relations: pure diplomacy is being ecliplsed by economic, scientific and cultural relations. Credit lines, bilateral research and development agreements, integration into economic regions and trade blocs these are the components of world power today, which is not dependent on the size of armies, and not even on diplomatic alliances. It is more a geoeconomic world than a geopolitical one.

The world has not only contracted, it has also opened up. The messages of the new world reverberate on the airwaves and are picked up clearly on television sets. And even tyrannical governments can no longer conceal the truth from their citizens. The world hungers for bread and thirsts for truth. Even the most truculent of Arab leaders know today that saber-rattling will not put breakfast on the table of a young, growing population that increasingly expects concrete answers. It is becoming even more understood that poverty is a breeding ground for religious fundamentalism, and that deprivation is the sire of political revolt. Among our neighbours, the recognition is spreading that Israel is no long their real enemy, and is not even a country that may be described as such. The real threat that many governments in the area face is a home-made threat, not an imported one.

Arab participation in the peace process is an inevitable conclusion that one draws in view of this changed world. The true challenges of the region are the establishment of a new economic order, a solution to the water problems, curbing the arms race, saving the environment, and solving the refugee problem. These challenges cannot be met without regional cooperation, without the understanding that the time has come to turn the Middle East from an area that belonged to its rulers to one that will respond to the needs of the ordinary common man.

In the framework of the bilateral negotiations, past conflicts are being discussed: borders, territories, powers. On our part, we desire to create a respectful relationship with our Palestinian neighbours; so while they live according to their own way of life, we ensure the security of our citizens, as we should and must. There is no need for them to be our laborers, and for us to be their policemen.

In the framework of the multilateral negotiations, we are working to lay the foundations for the establishment of a new Middle East, a Middle East based on economic cooperation and regional security. In the working group on regional economic development, which met last week in Rome, it was decided that the World Bank will prepare a list of proposals for regional projects, from the linking of electricity grids of the countries in the region by the way, they calculated that if the electricity grids of Jordan, Egypt and Israel were linked, we could save those countries $6 billion to the planning of the infrastructure of future transportation. The potential is vast; no wonder it is beginning to fire the imaginations of our interlocutors. It was also decided to hold informal meetings between the official meetings of the working group, in order to broaden the group’s conceptual base and expedite its work.

Alongside Israel, representatives of twelve Arab countries are participating in the multilateral talks: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, Yeman, Qatar, and of course, our Palestinian neighbours, and thirty countries from all over the world. This is a highly-integrated and far-reaching political, economic, and planning endeavour, almost unprecedented.

We should not take this lightly. Israel has been provided a real opening for peace and regional cooperation, and we are determined not miss this opportunity. Both we and our neighbours must become accustomed to a new way of thinking; that not of a shattered, anachronistic, backward, and bellicose Middle East, but rather of a Middle East that adapts itself to a new world rhythm, a Middle East that acts according to the inevitable rules of the new era.

From the historical perspective, Mr. Speaker, diplomacy was once regarded as one of the most conservative occupations. Yet the diplomatic apparatus is now required to show its ability to adapt to an international environment that is still in flux. We can no longer build only on past experience, but must adapt ourselves to that which is new in our world. We can no longer build our case on verbal self-defense; we need real architecture.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is aware of this reality and is adjusting its ranks, structure, and goals accordingly. We will of course place the peace process at the focus of our activities, and will work to improve the Ministry’s ability to further this goal through research, planning, and international ties. Simultaneous with the promotion of peace, and as an integral part of this effort, we shall place an increased emphasis on expanding the Ministry’s economic, scientific, and cultural activities. Trade, science, tourism, cultural, and modern mass communications agreements all of these are central components in the interrelations between countries, and their impact on foreign relations has never been greater. It is our intention to increase our ability to assist the Israeli economy, Israeli companies, and Israeli entrepreneurs, in expanding markets, promoting investments, and locating worthwhile business opportinities. We shall make an effort to recruit and train the best of those who wish to join our ranks. If in the past the Israeli diplomat came across as an explainer of his country, today he must be a promoter of his country’s economy. He must be a full partner in the shaping of a new region and of the establishment of new spheres.

We are presently carrying out, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a comprehensive, organizational reform, meant to adapt the Ministry’s structure and its training programs to these needs. We know that our success in this mission depends, in the final analysis, on the Ministry’s employees themselves and the foreign service is indeed blessed with professional, erudite and experienced staff who work under difficult and demanding conditions. We are determined to further the professional status of our staff members, while emphasizing the welfare of their families, who bear no small share of the hardships that arise in a way of life that requires much mobility. I am convinced that through cooperative efforts the senior executives and the employees we shall succeed in the tasks that await us.