Security is the basis of our existence and the basis of the future, our future, and I may add it’s also the basis of peace. Israel’s safety and security depends on meeting three great challenges.
Following are remarks made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (16 January 2014), at the Government Press Office event with foreign journalists:
Israel is an innovative nation. It produces unbelievable developments in technology and ingenuity and it is opening up vistas for us far and wide from China to Mexico and everything in between, and I think it makes for an exciting and successful country. We just marked the 65th anniversary of our state. Our population has grown more than tenfold, our economy has grown more than 70-fold. We want to keep going strong and in order to do so, we have to be strong.
In this part of the world, security comes first. Security is the basis of our existence and the basis of the future, our future, and I may add it’s also the basis of peace.
Israel’s safety and security depends on meeting three great challenges.
The first challenge without question is the continuing effort of Iran to develop nuclear weapons. That remains the ultimate and the greatest challenge that we face. I’m not taken in by Iran’s smiles. The same people that offer the smiles, like its foreign minister, just laid a wreath on the grave of Imad Mughniyeh. At the time that they’re talking to the Americans, the foreign minister of Iran is laying a wreath at the murderer who killed over 240 American marines, dozens of French soldiers, and the nationals of so many men. This man has so much blood on his hands.
And this Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons. This Iran that calls for our annihilation today as we speak and participates in the terror and tyranny in so many nations. This Iran must not be allowed to get nuclear weapons. That was and remains our policy and we will prevent it; we should prevent by any means possible, including diplomatic, Iran’s capability to get nuclear weapons.
The second and third challenges that we have are related to Iran’s proxies. Iran is not just a danger in itself – and would be an enormous danger if the terrorists that it sponsors would have a nuclear umbrella. Iran is already as you know sponsoring two main terror groups, which pose our second and third security challenges. Hezbollah and Hamas.
With Hezbollah, there is a continual Iranian attempt to pass weapons that we call game-changers from Syria to Lebanon. We have a policy to prevent that from happening. I need not add to that. That is a consistent policy which we pursue consistently.
And the third challenge is Hamas, and of course the group that Iran has built to "out-Hamas Hamas" – the Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Security requires constant maintenance. It means that we don’t accept what I call the "drip irrigation of rockets" without response. That is not the policy of this government. My government’s policy is to respond and prevent. So we don’t let the drizzle of rockets accumulate to a rain which then develops into a storm. We act. Sometimes, as in Pillar of Fire which you saw a year earlier, and sometimes in other ways, as we’re doing now.
We are determined to act to stop Iran’s proxies, the terror organizations, from attacking Israel, both by responding to their attacks and also preventing their attacks. This is the basis of our security, but I also said that this is the basis of peace. Indeed it is, because any peace agreement that we sign, any peace that we fashion, that does not provide for our security will not last. A peace that will last is a peace that we can defend.
Therefore, a main component of our discussions with Secretary Kerry, the United States, and with the Palestinians, the main component that we’re dealing with is how to ensure that the peace leaves Israel secure. I will need to take a lot of hard decisions, but I will never compromise on Israel’s security. The security issues are very dramatic and they’re important. They relate also not only to Israel, they also relate to Jordan which I visited today.
I had an excellent meeting with King Abdullah. We have excellent relations based on peace and security. , and we’re seeking to advance both peace and also the economic relations between our countries. We naturally also discussed the unfolding events in the region. Of course we discussed the peace talks between us and the Palestinians because Jordan is an intimate partner and Jordan will also be affected by this. And we all want to see that secure border, that quiet border that we have between us, continue to be quiet and secure and tranquil. This is one of the primary requirements that we have.
A security agreement with the Palestinians would have to address the question of the perimeter, but it will also have to address the question of what happens inside the perimeter. Not only how to prevent the smuggling of weapons that happened when we vacated territory as in Gaza. We vacated territory; everybody told us this will bring us security. But of course what happened was that the perimeter was perforated with tunnels and with smuggling and now what we have in Gaza is something else. Within Gaza itself, very dangerous weapons are produced locally. So we have to address not only the perimeter, but also what would develop in Gaza or other the Palestinian areas inside the territory.
These are obviously very important questions. Because if we don’t address them properly, then we won’t have either peace or security. We’ll have something else, and what we certainly don’t want to have is another Hamastan right here, right next to Jerusalem. The last thing we want to have is another Afghanistan which is developing for example in Syria, and we don’t want to have another Hezbollahstan which we have in Lebanon.
We want to have a genuine peace and a genuine peace means security, it means tranquility, it means the absence of terror attacks and it means something that affords a better future for us and our Palestinian neighbors. That is a big challenge, because as you can see, more or less from the Straits of Gibraltar to the Khyber Pass, it’s very hard to find a safe and secure area. In fact, the only absolutely safe, secure and prosperous and developed country in the region is Israel.
You have to ask yourself, why is there such an explosion, or implosion, in so many lands around us. I think that raises three points that I’ll leave you with, that I think are important if we’re going to achieve peace. Because peace can only be built on facts. Peace can be built on hope, but that hope has to be grounded on facts. Peace cannot be built on illusions, and a peace that is not based on truth will crash against the realities of the Middle East.
For a very long time, there have been three myths that have captured peoples’ minds, and some of them have dissipated but there are still others that persist.
The first myth that the turmoil in the Middle East brings to light is that the core of the Middle East conflict is the Palestinian problem. Nobody can say that seriously today when you look at what’s happening in Libya or Syria or in Lebanon or in Iraq or in Yemen. All that’s happening there has got nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian problem or with our conflict. It’s got something to do with the endemic instability, with the absence of a cultural foundation that is necessary for peace, and I hope that one develops. I’d like to see all these countries have a better life, and all their peoples have a better future. But it is a fact that the turmoil that is gripping the Middle East has got nothing to do with the Palestinian problem. And yet people believe this. Repeated this – until recently as though this was, shall we say, a truth that descended from Heaven. Now we know that’s not the truth.
There are two other myths that persist, that are as divorced from reality as this one. The second myth is that when you get to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the settlements are the core of the conflict. It’s not true. This conflict was waged for 50 years before there was a single Israeli soldier in Judea and Samaria, before there were settlements. It raged from 1920 to 1967, almost half a century. What was that all about? We weren’t in Judea and Samaria, we weren’t in Gaza – yet these were used as launching grounds for attacks against us. And then when we vacated Gaza, the rockets kept pouring in. This after we tore up all the settlements, displaced people, caused terrible suffering to our people. And yet the rockets continue to come in. So there’s something much deeper here. And that persists.
A that brings me to the third myth. If the conflict is not about the settlements, then the conflict is about the absence of a Palestinian state. But in fact, in 1947 in the partition resolution, we were willing to accept a Palestinian state, and successive governments have been willing to accept a Palestinian state. And yet the Palestinians refuse, not because they can’t get a Palestinian state. But because the real issue is not the settlements, it’s not the Palestinian state. The real issue was and always has been the Jewish state. The persistent refusal of our adversaries to accept a nation state for the Jewish people – those adversaries we want to turn into our peace partners. And for that to happen, they have to accept the fact that the Jewish people have a state here. In whatever boundaries. And so far they refuse to do it. I hope that changes. And when I say Jewish state, I want to make clear that I’m talking about a nation state for the Jewish people, where non-Jews, Arabs, Muslims, Christians have equal civil rights. In fact, in Israel, It’s the only place in a very very broad area in which such equal rights are given to everyone regardless of their nationality, regardless of their race or origin. But it’s about the Jewish state.
This is why our talks on peace center on these two things. One – mutual agreement, recognition of two states, two nation states for two people; and second, the security arrangements that we must have to anchor the peace, to make sure that it persists over time. I hope that we’re successful. It’s definitely not an easy negotiation but one that I’m committed to. I think it’s one of the great challenges that we have. But I’m committed to achieving this peace and I’m committed to keeping Israel safe and free and innovative.
The most difficult decision I’ve made as prime minister was to release Palestinian terrorists, but it was also equally clear that Israel undertook no restraints on construction. This was part of the deal – unspoken, unwritten, informal. Secondly, I don’t think this is an obstacle to peace at all. What do they want? An ethnically cleansed state? They want to uproot people? I don’t think that’s going to produce peace. But in point of fact, most of the so-called settlers live in urban clusters, and we don’t add new settlements. We haven’t added them from my first term in prime minister which was nearly 20 years ago. And the fact that you add a few houses in existing communities doesn’t change the map one iota. So I think the claim taht this is an obstacle to peace is a bogus claim, and I think that this is hypocritical.
Our ambassadors to the EU are now called in because of the construction of a few houses. When did the EU call in the Palestinian ambassadors to complain about the incitement that calls for Israel’s destruction? When did the Palestinian get called in to hear complaints about the fact that security officers in the Palestinian security forces are participating in terrorist attacks against innocent Israelis. I think it’s time to stop this hypocrisy. I think it’s time to inject some balance and fairness into this discussion. Because I think this imbalance and this bias against Israel doesn’t advance peace. I think it pushes peace further away. Because it tells the Palestinians: You can basically do anything you want, say anything you want, incite any way you want, and you won’t be held accountable. And Israel that takes tremendous efforts to preserve the peace and fight terrorism for the benefit of both Israel and Palestinians alike, it always gets criticized. That’s not good and doesn’t advance peace.
I think that our relationship with China is very important. The possibility of cooperation between the vast economy of China and Israel’s proven abilities in technology is obviously something that both of us see. What we discussed in China was a series of agreements that will enable such deals to come to fruition. Since then we see a growth in Chinese interest, and also specific projects that we’re interested in. Delegations are coming here, even investors that are coming here, and I think we’re very close to completing the preparatory work to sign formal agreements between the Government of Israel and the Government of China on technology projects, sustainability projects.
For example: How do we use our technology and our expertise to assist the water problems that China, and many others by the way in the world face. Israel is number one, for example, in water recycling. We recycle close to 80% of our water. The next country is Spain. It recycles 25%. So we’re talking to the Government of China about taking a specific city, a specific project, applying our expertise in this area, and if it’s successful, scaling it up to many other cities. And we’re about to have meetings to conclude that particular issue. I give it as one example. There are many many others.
We’re also moving forward on having a rail-link between Asia and Europe, and we have just made another decision in the Cabinet the beginning of this week to advance the rail-link between Eilat, which could be Eilat-Aqaba, Eilat from the Red Sea to Ashdod and the Mediterranean Sea. So it’s a Red-Med connection that effectively will enable goods from Asia to be transported to European ports and up the Danube. That will be the first time that we’ll actually have a connection that will ensure an open connection between Europe and Asia and between Asia and Europe for all the countries involved. There is also interest in this project in China, but also in Europe.
We intend to use this obviously not only as a cargo rail-link, but also as a passenger link between Tel Aviv and Eilat. It will take about two hours. This will be a great boost for our economic development. We’re working to create one Israel. It’s not a big country, but you would think it’s enormous from the time it used to take to travel from the north to the south, because the fast roads weren’t there, the interchanges weren’t there. We’re putting in roads and highway interchanges, fast roads and rail lines connecting the north and the south and we’re opening up both the Negev and the Galilee for new opportunities.
The biggest development is moving many of our most advanced military bases to the Negev, including those that deal with cyber defense, and Be’er Sheva is going to become the cyber capital of a good chunk of the eastern hemisphere. You’re already seeing tremendous development and tremendous interest of many companies in Israel’s cyber capabilities. Cyber is essential for the development of the internet economy, cyber defense is essential for the development of the internet economy, for the protection of cyber space. It affects everyone, and Israel is a leading force in the world for developing the safeguards that we need to have in order to have a secure and safe cyber environment. Not only a secure and safe Israel, but a secure and safe world.
This is changing the face of Israel. Ben Gurion had a vision to make the Negev develop. For close to 65 years, we never really succeeded in changing the distribution of population in Israel. But it’s changing now, and changing very dramatically. Young people are moving to the south and to the north because of these changes taking place in the country.