The battle against anti-Semitism, the battle against loss of identity and the battle to ensure that radical Muslims do not have weapons of mass destruction are the three great challenges of our day.
On Sunday evening (22 June 2014), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Jewish Media Summit in Jerusalem:
We were attacked today in the Golan and a 13-year-old child, youngster, teenager, was murdered. Nine days ago, three teenagers were abducted by Hamas. We are doing everything in our power to get them back safely to their homes.
We don’t like challenges. Israel is the most challenged nation on Earth. And I think you’ll discover this, but you’ll discover something else on your visit to Israel. What you’ll discover is the unique capacities of the Jewish people in the Jewish state to overcome adversity and to build a remarkable nation. I think Israel is a remarkable achievement. You’ll discover that. You may already know that. And I think you have an extraordinary opportunity as representatives of the Jewish media, to tell our story to the world, but first of all to our world, to our people.
In 66 years, starting from a beachhead of a few hundred thousand, we’ve multiplied our population ten-fold. Our economy has grown a hundred times. The Israel economy that you see today is like a hundred Israeli economies that we had at our independence. Our GDP per capita has grown thirty-some times. Israel is a center of world technology and innovation. Our feet are grounded in our past in this land, but we seize the future.
See, I just told you that our population grew ten-fold. I didn’t tell you that our rainfall decreased almost by half. If you can you imagine that, we have half the rainwater. We don’t have big rivers. We don’t have many snowcapped mountains. We have one. It doesn’t produce enough water. Our rainfall goes down by half; our population expands by ten; our economy by a hundred; our standard of living by thirty. We have no water problem. How is that possible? It’s possible because we have tremendous innovation, tremendous technology. Israel is the number one recycler of wastewater in the world. We recycle over 80% of our wastewater. The next one, Spain – it’s an important achievement, but it’s 25%.
You know, if I asked you which cow produces the most milk, you’d say a French cow? Maybe a Dutch cow? Well, no, on that one, Israel beats everyone. The Israeli cow produces more milk. You should see this cow. It’s a computerized cow.
There’s a pill, a camera pill. You may have seen it? It goes – you swallow it, it goes through your digestive system and you can find out what’s wrong. The next generation of pill already squirts the medicine where you have a problem. Then it comes out. Well, you can imagine. Now that’s for your digestive tract. What about the spaces inside your body that are not in the alimentary canal? The digestive tract? Well, now there’s a tiny robot that they’ve developed and it goes inside the cavity and it gets to a blood vessel. You see, the blood vessel may have split. Now, that’s not too difficult. You can now take glue, right? And glue it inside the robot. Except there’s a problem: You can glue an elephant to the ceiling, there are glues strong enough to do that, but you can’t glue two wet surfaces together. Well, we’ve solved that one too. This is Israel.
Anything you use: Your cellphones have a piece of Israel; the medicines that save lives, there’s a piece of Israel in them; the salad you eat, there’s a piece of Israel although I’m the only one who doesn’t like these round tomatoes, you know? They’re Israeli tomatoes. This is Israel.
This story has to be told. Israel seizes the future. Israel right now has about 7% of the world’s cyber market, cyber security, you know? You don’t want people getting into your bank accounts, into your cellphones, for that matter into your traffic system or into the power plants of your respective cities. Israel has about a hundred times more its share of this market than its size. That’s Israel. And Beer Sheba’s becoming the cyber capital of the Eastern Hemisphere. That’s Israel.
Start-ups, innovation, technology, why? Because the Jewish people always ask questions. You said they always argue? Ah, I could argue with that. Of course we always argue. We always argue, we always inquire. That’s our tradition. We argue with God, for God’s sake. We seek to better the world and not all of the world that receives our contributions, they don’t always return in kind. And yet, we have been able to develop a remarkable state, and with all our achievements, looking into the horizon, we have to keep our feet on the ground, firmly planted on the ground.
I don’t mean just the physical ground, but I mean the ground of reality because if there’s one thing we learned in the history of our people, it is that we have to identify danger in time and take action against it in time. When the Jewish people failed to do that, we paid a horrendous price – the most horrendous price that any people have paid in history and we have learned that lesson.
As I look today around the world and in our part of the world, I see three great challenges that we have to deal with. When I say "we", it is not merely we here in Israel but you who are uniquely situated to help in each one of these challenges, you in the Jewish media.
The first challenge is the rising tide of anti-Semitism, especially in Europe – Western Europe and Eastern Europe. It’s an amalgamation of three forces: hard Left, hard Right and the Islamist anti-Semitism that has perforated many parts of Europe. We’ve seen the bloody consequences of this hatred in Toulouse and in Brussels and elsewhere. And we have to fight it. We cannot accept it. I think that we have to speak out against it forcefully. The only way you defeat a lie is with truth, with facts, with courage. And I think that the truth has to be told about the Jewish people and the Jewish state first by the Jews. Nobody will defend us if we do not defend ourselves. That’s the first thing that I ask you to do, but it’s also the first thing I expect you to do. You should demand it of yourself. Don’t bow your head. Stand up proud as Jews. Speak the truth. Assail the anti-Semites.
By the way, I just heard that in the United States, where there is huge support for the State of Israel, an all-time high, there’s still an association, small association, but nevertheless an association of the Presbyterian church that decided to apply some divestment against Israel. I said, you know what I would do with them? I would ask them to come to the Middle East and look around. This is what they choose to do today when the Middle East is fragmented in this horrible war, this savage war, savagery between militant Shi’ites and militant Sunnis. Hundreds of thousands are being slaughtered, millions are displaced, Christians are fleeing for their lives, churches are burnt. The only place where you have freedom, tolerance, protection of minorities, protection of gays, protection of Christians and all other faiths is Israel. So I suggest to them to take a plane, come here and then if we can manage it, let’s arrange a bus tour for them in the region. You know, let them go to Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq. And my only suggestion for them is that – well, I have two suggestions for them. One, that it be an armor-plated bus; and two, that they shouldn’t announce that they’re Christians.
Israel is the only place, it’s the only beacon of light, of true freedom, true tolerance, in this very large expanse between Gibraltar and the Khyber Pass. And you should say it. You should tell it to the anti-Semites. You should speak about the greatness and tolerance of our people here, in the various communities. You should fight anti-Semitism. That’s the first challenge we have.
We have made a decision today in our Cabinet to assist and to bring to Israel the communities in Western Europe and Eastern Europe, anybody who wants to make Aliyah – and we want them to make Aliyah – to come to Israel, but the first order of the day is to fight the anti-Semites.
The second is to cement fraying identities in the West, and especially in North America. I’m talking about young Jews who have not received a Jewish education, have not been to Israel. And that I think is important. We have invested in a government program to cement this identity. You can help in that in a big way. There are great programs like Birthright and Masa, in which we want to bring young kids here. There is no substitute for bringing youngsters like yourselves here to Israel to see with your own eyes and to communicate it to others because we believe that when young people are exposed to our country – and our country, I mean our collective patrimony – and to our heritage, we can infuse them with pride. We can make them want to be Jews and we’ll persuade some of them to come here. And that I think is the second great challenge that we have today, which I think you can assist in and you could take a major part in.
And the thing is, the third challenge is the dangers that come from our region, and I’ve spoken about what is happening here. What is happening here now is that the centuries-old hatred between Sunnis and Shi’ites have now been uncorked with the collapse of the secular regimes, mostly dictatorships, that have contained this. They’ve collapsed and the Shi’ite militancies are fighting the Sunni militancies with greater and greater venom and barbarism and everyone gets caught in between. This is a fault line between civilization and savagery.
You can see it on the Golan Heights. You know, we set up a field hospital there. I suggest you go there. We take in Syrian civilians, children. Some of them lost limbs. We take care of them. They’ve escaped the hell that is Syria today and we take care of them. Then we allow them to come back, but we can’t take their photographs, of these children, or publish them rather because they’ll be executed for being treated, for having their lives saved in Israel. They’d be executed. This is a fault line between civilization and barbarism.
We cannot correct in the near future this tragedy, neither in Syria nor in Iraq. Both camps, the radical Shi’ites led by Iran and the radical Sunnis led by Al-Qaeda and ISIS and other organizations, they’re enemies of our civilizations. They’re enemies of humanity. They’re enemies of Israel. They’re enemies of the United States. They’re enemies of every country that is represented here by you. When your enemies are fighting one another, don’t strengthen either one of them. Weaken both. There are things that can be done to blunt the ISIS takeover of Iraq, just as there are things that must be done to blunt Iran’s takeover of Iraq so that what happened in Lebanon and Syria is not replicated. That’s important.
But by far, the most important thing today, not only today but in historical perspective, the most important thing is to make sure that a militant regime, a militant Islamic regime or a militant Islamic movement does not get its hands on the weapons of mass destruction. That is the number one imperative of our times. Now, while the Syrian conflict was not solved, what was achieved there in this realm was important. The agreement to get rid of the chemical weapons in Syria was important. And it’s almost completed – over 90%, much more even, has been removed. Notice what I said: Removed. The chemical stockpiles, the weapons, the means to manufacture chemical weapons – they’ve been removed, taken out of Syria. And that task should be completed.
That is not the deal that is now, I fear, being negotiated with Iran. Rather than dismantle and remove, what is being discussed with Iran is to keep and inspect. Very different. In other words, most of the sanctions would be lifted from Iran and most of the capability would be left in Iran. Bad. Exceedingly bad and exceedingly dangerous for the future of the world – not only the region, not only Israel, the world. Iran is developing ICBMs, intercontinental ballistic missiles. They don’t need it for Israel. They don’t need it for attacking us. They’re intended to attack anyone within thousands and thousands of kilometers of their range, and ICBMs have only one purpose: To have nuclear bomb warheads.
It is the height of folly to allow one of the Islamist camps to have nuclear weapons. This will change history. It will be a pivot of history in a catastrophic way. That should not happen. If there is one message that needs to be put out today it is: Don’t let Iran on the sidelines of this conflict in Iraq have nuclear weapons capability because sooner or later – and it’s sooner rather than later – they’ll have atomic bombs. That should be prevented.
I give you these three challenges – the battle against anti-Semitism, the battle against loss of identity and the battle to ensure that radical Muslims do not have weapons of mass destruction – as the three great challenges of our day, of Israel, but not only of Israel. If we learned anything from history, it is that the anti-Semitic fires that begin with the Jews soon spread to others and consume entire societies.
These are great challenges. The Jewish people have shown a remarkable ability to address challenges, especially since the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty here in the State of Israel. I believe that we can see our challenges. As we take pride in our achievements, we can see the challenges. We don’t lower our heads, avert our eyes. We look at them and we address them. And when I say "we", I include you in this collective because you’re part of our people. You’re here because you feel that connection. And I want you to transmit those feelings and those thoughts as you tour this country, as you see this remarkable land and this remarkable state where nobody argues with each other. But as we address each other, there’s a tremendous bond and tremendous pride that we have been able to overcome the iron walls of history and rise from the ashes.
I read recently a book, a slender book. It’s called "The Lessons of History". It was written by a remarkable historian, American historian, Will Durant, who wrote, I think, eleven volumes that he called "The Story of Civilization", documenting various civilizations. And then towards the end of his life, he wrote a small book with his wife, who happened to be Jewish, Ariel, "The Lessons of History". What did he learn?
So, do you want the good news or the bad news? Well, I’ll give you the bad news first. The bad news, he said, basically, if you read it, you glean one lesson and that is that numbers count. You know, big nations have an advantage. They produce bigger GDPs which produces more military ability which produces more prowess which overcomes other nations and so on. They too go through cycles of decline. Numbers count.
But then he says at a certain point that you can beat numbers and geography if you have a cultural force, and he said the young State of Israel is perhaps the best example of the ability to overcome the odds. Now this was some forty years ago. I think we’ve overcome the odds since. We’ll overcome the odds now and in the future. We overcome it with what he calls our cultural force, and I call it our heritage, our hope, our faith, our bond. That is what I want you to express to Jews everywhere – young, old, middle-aged. I know you’ll do it.
Welcome to Jerusalem. Welcome to Israel. This is your land.