This is the third meeting between the Israeli and German governments. These meetings are another expression of the very deep, fundamental change that has occurred between Israel and Germany and between the Jewish and German peoples.
It began with Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and Chancellor Adenauer, continued with other Israeli prime ministers and successive chancellors in Germany, and we are continuing it, expanding it and deepening it today.
The Jewish people know that this is a different Germany – a Germany that stands with us in the effort to ensure the future, security and prosperity of the State of Israel, the Jewish state. My friend Angela Merkel, your visit here today is taking place at a time of great storms in our region. There is only one place whose stability cannot be questioned, and that is Israel.
Our partnership is based first and foremost on solid, deep and powerful common values, and also on shared interests. We witnessed it just a few minutes ago in the very concise but exhaustive discussions between our government ministers. We discussed a wide variety of issues that were finalized in seven agreements, in comprehensive talks between the ministers on issues pertaining to security, the economy, science and technology, environmental protection, arts, culture and more.
We also discussed at length our common goal of advancing peace and security in the region. I emphasized that the Government of Israel is committed to peace and that it will continue to work to advance a solution between us and the Palestinians. It is not simple. There are many issues that must be resolved if we are to forge a sustainable, lasting peace. But ultimately, the only way to achieve such a solution is not through unilateral actions or attempts to enforce peace from the outside. It can only be achieved by sitting together in an effort to resolve a complex and difficult conflict through direct negotiations.
Abu-Mazen is just ten minutes away from here, in Ramallah. I can come to him and he can come to me. Ultimately, even if it takes some time, there is no other way to achieve peace. We also want to ensure stability in this region so that peace can actually take root. Obviously, peace must also be anchored in security. I think everyone understands today that security arrangements are imperative, for two reasons: they sustain the peace and they are necessary should the peace unravel. We must be prepared for both these options, and therefore the discussion on these issues, on all issues of interest to us and to our neighbors, must be held in direct negotiations.
Security arrangements are also necessary because there are forces that seek to undermine peace, primarily the regime of the Ayatollahs in Tehran. Iran is working everywhere to undermine peace and stability. It operates in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Gaza, and Africa. It is also developing the capability to threaten Europe. If this is what Iran is doing in the absence of nuclear weapons, imagine the enormous threat it would pose if it had such weapons in its possession.
Therefore, the effort to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities is an effort of peace, stability and responsibility, and I want to commend Chancellor Merkel for her clear, consistent and firm stand on this issue, a stand which is necessary now more than ever because Iran is sending a message to the international community, a very clear message that it has no intention of abandoning its ambitions to develop nuclear weapons.
That is why I think the international community must send an equally clear message that it is determined to thwart those ambitions, first of all by tightening the sanctions. I think it is important. I have talked about it many times. But in order for these sanctions to convince Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program, Iran must know that if the sanctions fail, there is also another option, and the more credible that option is, the less likely it is that the international community will have to resort to it.
I told chancellor Merkel that in the 16 years during which I have talked about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, there was only one year in which Iran actually halted its nuclear program, and that was in 2003, when it believed that the United States would resort to that other option. I believe that if the international community exercised judgment, showed determination and joined forces to ward off the threats to us all and to promote the peace we all strive for, we can succeed even in these difficult times.
Therefore, I want to thank you, Chancellor Merkel, for this visit and for the visit of the ministers of the German government. We appreciate the cooperation between our governments. I know that this cooperation does not simply happen on its own. It is the product of the effort, goodwill and guidance of leaders. So I want to commend you and thank you for all that you have done during your tenure as the Chancellor of Germany to strengthen the cooperation between Israel and Germany. I look forward to continue working with you in the years ahead to promote our shared goals, for the benefit of both our countries, and for regional stability and peace.
Welcome to Jerusalem, Angela, welcome all of you. Thank you.
Questions and Answers
Question: Madam Chancellor, this morning, Ha’aretz published that Israel has asked its allies to preserve Mubarak’s stability and that of his regime, and to hold back on criticism about him. Will you comply with this request and do you agree with the concept behind it, that if the regime collapses, extreme forces will inevitably rise to power, and what do you make of the cold shoulder that the American Administration has given the Egyptian President?
Regarding the relations between Israel and Germany, Germany’s commitment to Israel’s security is well known, as is its siding by Israel in regards to its right to defend itself. But contrary to that, Wikileaks documents have exposed that last November your National Security Adviser suggested that the American Administration threaten Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu that if he does not agree to the settlement freeze, they should not help him defend Israel’s right to self-defense and curb the Goldstone report at the Security Council, a report that accused Israel of war crimes. What is your response to this proposal made by your close adviser, and how do you explain the fact that Germany, of all countries, is helping accuse Israel of war crimes?
And regarding the freeze, on the same issue, do you continue to stand firm in your demand that Israel freeze construction before the start of negotiations? Or perhaps you understand, as has the American Government, that this demand is what is holding up the negotiations. Thank you.
And Prime Minister Netanyahu, AP news agency has published that Israel has allowed two military regiments into the demilitarized area in the Sinai. Can you confirm this, and does Israel intend to continue assisting Egypt in its attempts to impose order there? Thank you.
PM Netanyahu: I cannot refer to everything that is written in the papers, but I would like to tell you what our policy is concerning Egypt. Over 30 years ago, a huge change occurred in the region. The largest Arab country, that had led the wars against Israel, this country – Egypt – made peace with Israel, and this created a new situation in the area, new for us and for Egypt itself.
Therefore, our objective has been and remains to preserve the peace. It is obvious that this is the top priority, I think not only for us, but for our friend Germany, certainly for our friend the USA, for all countries. All countries want peace to continue. Nobody wants to go back to those difficult times, and we are all following the events with concern and apprehension, hoping that peace will last.
Peace and stability are important. They are intertwined. We know that. That is why this is our policy. Our policy is to preserve the peace as much as we can. Over the years, Egypt has upheld the peace agreement and did not violate it. It did not violate it in the last few days either.
Question: This question is for both leaders. What is the lesson, in your opinion, that the leaders of the countries in the region should learn from the fact that the USA, and in its heel other European countries, abandoned Mubarak a moment after the tumult began? What message do you think the American policy sends to Jordan and other non-democratic countries?
And a question for you, Mr. Prime Minister: have you had a chance to speak with our ambassador to Egypt to get a report on what is going on?
PM Netanyahu: I spoke repeatedly over the past few days with the Foreign Minister and the Minister of Defense and with all our intelligence services, without exception. The Foreign Minister is briefing me on everything that comes from our embassy in Cairo, and I assure you that I brief him on everything that comes from the intelligence services.
Our problem is not whether we are updated. We have two problems. One is that we are concerned about our citizens there, and I think we have been handling this responsibly. Without delivering any messages, we must take the necessary steps, in full coordination between the Israeli government agencies.
The second problem is that the situation is very dynamic. We all know what we would like to see happening. I do not think that there are great differences here in the democratic world. Our most serious concern is that in a situation of rapid changes, and in the absence of the foundations of modern democracy, what could emerge, and has already emerged in a number of countries, including Iran, is repressive radical Islamic regimes that suppress human rights, allow no freedoms and no rights and also pose a terrible threat to peace and stability and to the interests of all civilized people.
This is our concern. It is my concern. I think that many others share this concern. I assure you that I am constantly receiving reports, whenever necessary, given the circumstances and what’s at stake.
Question: Prime Minister, next week you will be in Munich and meet with the Quartet. Can the Israeli government offer anything new to the Palestinians?
PM Netanyahu: there is an old Hebrew saying "the wise man will remain silent at that time". I don’t know how to translate it into German. Well, I have no intention of addressing possible developments in Egypt beyond what I said.
We hope that all the problems will be resolved in the best way. I did express a concern which I believe is shared by all the leaders I spoke to, and I spoke to many of them over the last few days. We all hope that the situation will be resolved peacefully, that stability will be restored and that the peace will be preserved. I think I can also say that the instability and unrest do not stem from fundamentalist Islamic elements. It certainly is not the case in Tunisia and I don’t think it is the case in Egypt. However, in a situation of chaos, an organized Islamic force can take over. It happened. It happened in Iran and in other places when an organized force took over in times of change. The Foreign Minister reminded me yesterday that it also happened in the Bolshevik Revolution. There was a democratic regime, and Alexander Kerensky was simply ousted by the organized force that took over.
All the leaders I have spoken to, without exception, do not want this to be the outcome. There are many other things we share, but right now this is one of the most important things that unite all those who strive for stability, progress and peace in this region and beyond