We must try and advance peace and conciliation, but to do so in a realistic manner – responsibly, seriously and in such a manner that preserves the foundations of our existence and security.
… The IDF, its soldiers and commanders, who are represented here today, are the guarantee for our existence… This defense is earned by an army of civilized people – an army unmatched in its morality and values. The wild attack by certain circles around the world against the morality and dedication to human values of IDF soldiers and commanders is baseless slander. There is no army more moral than the IDF and we proved this time and again when faced with the most despicable enemies – those dedicated to death and barbarism, while we sanctify life and enlightenment.
We fight these forces while striving for peace with those of our neighbors who want peace.
I have just come from one of those neighbors – from the Kingdom of Jordan. I have a very good meeting with King Abdullah, during which we discussed advancing peace and security between Israel and the Palestinians, and in the region in general. I very much appreciate Jordan’s desire to advance these goals and its contribution to stability in the Middle East.
During my last visit to Washington, President Obama said that Israel’s security needs are unique because Israel’s situation is unique. It is unique because of its small size, because of our history, because of the area in which we live and because of the threats we face. If we were the size of Canada or Russia or some of the countries represented here, our situation would be different; if we had not experienced the history we experienced; if we had not taken the threats we faced so seriously.
However, throughout our history, the Jewish people learned that when someone says he intends to destroy you, you should believe him. And we know that in the area where we live, west of India and southward to North Africa, there is a great deal of quicksand, a great deal of instability and a great deal of danger.
That is why there are two possible conclusions: the first conclusion – don’t do anything because the dangers are many and the risks are numerous: don’t add any more danger. But this in and of itself is dangerous.
The second possibility is to try and advance peace and conciliation, but to do so in a realistic manner – responsibly, seriously and in such a manner that preserves the foundations of our existence and security. I believe that this is the right path for the people and State of Israel. I believe that it always was the right path, but it is especially right at this time.
Now the question arises as to what the responsible and practical path to achieve peace and keep peace is. These are two separate issues. My answer is, first and foremost, is to establish peace with security. Security is not the automatic result of a peace agreement, but it is a solid basis for achieving it and keeping it.
A peace agreement in and of itself does not guarantee that the peace will be kept. We had peace – we had practical peace, formal peace, informal peace – with Iran. We had peace for many years. We had trade relations with Iran, political relations, security relations, we exchanged delegations.
But this peace did not withstand the great changes that took place inside Iran under the influence of tremendous forces that are sweeping other regions as well. That is why when we talk about security being a foundation for peace – it is also a foundation for violating the peace. We must preserve our ability to defend ourselves from this possibility. In order to establish security on realistic foundations, we need to understand what endangers us.
Since the Oslo Accords, two powerful factors have joined the equation, and we must ensure that any peace agreement takes them into account and provides a solution to this problem.
The first factor is the rise of Iran and its proxies. The second is the war of missiles and rockets. We must ensure that any peace arrangements provide a solution to each of these threats because I do not want events of the past to be repeated – not those that occurred after we withdrew from Lebanon and were rewarded with a northern Iranian base with hundreds of rockets fired at Israel and increased armament in this enclave; and we don’t want a repeat of what happened in Gaza, where a southern Iranian enclave was formed, with thousands of rockets fired at Israel and increased armament.
That is why we must ensure that, as part of any peace agreement, there is no entry of missiles, rockets or other war materiel into areas from which Israel will withdraw; that there be no entry of terrorists; and I am adding a third factor that allegedly disappeared over the past decade, since Saddam Hussein’s defeat in Iraq – that there be no reformulation of an eastern front.
I am not saying one will be developed but I am saying that in any realistic peace agreement, out of concern for our real security needs, we must ensure that there are security arrangements on the ground that provide a solution to all these dangers. An agreement is important, as is an international guarantee. These components can be part of an agreement, but they cannot be the only part. The most important part, Israel’s ability to defend itself in new conditions created after a peace agreement, including the possibility of an internal change in the regime – which we already experienced – must be taken into consideration.
I believe that this is possible as there is greater understanding among important sections of the international community regarding the State of Israel’s security needs, as I mentioned with regard to my conversations in the United States. The second factor important to stabilizing peace is Palestinian recognition of the State of Israel as the nation of the Jewish people.
I mention this because we expect the Palestinian leadership to begin changing the hearts and minds of the Palestinian people to accept the fact that Israel is here and will remain here as the Jewish state. The Palestinian state that will be established will not be a bridge to continue the conflict, but rather will recognize an end to the conflict, and will also recognize that the State of Israel will not be broken down into secondary nation-states – not in the Negev, not in the Galilee, not anywhere. It is the nation of the Jewish people.
Jews will come here and Palestinians will be able to go to the Palestinian state. The national symbols – the flag, the national anthem, holidays – will be those of the Jewish people. There are non-Jewish citizens in Israel who enjoy equal rights as citizens of Israel. But the State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and this must be recognized much like we are being asked to recognize a Palestinian state as the nation-state of the Palestinian people. Recognition of the legitimacy of the State of Israel as the nation of the Jewish people and instilling that recognition in the Palestinian public is the second fundamental part of establishing peace.
To consolidate all that I just said: the formula for genuine peace is a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. There is a third factor in addition to security and recognition: prosperity. I believe that economic peace is not a substitute, but it is a powerful factor in assisting political peace.
To a great extent, what is happening in the Palestinian Authority is the realization of the idea of economic conciliation. We helped make it happen. We removed hundreds of checkpoints and roadblocks, although it must be said that the Palestinians also helped themselves. They certainly introduced a freer, more liberal economic regime, one that allowed for entrepreneurship.
This is the most important thing, because economic openness is the key to economic prosperity. Much can be done between countries, but if one of the countries is stifled and denies its citizens opportunities for economic entrepreneurship, the other can only help on the fringes. If Israel had maintained a harsh regime and been extremely strict in terms of making the movement of goods and services difficult, the Palestinian economy would not have achieved as much as it has. The reason it has achieved so much is because we demonstrated the same economic openness, together with internal openness, that is occurring in the Palestinian Authority.
There is a great deal of room to develop our economic ties with the Palestinians, as well as with Jordan. Today I spoke with the King of Jordan about this. In Israel, we are planning to connect the entire country through a network of roads and trains. We have already finished the planning stage and have allocated funds to build the network, and we have begun building the Emek train route from Haifa to the bridges over the Jordan River.
King Abdullah said to me: “But we’re also building a train network. Why don’t we connect them? Why not allow for the transfer of goods from Haifa to Jordan and points eastward?” And I suggested that Jordan join another transportation project, one that connects Eilat and the Red Sea to Ashdod.
We are planning a train line there. Just as goods from Europe can be transferred by train eastwards, the train I speak of from Eilat to Ashdod can transfer goods westwards. There is no reason it can’t be an Eilat-Aqaba-Ashdod line. We intend, through these projects, to increase our cooperation, and also plan to do so in the fields of energy and water desalination. There is no doubt that this will advance prosperity, stability and peace in the region.
I said before that economic prosperity begins with the internal regime. In a conversation I had with the National Security College graduates, I was chided that our public dialogue does not take into account the important component of the economy. It doesn’t take it into account, first and foremost, when establishing the security on which we all depend. But today security costs a great deal.
Countries are distinguished by their security capability according to their economic ability. The defensive measures we will need to take over the coming years cost a great deal of money. Where will the money come from? Some can certainly come from countries that contribute precious resources to the peace arrangements, and we appreciate that.
By the main portion will come – always comes – from Israel’s economy. It does not come from the government; the government consumes money. I sometimes say during budget discussions: it gobbles money. But it does not create money. Most of the added value in an economy – any economy – comes from entrepreneurs and businessmen and companies in the private sector. This fact cannot be ignored.
Any public discussion regarding the economy tends towards populism. It tends to ignore what I just said because in order for companies to want to create an economy on which security and the entire society rest – including our social needs and education, caring for the elderly and the handicapped – this money must come from an economic engine and that economic engine is the desire for profits.
This statement leads to the conclusion that one must bring about a result that is anti-populist. For example, if tax rates are reduced, more tax revenues are gained rather than fewer. There are more resources to care for the elderly and the needy – not fewer. It is in complete opposition to the view that the economy is a zero sum equation – take from one to give to the other. However, if you let one earn more, you will have more to give to the other.
The economy is not an intuitive field; it is counter-intuitive. That is why it is so difficult to guide politically. Try to explain why the age of retirement in Israel must be raised. I raised the retirement age, and I have yet to find anyone who voted for me because of it. But it was necessary.
Try to explain to families that were used to relying on child allowances why they must get used to living without, that it is impossible to rely on child allowances. We did it and there has been a change in the participation rate in the labor force among the ultra-orthodox and Arab populations, but there is still more change that must be made. There are still Muslim women and ultra-orthodox men who do not participate enough in the labor force. We must still provide them with the tools of knowledge so that they can join the work force. Our economy works, like any economy, if we create the tools that provide people with the knowledge necessary to integrate into it, to compete and succeed in the economy – so that we can help those people who cannot compete.
All these are the foundations for our national security, as well as for peace. I believe that today, as a nation, we are exempt from the crises experienced by many other countries because we did all these things, and we must not stray from this path because our national security is tied to the strength of our economy.
But something else is also happening. While we are prospering, we also serve as an attractive destination for large-scale and increasing illegal infiltration, especially from, but not limited to, Africa. We must resolve this problem. The infrastructure we are building today is meant to ease movement – of goods, of people and of products within the country – through a transportation network of trains and roads being built in the north and the south, as well as the broadband infrastructure we are developing in the communications field.
But we must also lay the infrastructure that will prevent the free movement of illegal infiltrators. We are going to erect a southern obstacle, as this issue is no less important for our national security than the other things I mentioned.
We are operating according to a very clear plan and philosophy – one that says that peace will be achieved through security, through recognition and through the economy. But at all times, you provide us with security. At all times, you stand at the front lines and at the home front which is also becoming a front line. The most fundamental security we have is our belief in you, in your commitment, in your talent, in your fighting spirit, in your faith, in your connection with the heritage of Israel and your profound recognition in the justness of our path. This is the true security of the State and people of Israel.