Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom
at the Fourth Herzliya Conference on
The Balance of Israel’s National Security
December 17, 2003
(Translated from Hebrew)
My friend Joschka Fischer, Foreign Minister of Germany, Conference organizers, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank the organizers of the Herzliya Conference for the invitation to address you here today.
The theme of this Conference session is "The Balance of Israel’s National Security." Out of a variety of realms that should be incorporated into this concept, I have naturally chosen to focus on those issues with which I deal on a daily basis as Foreign Minister.
This week, the world shook following the capture of Saddam Hussein. For the nine months that followed the end of the War in Iraq until the capture of Saddam Hussein, US President George Bush suffered a barrage of criticism from all quarters. Even as this criticism intensified, the President persevered with fortitude and patience, and his accomplishment has brought reward for the Iraqi people and the entire world. The belief in the justice of the cause has triumphed.
Fortitude, perseverance and patience – the guiding principles of President Bush – are rare commodities in our region today. One sometimes asks if these commodities even exist in the Middle East.
If I were to use medical terminology, I would say that the political debate in Israel has been afflicted in recent months by a severe and worrisome "shortage of breath." Is it bronchitis or asthma? You decide. It is clear to me that the ability to take a "long deep breath" has become a scarce political commodityimmediacy has pushed aside stability; tactics have pushed aside strategy and the attempt to produce magic solutions has overshadowed far-sightedness. In other words, instant gratification is "IN", while patience, perseverance and fortitude are "OUT". The "spin" is what really counts.
It is easy to understand why this is happening. In light of what Israeli citizens describe as the "situation," it is only natural that "miracle workers" should emerge with formulas for instant salvation.
In this context, in the last year, we have seen a multitude of plans and initiatives whose creators swear by them in the same way that a magician swears by a magic potion granting immortality. Some plans are named after their creators, while other plans have been named after coveted destinations overseas: Multilateral programs, bilateral programs and the latest hit – the unilateral enchantment. This is a strange bazaar of peace plans – you have only to reach out your hand – and it appears that the solution is within reach. But only apparently.
It gives me little pleasure to be perceived as a nay-sayer. Nevertheless, this hodgepodge of initiatives conflicts dangerously with a number of fundamental principles that have guided all Israeli Government statesmen throughout the generations:
The first principle has always been our aspiration as Israelis to live in peace and security. No proof is needed for this. There is an axiom that, if questioned, undermines the entire dialogue. We have always known that in order to seek peace and security, it is necessary to be consistent, patient and united. There can be no shortcuts or agreements at any price. We must not pass over stages, or waive their implementation.
At the strategic level, we have always aspired to reach agreements with our neighbors. We demonstrated this in the peace agreements we signed with Egypt and Jordan. Nevertheless, we always placed an emphasis, as an additional strategic element, on the establishment of a close network of ties and trust with our ally the United States, which supported us during the achievement of these agreements. Yet, we’ve done so without losing our ability to disagree when we’ve had differences of opinion.
Aside from these fundamental principles, we have always focused on the preservation of our strength and our military capability. Along with our necessary reliance on the IDF’s military preeminence and our deterrent power, it is important to reiterate another basic truth: in order to lead the country and pursue peace and security with our neighbors, we must act with fortitude, perseverance and patience in a united front. We must have the courage to reject easy ‘magical’ solutions, even if they are popular.
The various plans that have been presented to date undermine these principles. They indicate a lack of fortitude, despair rather than hope, weakness and a dangerous tendency to play chess with ourselves, as well as impatience and an absence of perseverance. These plans play into the hands of our adversaries who interpret them as weakness, as an erosion of our positions and as an inability to defend them. As a result, our adversaries are in no hurry to return to the negotiating table. Why should they if we volunteer additional concessions every Monday and Thursday? Why rush back to the negotiating table if it is possible to wait for the next plan that may improve their negotiating position at our expense, while nothing is expected from them in return?
The shortness of breath I referred to before leads to shortsightedness and political blindness. It appears as if we are conducting a monologue with ourselves. Every week, there is a new plan. Each time, it contains more and more concessions, without any dialogue with the Palestinians. These concessions have turned our final positions in the negotiations into starting offers. Those who spoke about Abu Dis three years ago as the Palestinian capital, now speak of Jerusalem as the capital. What will be next? Jaffa? Maybe Haifa? Enough!
If this is the case, does this mean that we must give up on our aspiration for peace? Does a plan exist for achieving peace? Indeed, there is a plan for achieving peace and terminating the conflict. It is recognized here and around the world. Let us focus upon it. It exists. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. We only need to travel in accordance with the map – the Roadmap.
The Israeli Government, on behalf of the public, has committed itself to peace and security, through the Roadmap. We will ultimately reach the desired goal of peace, only after arduous negotiations with the other side. During these negotiations, we will have to unite around the fundamental principles that enjoy national consensus.
As its name suggests, the Roadmap guides us on our journey towards the objectives of peace and security, while providing milestones to assist us along the way. Every good navigator knows that attempting a shortcut while ignoring the map’s landscape can lead to confusion and loss of direction.
Is this really the formula we want? Of course not. The Roadmap is an old formula. There are no innovative elements. It belongs to yesterday’s men – not the men of tomorrow. It has been six full months since the Government of Israel adopted the Roadmap – a ridiculous amount of time, according to some.
It is absurd that against the backdrop of all these plans that are presented to us night and day, the Roadmap has been transformed from a document that was accepted after considerable difficulties and dilemmas into a symbol of right-wing political discourse. I ask myself how and why this has happened?
How is it that we are already changing direction? They have never given the Roadmap a chance up until now. Six months in all. Why this impatience? They do not understand this abroad. I just returned yesterday from an official trip overseas, during the course of which I met with the Egyptian President, US Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Collin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, Palestinian Ministers, the Pope and others. I heard them express their full support for the Roadmap and their misgivings regarding unilateral measures.
I am opposed to unilateral measures, which carry political significance. I do not object to them simply because the United States and most of the international community opposes them. I object to unilateral measures because they constitute a prize for terrorism, while undermining our ability to conduct negotiations for a future agreement. They will not advance our objectives, and will not promote a sense of commitment on the part of the Palestinians.
The advantage of the Roadmap lies in its combination of the aspiration for peace and the safeguarding of security needs. Peace and security are intertwined. Those who focus exclusively on only one of the elements – either peace or security – are committing a fundamental mistake. Every family in Israel yearns for peace, but we cannot abandon our security – a vital interest of Israel. It may be a Sisyphean task to adopt a resolute stance on this issue, but there can be no shortcuts. It requires fortitude, perseverance and patience.
In the final analysis, every Israeli citizen longs for peace. We must not succumb to despair. It is necessary to show the world that we are persistent, determined and patient on our journey towards peace, and we will not allow the difficulties of the moment to divert us from our path.
I view myself as an emissary of the Israeli public, in the mission to achieve these objectives of peace and security for each and every one of us. When I speak of patience, I do not intend to stand around and do nothing. We must stand firmly by our principles and values, even if progress is slow and arduous.
In my opinion, the Roadmap is the only operative plan. It has received the support of the Bush Administration, and has received widespread international support and legitimacy. We must adhere to the Roadmap and promote it, in coordination with our American friends, while ensuring that it is implemented in full.
Our special relationship with the United States is also a strategic asset that must not be harmed. Aside from the political and defense assistance that we have received, we must not forget the economic support. Every year, the United States provides Israel with extensive economic assistance. In the past year, this assistance has been particularly significant. The guarantees that I requested a year and a half ago from the United States, and which were subsequently granted, are crucial to the preservation of our current economic stability. Without these guarantees, our economy today would be on the brink of collapse.
There is no doubt that Europe is also very important. Upon assuming the position of Foreign Minister, I stated that I did not accept the widespread notion that Israel could live without Europe, and that Europe could live without Israel. Since then, I have been working to promote relations with Europe, and we have seen positive developments, such as the signing of the Sixth Research and Development Agreement, the inclusion of the Hamas on the European list of terror organizations, the opening of the dialogue for the incorporation of Israel into the ‘Wider Europe’ program, and there have been other developments as well.
On May 1, 2004, the European Union will become an enormous power with 430 million citizens, no borders, a common currency and an economy above $9 trillion, close to that of the United States whose economy is above $10 trillion. Israel’s relations with Europe must be based upon trust and cooperation. More than once, I have told my friends in Europe that if they want to become actively involved in negotiations, they must adopt a more balanced approach towards the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
In implementing the Roadmap, we adamantly and uncompromisingly insist that the Palestinian Authority put an end to the brutal onslaught of terrorism against Israeli citizens. We will not be misled by simplistic slogans such as "ceasefire." Painfully, we still remember the previous round, when the temporary and deceptive calm enabled the forces of darkness to prepare for a new wave of terrorism. Therefore, a ceasefire in the present circumstances must not be taken as an end in itself, but only as a first step towards the dismantling of terrorist infrastructure. As I have stated, on this issue, as with others, there can be no shortcuts.
The equation is simple. Reciprocity must exist – as long as the Palestinians ease conditions for the Israeli population by preventing and uprooting terrorism, Israel will be able to ease conditions for the Palestinian population. As long as the security situation allows, Israel will pull out of Palestinian towns and other areas where there is no security threat. In addition, Israel will remove roadblocks and will issue entry permits for employment within Israel, in keeping with security considerations. Furthermore, Israel will carry out its commitments, and will remove all unauthorized outposts.
Alongside the tenacious fight against the terrorist infrastructure, we must not abandon the ongoing effort to build the foundations for peace between Israel and the Palestinians and between Israel and the entire Arab world.
We have nothing against the Palestinian people – a people that is trying to get on with its life in the difficult circumstances that have been forced upon it by a Palestinian leadership that is unwilling to fight terrorism. We wish to live alongside the Palestinian people in mutual peace and security. Together with our uncompromising stand in war against terrorism, we are interested in establishing a positive agenda for diverse cooperation projects in coordination with the Palestinians and the Donor countries.
Exactly one week ago in Rome, I participated in a conference of the Donor Countries. At the conference, I presented a series of measures that were designed to ease the living conditions of the Palestinian population, ranging from short-term steps such as the removal of roadblocks and the granting of work permits, to medium-term and long-term measures such as the establishment of industrial parks, along the lines of the successful Erez model which is adjacent to Gaza. A "Positive Agenda" of this kind will raise the motivation of the Palestinians to advance in the process. I also called for the continuation of Donor activity, as the "fatigue" of the Donor countries may result in the termination of their contributions to the Palestinian Authority, with the burden then falling upon us.
During my many meetings with Arab leaders, such as King Abdullah of Jordan, President Mubarak of Egypt, King Hassan VI of Morocco, the Crown Prince of Bahrain and a number of other Foreign Ministers, I listened to their assessments and perceptions regarding the future of the Middle East. It is interesting to note that on many occasions, the gaps between their perceptions and our perspectives are not as wide one would think. In discrete meetings, involving only a few participants, the artificial barriers fall away and the damaging rhetoric that afflicts us in international forums also disappears.
In the same way that European states have managed to overcome generations of conflict and war, and to build genuine partnership for the benefit of their citizens, I believe it is also possible to overcome our differences in the Middle East, and to build peace.
Israel does not have any quarrel with the North African and Gulf States. We have no border disputes or economic disputes. I am convinced that if we work together, we will be able to build a courageous partnership that will contribute to the stability and prosperity of the entire region.
In my contacts with Arab leaders, I am not only there to listen. On numerous occasions, I have told my colleagues that there is an urgent need to establish normalization and to put an end to the incitement against us in the political arena, in the education systems and in the media, and to establish a calmer and more rational climate in the region. The establishment of normalization between Israel and the Arab world is a necessary condition for regional stability. I have tried to promote these messages as part of a patient ongoing dialogue. Next week, the Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher will arrive in Israel, in an attempt to improve ties between the two countries.
The Arab-Muslim world has never been homogenous, and today it is even less so. September 11th was clearly a watershed. The deck has been reshuffled, and myths have collapsed. In the face of dictators who have encouraged terrorism, other leaders have understood that they are liable themselves to become the victims of terror, if they do not fight against this phenomenon.
These leaders are the potential partners of the free world, led by the United States, in the eradication of the threat of terrorism and the introduction of a new, democratic spirit to a region that has never known democracy. The capture of Saddam Hussein is a significant milestone in this campaign, and the United States must be congratulated for its great contribution, fortitude and perseverance, in an effort that will ultimately be beneficial to all the peoples of the region. Israel extends its steadfast support for this effort.
There is growing awareness in the free world regarding the dangers of terrorism, but there is still a long way to go. Although the Hamas has been included on the EU list of terrorist organizations – and I wish to express my appreciation for this measure in the presence of the Foreign Minister of Germany – not enough has been done to implement this measure in practice, and to eliminate the sources of funding that sustain the Hamas organization. There are still many who try to win the hearts of the Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and the Hizbullah, in the belief that this will enable them to moderate their ambitions. I suggest that we take a more sober approach – the terror of the early twenty-first century is unconnected to local motives – it is a dangerous international ideology that targets the values of the entire free world. The free world must unite and conduct an uncompromising war against the terrorist organizations, the states that support them and all those who assist them.
Therefore, I believe that instead of pursuing this or that unilateral plan, Israel must continue to promote the peace plan, namely – the Roadmap, with fortitude, perseverance, patience and a united front. At the same time, it must implement the positive agenda, easing conditions for the Palestinian population.
Nevertheless, I am not nave. To date, the Palestinians have not carried out their commitments. In spite of ten years of promises, they have yet to show a true willingness to fight terrorism. In addition, they have yet to give up on their claim of return. I will reiterate what has been stated many times in the past – the slogan "claim of return" is a codename for the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.
It is true that we have seen that the new PA Government headed by Abu Ala appears ready to conduct a dialogue, yet, there are also discouraging signs. The Government does not control the security apparatus, nor does it show any intention of doing so. It is riddled with cronies of Arafat, and there are discernible signs of backtracking on the issue of security, financial and political reforms. Nevertheless, Israel has taken it upon itself to do its utmost to exhaust the peace process, in accordance with the Roadmap. It is my fervent hope that the Palestinian Government will implement reforms and progress in accordance with the agreed-upon framework.
At the same time, we must also put forward other options. I believe it is possible to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, although a necessary condition for this would be to restart negotiations, in which progress is achieved. In the event that Israel discovers that there is no possibility of negotiation at this stage or in the near future, Israel must continue itself to do everything it can to maintain its security and to protect its citizens.
We must accelerate the building of the security fence, the only sure method of providing security for the country’s citizens, and we must allocate all the necessary resources for this purpose. The building of the fence is purely for defensive security reasons, and it is not political. It is designed to protect Israeli citizens from suicide bombings.
In the last three years, we suffered 19,000 terrorist attacks. Less than 1 percent of these attacks were suicide bombings, but the suicide bombings accounted for more than 50 per cent of the casualties. The security fence provides a security response to this threat, and the facts speak for themselves:
In the area of the fence that has already been built between Hadera and Afula, the number of victims from suicide bombings has dropped drastically from 58 a year ago, to three, this year.
November 2003 has been the quietest month, in terms of terrorist fatalities, since the present crisis erupted three years ago. This, despite the fact that ten roadblocks were removed in the course of this month. Only two weeks ago, a horrific terrorist attack on a school in the northern town of Yokneam, was prevented owing to the northern section of the fence, which forced the terrorists to travel southwards, providing sufficient time to foil the attack. This would have been an appalling terrorist attack on a strategic scale, which could have created an unbearable situation between Israel and the Palestinians.
The fence is reversible, but death is irreversible. All critics of the fence should recognize this fact. Israel has already proved, through its peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, and through its withdrawals from Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan that it can move a fence when this is required. Despite the international criticism on this issue, I will state unequivocally that as long as the Palestinians do not take measures to prevent terrorist attacks and to make progress in the diplomatic process, it is incumbent upon Israel to continue to act on its own behalf, to build the fence and to provide an appropriate security response to the suicide bombers.
The fence is the only way to ensure the continuation of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Surprising? Not so! This Government has already stated on numerous occasions that it will not conduct two processes simultaneously – it will not conduct funerals and face terrorism by day, and conduct negotiations by night. Ending terrorism is the only way to assure a negotiating process and an eventual agreement between the parties.
In the event of failure on the Palestinian track, along with completing the fence, we must try and do our utmost to pursue progress on the Syrian track. Two weeks ago, in an interview with the New York Times, Bashar Al-Assad announced his readiness to return to the negotiating table with Israel. There are those who believe that his announcement was a result of coercion connected to the Syrian Accountability Law, which was designed to apply pressure on a Syrian Government that provides active support for terrorism. There is a high probability that this is an accurate assessment. Nevertheless, every positive declaration in favor of peace is to be welcomed. We must not reject the hand that is extended in peace, even if it is not extended for the right reasons. Syria must return to the negotiating table without preconditions, and without being actively supportive of terrorism. During these negotiations, we will raise the issue of terrorism as the first item on the negotiations agenda.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In four days time, we will light the first candle of the Chanukah Festival. The story of Chanukah, like so many other fundamental historic events in Jewish tradition, is a classic story of the belief in the justice of one’s cause, along with the hope, fortitude and perseverance that accompanies such a belief. The devotion to our values and our path will assist us to overcome the difficulties, and enable us to see the light.
Standing with a stopwatch in hand, and our addiction to deceptive magical solutions, endangers Israel’s future. I invite every Israeli who yearns for peace to join me, and to adopt a responsible and sober approach, with fortitude and perseverance. We must be strong, united and patient. Together, we must reject the instant quick fixes, in favor of a long-term vision of the future that we aspire to provide for our children.
Thank you very much.