As I am every year, I am very pleased to be here this evening to greet you on the occasion of your important event. As you know, I attach great importance to the Hi-Tech industry in Israel, both for its economic value and because of the values of achievement and excellence that it symbolizes for Israel’s young generation.
Many changes have taken place in Israel since your last conference a year ago. Last year when we met here, we were in the final stages of approving the Roadmap in the Government.
We believed then that the Palestinians would realize their commitments outlined in the Roadmap ; first and foremost, that they would fight terror, thus allowing us to pave the path to security and peace together.
I must admit that in the first few months after accepting the Roadmap, we still felt a certain optimism that this would indeed happen. We hoped that the Palestinians would implement the essential reforms needed to create a proper government. We hoped they would fight terror and dismantle its infrastructure ; something which is so clear and obvious to every normal society on earth. We hoped they would confiscate illegal weapons, cut off the sources of funding, arrest the terrorists and their dispatchers and stop the raging incitement ; incitement which at times borders on a call for genocide.
Regrettably, as time went on, it became clear to us that the strength of those who support terrorism among the Palestinian leadership was growing. This became clear to us from the repeated attempts by supporters of terrorism, headed by Yassir Arafat, to sabotage Abbas; Government. It was especially evident following the fall of Abbas; Government, from the powerlessness which we witness every day, of Qurei’s Government and of the current Palestinian leadership. It seems that in the near future a serious Palestinian leadership will not rise, which has both the will and the ability to fight terror and lead its people to peace. This is a tragic fact for us in Israel, for the countries in the region, and especially for the Palestinians who pay a heavy price for the terror they create.
The realization that we currently have no Palestinian partner for negotiation, to sign an agreement with, and especially to implement agreements if signed, is the source of the change Israel has undergone recently. This situation is a fundamental change from the basic assumption the governments of Israel had in recent years, and it obligates a completely different Israeli preparedness. In other words, Israel must act alone.
Even the United States, which was involved in the negotiation on the Roadmap, recognizes that only the Palestinian Authority, in its failures, is responsible for the impasse which was created, and agrees that Israel must indeed act alone.
What are the possibilities Israel has if it chooses to act alone?
I believe there are four main possibilities:
The first possibility is to destroy the Palestinian Authority. In other words, de facto annexation, full Israeli deployment in all Palestinian towns and, in fact, Israeli administration of all areas of Palestinian life. I strongly object to this possibility. Israel has no interest in taking responsibility for and ruling over the Palestinians; lives. I do not think we should allocate billions of shekels from our budget at this time to improve the Palestinians; education, welfare and sewage.
The second option is withdrawing from all of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip in return for vague promises, as the radical left suggested in Geneva, to the great joy of Arafat and his cronies. I think it is unnecessary to even touch upon this possibility, which would also be a disaster for Israel in terms of security as well as practically impossible to implement.
There are of course many who would advise me to choose the third option, the option of the status quo; to just do nothing. It must be recognized that in terms of internal politics, this possibility is very attractive. You stay put, you have a stable coalition and the support of the parties on the right. There is no need to face the disagreements of your own party. This would undoubtedly be an ideal political situation. The problem is that the Israeli public did not elect me Prime Minister to warm a chair for four years. In every other way; politically, in terms of security and economically, the status quo is extremely dangerous to Israel.
A deadlock cannot last forever. The world will not allow the impasse to continue. A dead end will, sooner or later, bring about political initiatives which are dangerous to Israel. It is not coincidental that there was a flurry of such initiatives immediately following the fall of Abbas; Government. There are people in the world, regrettably also in Israel, who do not understand the essential political and security interests of Israel. As far as they are concerned, the Israeli demand, embraced by the Roadmap, of an effective Palestinian fight against terror as a pre-condition for political negotiation, is unacceptable. They believe we should first withdraw from all the territories, and then, simply by force of a written agreement, the Palestinians will stop the terror. These people, who garner a wide range of support around the world, primarily in Europe, will not stop pressuring Israel to abandon its demand that the Palestinians fight terror. Since the Palestinians are doing nothing, the pressure is focused on us. It is easier to pressure a westernized democratic country like Israel.
So far, we have been successful in putting off such initiatives, mainly due to the support of our friends around the world, headed by the United States, which holds the Palestinian Authority responsible for the situation. However, no one can guarantee that this will continue in a situation of deadlock. In the end, every country has its own interests.
I remind you that in the background of all of the aforementioned, Palestinian terror continues, which obligates Israel to carry out security activities. These activities are not a pleasant sight. Every day around the world, pictures are transmitted of people standing at Israeli roadblocks, of Israeli soldiers in the streets of Palestinian towns and there are horror stories of alleged Israeli abuse of Palestinians.
Today, 1.8 million Palestinians are supported by the donor states and international aid offices. The donor states and international aid organizations recently announced that ongoing political deadlock, limited movement and the friction between Israelis and Palestinians will not allow them to continue providing funds to the Palestinian population. This situation will lead to a humanitarian collapse, and an accusatory finger will be pointed at Israel. Is there anyone here who believes that it is good for Israel to permanently finance 1.8 million Palestinians? I am confident that everyone sitting here understands the harsh social and economic implications of such a reality.
And here we arrive at the fourth possibility; the sole realistic possibility, in my opinion. Israel must take the initiative to prevent political collapse, which could be ensured by an initiative which will decrease the ongoing friction between Israelis and Palestinians; friction which leads to the pictures in the international media, and may lead to the situation I mentioned earlier. This move will contribute to the stabilization of security and reduction in terror, and is primarily a step which will anchor a determined American position in writing which rejects any political plan which endangers Israel, any plan which does not pre-condition political progress with the elimination of terror. The American commitment will free us from having to accept and face pressure to adopt policies which do not consider it necessary for the Palestinians to fight terror. We must take the political initiative in our hands in order to ensure the political and security interests of Israel for many years to come.
These principles are at the core of the Disengagement Plan, which is the right thing for Israel to do: establishing a security line along which the IDF will be deployed, in areas essential for Israel’s defense; erecting a physical obstacle which assists in the defense of Israeli citizens and makes the penetration of terrorists to large population centers more difficult; withdrawal from areas which will clearly not be under Israeli control in any future permanent agreement and which are sources of great friction between Israelis and Palestinians, such as the Gaza Strip; and obtaining the political support of our friends around the world, headed by the United States, for the plan.
I will not detail further achievements, which are very important, but are currently under discussion with the White House; and there are such achievements and they are very important. I do not detail these things now since we are currently negotiating with the Americans. There have been many meetings since I announced to the Americans, at a meeting in Rome last November, that I thought we should pursue a different plan. At that time, I presented them with the principles of the Disengagement Plan.
The Palestinians are afraid of this plan which obligates them to take responsibility, act to eliminate terror or; be stuck; with their political aspirations until they do so. There is a reason for the fact that they are running around to all the capitals of the world trying to prevent it. You see, for them more than anyone else, the deadlock; which exempts them from doing anything and rewards them for not implementing their commitments, first and foremost the war against terror, while earning gains in the informational campaign against Israel; is good.
The withdrawal from Gaza, in the framework of the Disengagement Plan, will remove the historic Palestinian excuse according to which the Israeli presence prevents them from acting against terror. We must say to them,Gentlemen, please, there is no Israeli presence, let us see you begin to act.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As I said at the beginning, today’s reality in Israel is completely different than that of a year ago.
From the moment it became clear that we have no partner on the other side, we moved on to a completely different concept. There is no possibility of reaching an agreement; Israel must act alone. There is a reason why today you can hear all those who previously objected to the Roadmap suddenly enthusiastically supporting the agreement, rather than unilateral steps. Of course, they understand that there is no one to talk to on the Palestinian side and there will be no agreement. They want to drag us into removing the Palestinian Authority and annexing Palestinian cities. Anyone who speaks of an agreement today (it may be different in the future) does not want genuine progress towards security and peace.
The current reality obligates us to take the initiative. There can be nothing worse than letting Israel be dragged into taking steps due to international pressure.
I know it is not easy. It is personally difficult for me. However, I was not elected to do the easy thing. I was elected to do the right thing. I intend to be worthy of this trust which was given to me by the voters in Israel. I am confident that it is the Disengagement Plan which will ensure the future of Israel best and will protect its political and security interests which are so important.
Thank you and happy Holiday of Freedom.