President Shimon Peres addresses opening of the Israeli Presidential Conference "Facing Tomorrow"
Jerusalem, 20 October 2009
Translation from Hebrew:
Welcome to Jerusalem. Israel welcomes you with open hands.
We have gathered again to discuss the tomorrow. We have gathered with the strongest faith in mankind’s ability to determine its destiny and build a better future for its children. We have gathered to discuss the complicated challenges which will determine our future. The journey is not easy, but the horizon radiates with incredible opportunity.
The obstacles we face in the future require strong efforts, locally and globally. Viruses, infections, and climate change do not respect borders. There exists a need for global efforts to rehabilitate those most injured by the recent economic crisis; to overcome ecological deterioration; to defeat poverty, hunger, terrorism; to conquer the danger presented by totalitarian countries, like Iran, that threatens to acquire nuclear weapons.
Global and local efforts will ensure that we deal with these threats to our individual and collective security. Yet these efforts demand wisdom more than power.
Israel is a small country with few resources. It has defined borders. Yet its brain power has no borders. Its brain power comes from a historic legacy. Our intellectual strength originates from the Ten Commandments, which Moses brought from Mount Sinai, to guide our conscience. Yet it continues today, through Einstein’s Theory of Relativity which opened infinite scientific opportunities to us and the rest of the world.
Our limited population and size prevent us from becoming a global leader in manufacturing. But our scientific potential grants us the opportunity to be a global leader in science.
History teaches us that to live with wisdom, means to with moral awareness. We refuse to let the difficulties we have faced lead us towards pessimism. We build upon our intellectual tradition and scientific talent, to form a positive state. A state of ‘Yes’; a state that says yes to peace, yes to justice, yes to freedom. A state that says yes to improving the world we live in.
We need to defend our lives. But we also have to relentlessly offer our hand with courage peace. And even if we have to endure the cost, and also if others will benefit, ‘yes’ to peace is a value that stands by itself. Therefore, Israel says ‘yes’ to the peace process.
Israel said ‘yes’ to the Barak Obama’s initiative to immediately renew negotiations to form two countries for two peoples; and meanwhile to bring a comprehensive regional peace, in order to extinguish the fires of hatred.
Israel said ‘yes’ to the economic development of the Palestinian Authority.
Israel said ‘yes’ to the increasing ability of the Palestinian Authority to maintain law and order, without the need to threaten Israel.
Israel says ‘yes’ to peace with our neighbors. And rejects the terror that violates our human rights, most importantly, our right to life. Terror threatens freedom. Terror threatens peace. Thus for good reasons many countries, with the United States leading the way, have decided to fight it.
This fight has a terrible price. Countries that have not experienced car bombings or had missiles shot at their citizens, cannot realize the damage terror causes, the cost it produces, the confusion it generates. To prevent terror is to say ‘yes’ to good relations between neighbors. Terrorism is a crime, and we must end this crime in order to say ‘yes’ to life.
Peace does not mark the end of the war. Genuine peace is a gateway for people to live more securely, more wealthily, more meaningfully. War conducts itself through power. Peace conducts itself through wisdom.
In our globalized world science enabled the possibility for everyone, as well as for each individual, to generate economic growth without military force or exploitation—and allows us to create a society based on good will. Good will – its power does not fall in the face of coercion.
Science is a fascinating journey in a chariot that cannot be disturbed by prejudice, or stopped by the unknown. The Scientific Age began in the last century and is now entering a new and exciting stage. A stage that will deal with the most incredible, mysterious, promising machine in the world – the human brain. Our dialogue with ourselves, with our minds, is the most fascinating adventure. It might revolutionize everything. And it will appear in this very conference.
This journey encourages innovations across five basic areas, which will build the necessary foundation to correct the mistakes of the past and create unlimited opportunities in the new tomorrow. Poverty, hunger, violence, illiteracy, disease, and pollution require new technology and new industries to cope with their demands.
The fact that Israel is a small country, without resources, does not preclude it from serving as a global laboratory for pioneers in these fields.
The first area is clean energy industry. Excessive oil prices hurt the poor unjustifiably, and enriched unnecessarily. Oil usage has produced a gap that has hurt the global equilibrium, a gap that has not closed. It has also polluted and hurt the planet’s climate.
The efforts of Israeli Clean-Tech companies aim to create an alternative to the pollution and discrimination oil produces. The results already look promising, and have generated international respect and recognition. The Israeli Geothermal and Geosolar Industry builds and maintains clean power plants in many places around the world. Early next year the electric vehicle project will begin here, considered a revolution in clean transportation . The project will enable a sustainable fleet of cars. This marks a revolution for our small country, which will serve as a pilot project for the rest of the world. Our contributions to solar energy and sustainable transportation will be showcased at the UN Copenhagen Summit.
The next area is the global water industry.
The scarcity of water kills children, prevents treatment of disease, and slows the growth of food production. The Israeli high-tech industry is attacking this crucial scarcity of water. Israel will build an additional Sea of Galilee (Kineret) from the water of the Mediterranean. By 2015, 100% of Israel’s water needs will come from desalinization. 75% of the water in Israel will be recycled. And Israel is working to minimize the cost of building and operating its desalinization system using nanotechnology, while continuing a policy of low-water irrigation. Until now we have saved 70% of the average water usage per unit area. Now, because of genetically modifying crop seeds—a dunam of land in Israel produces 30 times the average in most countries. The water we can desalinize. We can multiply. We can spread without evaporation or leaks.
The third area is the biotechnology industry, with stem cells playing a critical role.
Global population will increase over the next decade by one billion people, most from the developing world, which suffers from poverty and poor medical services. If we do not concern ourselves with the medical needs of this population—we will ensure an unstable world.
Israel is a global leader in medical research infrastructure. Out of six Israeli Nobel Prize recipients in the last decade, three won in the field of biochemistry. Israeli medicine also benefited from patents and medical devices that marked technological breakthroughs. Stem cell research will in the future produce an industry for body part replacements that will also address brain cell deterioration. Israel holds second place in this field by research and journal publications, behind the United States and tied with Great Britain.
The fourth area is the advanced education industry.
The rapid pace of global change makes it difficult to maintain an updated educational system. Education must no longer stand for memorizing books of the past, but rather look to find the opportunities in the new future. Technology can assist teachers by allowing them to concentrate on teaching values and developing imagination. Vast knowledge previously held in enormous libraries can be found today in devices smaller than a bar of chocolate. Schools can and must be changed to an enjoyable, exciting, valuable experience – with a face towards the future. This is a new industry that will grow by 25% a year into a 50 billion dollar market.
The fifth area is the internal security industry.
The terrorists of today are willing to kill themselves and their enemies in every possible way – from knifes to missiles; from explosive to nuclear weapons. The means of fighting conventional wars are not appropriate for defending ourselves against global terrorism. We need new means of fighting that we are working towards.
Israel stands at the forefront of terrorism and must produce new means of defense such as unmanned aircraft or miniscule detectors that allow detection of terrorist infiltration or danger. This is already a large industry, and it will grow to larger proportions because of the increasing threat of global terrorism.
I am privileged to have live and have worked in Israel from my earliest days when she fought with all her might for her very existence. We passed nine wars that threatened our livelihood and we won in all of them. Today, Israel is a strong, advanced country that wants to contribute, not just to defend.
Brothers and sisters of the Jewish world, we must preserve our traditional values and be a nation that gives, doesn’t just live.
I presented with optimism what we have achieved. We cannot allow our optimism to turn into languid satisfaction. I am an optimist that has not been satisfied. We meet here to learn, not only to teach, and we are eager to hear your suggestions. Above all, we meet to think together how to meet the challenges of the future, and to shape a better tomorrow for all the children, for all the mothers, and for all mankind.