Photo by Haim Zah, GPO
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the occasion of Independence Day, today, at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, made the following remarks to the diplomatic corps:
"I have a special affection for the diplomatic service because I entered public life 34 years ago as Israel’s Deputy Chief of Mission in Washington D.C. At the time, the number of states that had formal diplomatic relations with Israel was very small. Today we have full diplomatic relations with 159 states. There are not many left. And those that are left I can count maybe on the fingers of one hand, at a stretch you can go to other hand.
Those that we don’t have some kind of active liaison with, there’s been a great change in our fortunes in our foreign relations. Scarcely a day passes that we don’t have diplomatic delegations or trade delegations or technological delegations or security delegations not only from our great traditional ally the United States, and of course the European countries but also from Asia, from Africa, from Latin America, from every part of the world.
Countries are coming to Israel for two main reasons: One, they identify that Israel has significant contributions to make in our common battle, the battle of civilized countries against the dark forces of Islamic radicalism, those headed by Iran and Isis as the President correctly said.
They seek our help in intelligence, in logistics, our experience in combatting terrorism, in strengthening security, our common security
The second reason that people are coming here, in a word, technology. The future belongs to those who innovate. Israel is the innovation nation. It is eager to share its contributions, its abilities, and some significant sparks of genius with the rest of mankind and womankind. If you hold a cellphone, a good chunk of it was made in Israel or thought up in Israel. If you eat a salad, and you eat a cherry tomato – Israel. If you have Alzheimer’s, I hope you don’t, but you have cures that are made in Israel. And if you want to work out a riddle – how to have a water surplus when you have no water? Come to Israel. Or make more milk per cow? Come to Israel.
And many countries are coming for these two reasons – security and technology. Which means fighting the forces of the past and seizing together the opportunities of the future.
This coincides with the consistent attempt to delegitimize Israel but I think that ultimately this trend will overcome and dominate because the future belongs to those who seize the future.
So today I want to tell you why I am hopeful about the future. 68 years ago, the State of Israel was born. It was weak, disorganized. It was isolated and besieged. Today, Israel is strong. It’s stable. It’s prosperous, it’s vibrant.
And many of your nations, those represented here are cooperating in so many ways and you know, sometimes more than we can publish how many ways, how important.
For over a decade, I’ve been honored to lead the people of Israel as their Prime Minister.
I am hopeful because I have seen with my own eye the common sense and uncommon courage of the Israeli mothers and fathers who send their precious children to defend our country.
In my 66 years, I have traversed the land more times than I can count. I mean traversed it literally with my feet when I was a soldier like the young soldiers who are honored here today at the President’s house. But I’ve traversed it in many other ways – going into communities, going into cities and into farms and to see the life force within our people…
I’m hopeful because the young Israelis I meet are willing, if I can borrow a phrase, are willing to bear any burden and pay any price for bettering our nation.
Most of all, I’m hopeful because I know that we will never give up on peace.
In my lifetime, I have seen Israel make peace…you can applaud, it’s fine…in my lifetime I’ve seen Israel make peace with two Arab states – states that once fought brutal wars against us. And In recent years, I’ve seen formerly hostile states in the region and beyond, but especially in the region, form new and deep partnerships with us. I think this is a matter of great importance because I think this creates new hope.
We can advance peace with the Palestinians directly and through the support of other nations, including in the region. It was once thought that the only way that we could advance peace with the Arab states was to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That would certainly help enormously. But it’s also true that we might solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem by enjoying the support of Arab states who now see Israel more and more not as an enemy, but as an ally against the forces that threaten their own countries as well.
I have a deep and abiding faith that Israel will have peace with many more of our neighbors and that our century-long conflict will end.
How will it end?
I know there is skepticism about my position. You can just repeat it ad nauseam and it becomes…it assumes the cachet of self-evident truth but the facts are important. I have taken steps that no other Prime Minister in Israel’s history has taken to advance peace. So far, they’ve not been answered. But I want to state unequivocally and in front of diplomats from around the world: I continue to support two states for two peoples: a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. It’s about time.
That remains the core of this conflict: The persistent refusal to recognize a Jewish state in any boundary. And this is why this conflict preceded the Six-Day war by nearly 50 years. But I don’t believe that any issue is so complex that it cannot be solved. All we ask for is the right to live in peace in our ancestral homeland, the land of Israel.
And my call for peace today is not hypothetical.
I just gave a Twitter conference. It’s the sign of the times. I think President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau preceded me. Talk to everyone in the world. And they said, "Are you willing to sit down and talk peace?" and I said, yes. Yes, I am. In fact, I’m willing to do so right now, today. To meet President Abbas today in Jerusalem. If he’d like, in Ramallah. If any of you ladies and gentlemen want to offer a different place that’s fine with me too. I have my preferences; we’ll talk about it later. Right now. Today. And not next week. This week.
Because you cannot make peace with somebody who even refuses to sit down with you. And because every minute that President Abbas refuses to accept my call for peace robs Palestinians and Israelis of the opportunity to live without fear. It robs our children and our grandchildren of the opportunity they so richly deserve.
Peace is my vision.
Mutual recognition is my hope.
Security is my duty.
And I will work every day of every week of every month to advance peace and security for our people. I ask all of you to join me in providing hope for a better future. You can encourage President Abbas to accept my offer of direct talks today. Because direct talks are not merely the most likely and best path for peace. Ultimately, it’s the only way that you will achieve a peace that will endure. And Israelis and Palestinians deserve no less.
Thank you all for your service. Thank you for coming here to honor Israel’s Independence Day."