Excerpts from remarks by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres
Jerusalem, June 25, 2001

… The problem between Israel and the Palestinians is that in between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, there are nine million people, on a small piece of land, all told 24,000 square kilometers – and if you would reduce the Negev, which is still empty, it’s 12,000 square kilometers on which you have nine million people, four million of them non-Jewish, Arabs, and five million Jews. We live in great density in a state of bitterness, of protest, of hatred, of incitement… As I see it, what we are suffering today is not a lack of confidence between our two peoples, but a disappearing of confidence in peace, which is more troubling. It is not that we don’t trust them and they don’t trust us; it is that the two parties became so tired of peace, to the point where some people say, "Peace is a mistake." Peace is not a mistake. War is a mistake.

War is waged between enemy states. But all those mistakes of war would never appear without the mistake of having a war. It is the father and the mother of all the mistakes… There is no easy military solution to the problem. I have heard over the radio, ‘take the things in your hands, stop the policy of restraint.’ We cannot do it overnight. I have to tell it to ourselves, I have to tell it to you.

There is a difference between war and terrorism. War is a confrontation on clear lines between identified parties. It has a beginning, it has an end, and you wind up with a victory or defeat, and most of the wars are basically short. The longest we had was the War of Independence, which took almost a year, but the fighting days were only 54. All other wars were less than a month.

Terrorism takes a long time. The first intifada lasted for seven years. We’ve forgotten this. We have had terror before Oslo – we’ve forgotten this – for a very long period of time. In England, the Irish terror has gone on for at least 30 years in an active manner, and hundreds if not thousands of people have lost their lives. We can see terror in Spain, with the Basques. We can see terror in Chechnya. And when young boys at the ages of 15 and 16 are being talked into committing suicide, it complicates life even more.

So don’t be taken in by all the stories which say, "Hit them, and things will be OK. We shall get rid of this or that leader, and it’s over." We have to answer to the relations between close to four million people who are Arabs, and five million people who are Jews. We are carrying the greatest tragedy on earth. They also feel a heavy tragedy, smaller in size, not comparable, but your own tragedy is always more painful to you than the tragedy of others. And maybe, with the closure, 40 percent unemployed, they feel that we purposely insult them, discriminate against them – which is not the case. We do it in order to achieve security. But our explanation is not to their satisfaction, and we must think more deeply and more seriously.

On the other hand, I want to say also that peace is not an easy proposition – we shall make some declarations, we shall sign some papers, and things will be over. Peace, as war, is an extremely painful process, with disappointments, with compromises, with internal splits. When I watched the polls in Israel, the most important thing I learned was that the people of Israel, the majority of them, would like to see a government of the right with a policy of the left. Because people would like to have security and peace at the same time. They are ready to pay a high price for peace. They are ready to hang high hopes on security. But those are two difficult ways, and if somebody says, "there is an easy way to sign", I would say he is a false messiah. There is no easy way to sign. It’s difficult.

I know it’s not simple for the Palestinians, either. They can say, "We don’t have a state", which is true. Actually, we gave them autonomy, but we can close their economy whenever we want.

The difference between democracy and non-democratic systems is that in democracy we have a discipline over the rifles and the freedom to sign words. In a non-democratic country, some of them, you have the discipline of the words, and the freedom of the rifles. Everybody is shooting separately. And even when you negotiate a cease-fire with Arafat, there is the Hamas, and the there is the Jihad, and there is the Hizbullah. The Hizbullah is taking orders from the Iranians, and the Iranians are trying very hard to establish themselves in Lebanon and in Gaza with the purpose of hurting, and, if possible, killing the State of Israel.

We need a great deal of truth, understanding, and patience to achieve it. I personally believe that maybe the greatest hope to resolve our conflict lies not necessarily in the political domain, but rather in the economic domain.

I see what happened to Europe. Europe was in bad shape, in conflict and hatred, for hundreds of years… But if, for example, in the year 1944, one year before the end of the Second World War, somebody had stood up and said, "Friends, in three years time you will see a different Europe," everybody would have burst out laughing. And look what happened. After rivers of blood, all of a sudden Europe stopped bleeding, and it was done not by great military people, but by people of great vision in the economic dimension. Jean Monet contributed more to the future of Europe than Napoleon has contributed to its legacy.

Cemeteries of glory are less important than windows of opportunity. Like in Europe, where we have learned that by entering a new age, where science compensates for man, when human rapport is not depended upon the sea or the land, but is being done in the air, by satellite, Internet, computers; where instead of transportation we have communication, and the air is free of history, free of geography, free of borders, free of nationalities, free of prejudices – maybe there we can establish a new Middle East relationship.

I think also that not only can the economy help a great deal, but also the modern economy. It is there where the greatest potential lies. I believe that none of us sitting here, mainly Jewish, would like to see any Arabs suffer. We do not want them to suffer. I’m sure that none of us sitting here would like us to be masters of their lives. We did not leave a house of slavery in Egypt to build a house a masters of Israel. It goes against everything. And in a strange way, the better they will have it, we shall have better neighbors. And better neighbors are better than better guns. They carry a greater future.

As it stands today, we have a plan, which, I believe, unites most of our people. It’s called the Mitchell Plan. It’s a plan that was composed by five personalities from Europe and America. It’s actually a European-American product. It won’t disappoint most of the world. It was accepted by the Palestinians, it was accepted by us. It has a sequence that should be followed: cease-fire, cooling-off period, confidence-building measures, and finally, negotiations for a permanent solution.

It has four stations. The station of birth is the most difficult one. I think we have agreed more or less that the duration of the cooling-off period should be six weeks, but we couldn’t agree when the first day of these six weeks will be. According to the Mitchell Report, the Palestinians have to show that they have made a 100% effort to stop the violence. We rightly insist that there must be 100% results, but even taking the American version of the Mitchell language, of 100% effort, we feel that Arafat did not complete the 100% effort.

We insist on three things: that his orders to his own troops will enjoy clarity and not ambiguity; that the calm and order will be complete for a cease-fire. We want there to be a real attempt to reduce incitement. There is a reduction, but we need you to say to Arafat: Let’s also see the full picture.

Undoubtedly there has been a reduction in fire – violence went down by 60 percent in the West Bank and maybe by 35% in Gaza. I am a modest person – for me, an imperfect cease-fire is better than an imperfect intifada. And even if it’s in the gray domain, let’s try to make it white and not paint it black, all of us. And the third point is to put in prison people who are carrying bombs.

This time, we were lucky to enjoy the harmonization of the international community. The United States, Europe, Russia, Japan, are speaking in one language. It is not for or against the Palestinians; it is against terror, it is for peace. And we don’t ask anybody to join us in our struggle against the Palestinians. But we ask everybody to create a situation where negotiations will again become possible. It is either shooting or talking. We cannot have both. You cannot make a cocktail where you put fire and water in the same place. It’s either or.

We also have our part. The cease-fire consists of four different moves: the cessation of violence, the cessation of incitement, the redeployment of our forces to the lines which existed before the intifada, and the improvement of the conditions in the territories. We are willing to play our part. Actually, we started our redeployment after the Tenet Report was published, and we intend to fulfill the agreement to the dot, in letter and spirit.