"so we need a peace process and a peace result that gives us peace and gives
us security; and that is not achieved by merely signing a piece of paper..
we need actual security on the ground....we must have a credibly, thoroughly
demilitarized Palestinian state."
Transcription by PMO
Address by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Jewish Agency Board of
February 18, 2013
Thank you, Natan. Natan is the tallest chairman of the Jewish Agency. The
second tallest. No, the tallest, the tallest, because he's a giant, he's a
giant of the Jewish people, and he's a battle-scarred veteran of the
campaign to secure the Jewish future. We are of the same age, and when my
generation earned its scars on the battlefields of Israel, we lost loved
ones and some of us didnt live to see the day, you earned your scars in a
Soviet dungeon, totally fearless, absolutely courageous, totally dedicated
to the Jewish state and the Jewish people, and I think that this quality
first helped you obviously survive the Soviet jail, but it also prepared you
for Israeli politics, and there the two of us have weathered the sweet
slings of the genteel world of Israeli politics (nobody's laughing). You
see, Natan carried himself with supreme dignity, always focused on the task
at hand, on the issue, not on the "ishim", did you get that? On the issue at
hand, on what really counts, not on himself, not on any sectorial interests,
and I think this is something that is recognized universally and was
recognized universally well before Natan left the government and the
Knesset. You know, when you leave, you always get a wonderful eulogy,
everybody's happy to see you go off, but in the case of Natan, people said
the same things before he left as after. So I think Natan has always been a
symbol of Jewish unity and a symbol of the triumph of the Jewish people over
adversity, exactly that. And you've earned the respect not only of the
Jewish people in Israel, but of non-Jews worldwide, and in all the years
I've known you, you've been much more than a symbol, you've also worked
tirelessly to promote Jewish unity and to secure the Jewish future. I think
this is the source of the bond between us, it was instantaneous exactly on
this point. It took us about five minutes to sniff each other and figure
And this is what you did throughout your career, and certainly this is what
you've done in the four years that you've been chairman of the Jewish
Agency. So I have come here with a simple hope and a request that the Board
will extend the chairmanship of Natan Sharansky as the Chairman of the
Jewish Agency for the next four years.
There are many reforms, Natan, that you have begun, and I hope that you have
the backing of everyone to complete them. You certainly are going to be
given the time to do so, and you have my support to complete them. In this
I want to thank everyone here, there are wonderful people and good friends.
Thank you all, including a newcomer, Didi, I always say something to
everybody who assumes public office in Jewish life or in Israel
congratulations and commiserations. But thank you to all of you, all of
you, each one of you, and I want to thank Rani and Moodi and Yoki and Duvdev
and Charles and especially I want to thank my two long-time friends, Michael
Segal and Jimmy Tisch, I want to thank you for giving so much of your time,
in their case it's valuable time, market-proven, but deeper than that, your
dedication, pieces of your soul for the Jewish people. Nobody's forcing you
and you dont do it for self-aggrandizement, it's the shared quality in this
hall and I want to thank you from the point of view of the people of Israel
and the Jewish people around the world.
Now, Israel is facing today a set of challenges that are daunting, nothing
less than that, and we'll need all the unity and the strength that we can
muster to overcome those challenges. The first challenge is Iran. You said,
Natan, quoting my father, that the Jewish fate has changed because of the
Jewish state, and that is true. But not the designs of the enemies of the
Jewish people. They have not changed with the rise of the Jewish state. That
is the millennial desire of the enemies of the Jews, fired by Jew hatred in
antiquity and medieval times and in modern times to eradicate the Jewish
people. That has not changed. It may have taken a back seat for a few
decades after the Holocaust, it was politically improper, but it has come
back with full force, in the renascent Islamist anti-Semitism, the anarchist
left and that strange bond between them that you've spoken about many times,
and also in the failure of those who should know better to stand up against
the de-legitimization of Israel; in fact, to concur in it and to assist it
by portraying Israel, which is a uniquely moral country and the only country
that observes human rights and fights for democracy and fights for the
rights of people to be heard and fights for the rights of minorities and
maintains those rights and the rights of women and everyone else, the
de-legitimization of Israel in the face of the attempts to actually destroy
is one of the great moral failures of our time.
And we should expose it, we should speak out against it, and I know you do
and I do and we should do so more often, because there's nothing short of an
effort to eradicate the Jewish state, and we should be clear about that,
that is spearheaded first by Iran. Iran makes no bones about it, it is
developing nuclear weapons with the expressed purpose of destroying the
Jewish state, and I think this is the foremost challenge of the next
government that we will form.
I think as in the other instances, what is directed, the hatred that is
directed against the Jews threatens the rest of the world, but the rest of
the world doesnt see it. That is also a repetition of history. But I think
that the development of nuclear weapons by Iran will be a pivot of history,
will change the balance of power irrevocably in the world. When people with
unlimited ambitions of aggression get unlimited weapons, what they believe
are weapons of unlimited power, the demon is uncorked, and it's happened
before. Up to the point when they think that they've got the power to work
out their mad designs, up to that point, they're careful, even though they
can be quite aggressive and they are, they can use terror and they can use
subterfuge and they can use many other acts of violence, but this is nothing
compared to the point where they think they've assumed the critical mass of
power necessary to carry out their fantasies. This is the greatest mistake
of history to assume that people will behave rationally when they're
fundamentally irrational when you give them the power of mass death. Iran
is seeking the power of mass death, and it's enough to see what they're
doing now to realize what they'll do then. Because what they are doing now
is conducting a worldwide web of terror brazen, unabashed, across a dozen
countries. That number is growing every day, with their henchman,
Hezbollah they've just been exposed in Bulgaria, but they're exposed
everywhere. Governments know it, they know it, but they dont call it like
it is, and I congratulate Bulgaria for doing so. You should congratulate
them too. And in addition what they're doing, they're conducting a brazen
campaign of cyber attacks against everyone against Israel, against the
This is the unseen attack, but it's felt and it will be felt more and more.
And they're arming their tentacles, their poisoned tentacles of Hamas and
Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah with tens of thousands of rockets and deadly
weapons. They're threatening, I believe, not only the security of Israel
but the security of every regime in the Middle East, and certainly the flow
of oil from this region. And certainly their development of nuclear weapons
will spark a nuclear arms race. It will make the Middle East a nuclear
tinderbox. It will change the world. We've not seen anything like it.
We've not seen since the advent of nuclear weapons a power that could
contemplate using those weapons with happy abandon they say so. Nobody
has said so since the Cuban missile crisis, over a half a century ago.
Nobody has said that.
They say it. They move forward. They're progressing. They're getting
closer to the red line that I had set at the UN. They're building rapid
centrifuges: that is centrifuges that enrich the uranium needed to make
nuclear bombs at three times the pace so that they could cross that red line
and get to a high enrichment to a sufficient amount of 90% enriched uranium
within a much shorter time. They're doing all that. So far, they've not
been stopped. And the sanctions themselves even tougher sanctions will
not stop them.
Case in point, North Korea. Have tough sanctions stopped North Korea? No.
And the fact that they produced a nuclear explosion reverberates everywhere
in the Middle East, and especially in Iran. They say, "Where is the world?
Where is the international community? Where is the tough response?" It's a
question that everybody deserves to ask. Sanctions alone will not stop the
nuclear program of Iran. They have to be coupled with a robust, credible
military threat. If they are not, there's no chance to stop it. If they're
coupled with that military threat, there is a chance to stop it. And if it
doesn't stop it that way, then it will have to be stopped another way. But
the world has to decide whether it allows this terror regime that breaks all
norms to have access to atomic bombs.
I believe that stronger sanctions must be combined with credible military
means, and I believe that stopping Iran is the number one goal of anyone
seeking peace and security in the world. It's certainly the number one
topic that President Obama and I will talk about in our upcoming meeting
here, which I attach great importance to. I look forward to welcoming
President Obama here in Israel, and we have said together that this is item
Item number two is Syria. There's a humanitarian disaster going there.
There are over 60,000 people who have butchered. Some of them need medical
treatment. The other day, we took some wounded prisoners in, just out of a
humanitarian concern, but it's important to understand that Syria could also
be a strategic disaster. It is an underdeveloped country. It's GDP per
capita is a few thousand dollars at best. But it contains the most lethal
weapons on Earth, short of nuclear weapons. It's got chemical weapons; it's
got advanced anti-aircraft missile systems that are the most advanced in the
world; it's got other deadly weapons that could threaten not only Israel,
but threaten the United States and its allies. Some of them are the most
sophisticated weapons ever built. And those weapons will be up for grabs if
the Syrian regime collapses. Israel can't sit idly by and see these weapons
transferred to Hezbollah or other terror groups. So we will do whatever is
necessary to defend ourselves.
In addition to that, of course, we have the general instability in this
region. I'm giving you the good news. Look around us. There's a tide, and
that tide is moving in the wrong direction. It is not moving in the
direction of modernity. It is moving in the direction of early medievalism.
I didn't want to say medievalism because my father was a scholar of medieval
history, and I think he would tell me that there were advances in late
medieval Europe that we haven't seen in parts of these countries. They set
back the clock. They want to turn back history. And they move. And I have
to day that history waits for no one. Things are moving. They're moving
right now in a bad direction that I have defined, and we can't sit and wait
for things to happen. We have to united our forces and take whatever
necessary action to protect ourselves, prepare ourselves for what is taking
place. That is often not mirrored in our public discussions and even in our
politics or in our press, but these are the fundamental facts of our
existence and the challenges to our future.
One of them is to seek a realistic peace with our Palestinian neighbors:
realistic because we understand the territories that we vacated have been
taken over by the forces I've just described. We walked out of Lebanon and
we've got an Iranian proxy, Hezbollah, armed to the teeth, firing rockets on
our country. We walked out of Gaza and we've got an Iranian proxy, Hamas,
armed to the teeth, firing rockets into our cities. We can't afford to do
this a third time, so we need a peace process and a peace result that gives
us peace and gives us security; and that is not achieved by merely signing a
piece of paper. Peace treaties in themselves do not guarantee the
continuity of peace. Just think about that. I could give you a case in
point, but you can imagine it yourself.
So in addition to a piece of paper, we need actual security on the ground.
This means that when we speak about our Palestinian neighbors, we must have
a credibly, thoroughly demilitarized Palestinian state. We have to have
that. Otherwise, we'll have a replication of what happened in Lebanon and
in Gaza. And this is not a simple task. It requires very, very stringent
conditions, and it requires very tough negotiations. Because we just can't
close our eyes and say, "All right. Let's just walk out. Sign the paper.
Hope for the best". We can't do that. We have to assure that what happened
once, what happened twice, doesn't happen thrice. That's the first thing.
And the second thing is: we want to have a peace that is based on mutual
recognition. Mutual recognition means not only that we recognize them, but
that they recognize us. We have the Jewish nation-state of Israel here.
It's high time that the Palestinians recognize that. It doesn't that it
will percolate from the top down. For that we need security. But that's a
necessary understanding, that we have here the nation-state of the Jewish
people. That it's not going to be bifurcated or trifurcated into various
zones, various autonomies. This is the state of the Jews. The ability to
have any Jew come here is fundamental to our existence. The ability to have
our national symbols, our holidays, our history, our culture that is
fundamental. It's a nation-state. It cannot be dissolved. So the conflict
has to be resolved with the solidity of the Jewish state ensured, both in
terms of recognition and also in terms of security arrangements.
This is something we're prepared to move on. It's difficult. It's not easy
to get into these negotiations, because as I've just described it, it's only
Israel that has to make concessions. Everybody knows that. Everybody
speaks about that. It's the Palestinians who will have to make concessions
too. That's part of the world, and that's part of a genuine, workable and
durable peace, even though it's not raised like that. But I raise it like
that. I call it like it is, and it's a difficult task.
Now, I'm not placing these conditions before the entrance gate. In fact, I
place no conditions on entering the negotiations. I have a clear idea of
what has to be done to achieve a workable peace. I'm prepared to do it, but
I don't place any conditions on entering negotiations. Would that this were
true on the Palestinian side. They've done nothing but place condition upon
precondition upon precondition for entering the talks. I don't think we
should spend or waste another four years negotiating about the negotiations.
I think we should just get on with it. And I view President Obama's visit
here, along with Secretary Kerry, as an opportunity to reset this and get
back to the business of genuine negotiations direct, unimpeded
negotiations without preconditions between Israel and the Palestinians.
That's the way to proceed towards peace.
These are the main issues that I'm going to discuss with President Obama
when he comes here, but of course, I have other discussions going on today.
They're a lot of fun. They're to build a coalition inside Israel that works
to form the necessary unity to address the challenges, the enormous
challenges I've just described, and one or two that I haven't. And of
course most of the conversation is focused on the internal questions of how
to continue our economic growth, but also in a way that would lower the
prices of commodities, but especially the prices of housing in Israel. And
that's a pretty daunting task, although easier than some of the things that
I've said, because on the whole, Israel has demonstrated I think we have
demonstrated a great capacity to manage our economy responsibly and
We're number one in the developed world in growth over the last four years,
in the creation of jobs, in low unemployment. That's not bad. I mean,
we've been criticized for having a 4% deficit. I know a lot of countries
who would trade and get that immediately. But obviously, these successes
as important as they are have come through deliberate policies, and those
policies also have to address the fact that Israelis pay about three times
what they should be paying relative to America for the cost of housing, and
that even though we've gone up and since I was Finance Minister and we made
some big reforms in this country in fact we began them earlier by opening
our markets to import competition. That was seen as a disaster at the time.
And then as Prime Minister for the first time, I opened up our currency
markets. You can actually take money in and out of this country in an
unlimited way. Can you imagine Israel in 1998, 1997 you couldn't take out
more than $3,000. You would have to register this with the Central Bank.
You remember that? Can you imagine this? This was the country, this was
the hi-tech country giving software to all the companies financial
software to all the countries in the world, and you'd have to get a
Central Bank official to authorize the dollar subscription to Newsweek!
Well, things have changed, haven't they?
So we changed that. We've done a lot of reforms, a lot of reforms. And as
a result, Israel has caught up with Europe, but we still are not at the
place where I believe we can be. We have $32,000 per capita income; I think
we can go a lot higher, and as we go higher, I want to drive down the costs
which are primarily the result of cartels and monopolies, and very often
when it comes to the price of housing, government monopolies. Try to build
a porch in this country and you'll see how difficult that is. Okay?
So we have a big job to do, and we also have a job to do of sharing the
burden. I think it's not a simple process, because it involves essentially
changing patterns that have been sustained here over the last 65 years,
begun by David Ben-Gurion. We have to take a Haredi population that has
moved in one direction and move it in the other direction in such a way that
we don't create an irreparable rupture in the society. That has begun to
happen in the last four years as the numbers of Haredim in the military
service and in national service jumped for the first time from 300 to about
3,000. And we want to continue this without causing retrenchment.
And we want to continue this also with the tremendous increase of
participation in the job market. That is also happening, partly as a result
of very difficult reforms that I put in as Finance Minister that reduced
child allowances and encouraged people to go into the job market. The rate
of participation in the job market has gone up by 2.5% in the last four
years. That's an enormous number, enormous. It's relative to the OECD or
relative to other countries, relative to Israel itself, it's an enormous
change. You have to know the particulars to appreciate how deep that is.
We want to continue both trends: we want to continue the participation in
the military and national service; and we want to continue the participation
in the job market. Because that's the only way that we'll secure not only
the sharing of the total burden, but also give Israel the opportunity for
growth. This is a source of growth, a clear engine of growth for the coming
This is a daunting challenge because it's simplified, it's sloganized, it's
diluted to irrelevancy by the political process, but that's always the
tendency of the political process, and it's the task of political leaders to
extract depth from superficiality or depth from shallowness. I don't know
how we do that. That's alchemy, but that's the main job that we have, and I
intend to do it.
So these are some of the main problems that we face, the main challenges
that we face. They're by no means simple, and especially they're not simple
because of the turbulence around us and the great change in the regimes
around us and the great change in the weapons around us. This is something
that we've been able to deal with so far, and we've dealt with them, I
think, responsibly and effectively. But it remains the main challenge to
secure the Jewish future. I don't believe that we can do that disunited,
and I keep pushing for a broad national unity government. But that national
unity government also extends to the Jewish people. We need to unite our
forces against our enemies, against our detractors, against those who don't
see the enormity of the challenges that we face, and those who constantly,
constantly jab at an Israel that is seeking to create a better life for Jews
and Arabs, and accuse it of being a backward, dark regime. It's not. We
should stand up for Israel. We should stand up for the truth.
I don't see anyone else more suited for this task than you. I know your
commitment to the Jewish people; I know your commitment to truth; I know
your commitment to Jewish education and to Jewish values. It's a wonderful
partnership. I look forward to working with you to continue with courage
and wisdom to secure the future of the Jewish state and the future of the
Jewish people. And I thank you for everything that you've done. I thank
you for everything you will do with Natan at the helm.
Thank you very much.