Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers an address at the State Memorial Service for Benjamin Ze’ev (Theodor) Herzl, author and instigator of The Jewish State.
The Honorable President, a man of vision, my friend Shimon Peres,
The Herzl Family,
Over one hundred years ago, Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl changed Jewish history when he wrote a short pamphlet titled The Jewish State. With these words, Herzl summarized the existential problem of the Jewish people, as well as its solution.
The problem of our nation’s existence throughout our long years in exile was the absence of a state of our own. This aberration exposed the Jews to countless attacks and ongoing assimilation which could not be truly countered. It was for this reason that Herzl said that the solution to the problem of the existence of the Jewish people lay in the establishment of a state for our nation in the Land of Israel.
He wrote the following in the introduction to that short pamphlet:
"I am inventing neither the situation of the Jews throughout their historic evolution, nor the means to repair it…therefore I say explicitly and firmly: a state for the Jews is a necessity for the world, and therefore it will be established."
Herzl may not have "invented", as he said, the problem or the solution. This is true in a sense from Rabbi Kalisher to Hovevei Zion and even to various messiahs who rose throughout the generations. He invented neither the problem nor the solution, but he was the first to identify the full severity of the problem and the first to propose a practical political solution, for which he mobilized our nation’s greatest forces.
Herzl suggested the establishment of the Jewish state almost fifty years before the calamity of the Holocaust. With that sharp clarity that characterized Herzl, the clarity of a prophet, he understood that with the absence of a state for the Jewish people, the sequence of tragedies which befell the Jews would only increase, and that more dreadful calamities would follow. This, as I already stated, he said almost fifty years before the Holocaust.
He arrived at the conclusion that only the reestablishment of a sovereign Jewish state, with its own defensive force, only the establishment of such a state would redeem the Jews of their chronic weakness and finally provide them with the ability to regain control of their fate.
Herzl’s actions to convene the Jewish congresses, the World Zionist Federation and the Treasury Bank for the settling of Jews, his encouragement of settlement in the Land of Israel, the inconceivable diplomatic actions he led – mobilizing world public opinion, and first and foremost mobilizing Jewish public opinion – all these gave real substance to the idea of national revival in the Land of Israel, in a way that no leader in the annals of our nation had done before.
Herzl’s plan for a Jewish state sparked the imagination of masses of destitute Jews in eastern Europe, just as the President stated, but gradually the idea began permeating in the West and among non-Jews as well . It took hold among important international leaders such as Balfour, Lloyd George, Clemenceau, Wilson and Churchill. Thus this plan received indirect international recognition in the Balfour Declaration and later explicit international recognition in the UN resolution on the eve of the establishment of the state.
Those words with which I opened my speech, "the Jewish state", are the same words which constitute the root of the conflict between us and our neighbors, and I am convinced that they also constitute the key to solving this conflict.
The root of the conflict was and remains the refusal to recognize the Jewish people’s right to a state of its own in any borders whatsoever in the Land of Israel. Therefore, the key to peace lies in the clear, unequivocal Palestinian recognition of Israel as the state of the Jews.
Once a peace agreement is achieved, they must permanently abandon their demand to settle the offspring of refugees within the borders of Israel or gradually undermine the territory of the State of Israel.
I long for the day when the moderate Palestinian leaders – and ultimately all Palestinian leaders – face their people and make the following clear statement: "We Palestinians have had enough of this conflict. We, the Palestinians, recognize the Jewish people’s right to a state of its own in the land, and we will live side by side with you in true peace."
Once this is said – and we will not relent in our demand that it be said – once it is said, a window – more than a window, a huge gate – will be opened for peace, because the Palestinian leadership will say to the Palestinian people that it is not only their intention, but that it must be the people’s intention as well.
I am convinced that the road will also be paved for the prosperity and progress which, I believe, are of limitless potential, just as the President defined it.
Therefore, the Jewish state is the key to our existence and the key to peace with our neighbors. We received this concept from one man, and I wish to conclude my speech with the words with which he concluded The Jewish State: "The time has come," Herzl wrote, "for us to live at last as free men on our own soil, and die peacefully in our own homes. The world will be freed by our liberty, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness. And whatever we attempt there to accomplish for our own welfare, will react powerfully and beneficially for the good of humanity."
The State of Israel and the Jewish people owe an immeasurable debt of gratitude to the man who looked into the distance, the leader who "envisioned the vision" and outlined the path to our nation’s revival in its homeland – Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl.
May Herzl’s memory be blessed, and may his invaluable contribution be treasured in our nation’s heart forever.