PM Netanyahu speech at Bar Ilan University
Israel Towards 2020 Conference at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic
6 October 2013
Translated from Hebrew
I recently read a hundred-page book by a wonderful American historian who
passed away nearly 50 years ago. His name was Will Durant and he wrote many
books. He wrote an eleven volume history of civilization, but at the end of
his life, he wrote a hundred-page book, The Lessons of History. You should
read it. Every line is carved from the stone of truth, and I will give you
the bad news and the good news.
The bad news is that when you finish reading this book, you understand that
in history, greater numbers rule. They matter. But here is the good news. On
page 17, if I am not mistaken, he mentions that there may be exceptions to
this rule and that through the unification of a cultural force, that's what
he called it, the odds could be overcome. He gives the State of Israel as an
example of such an exception.
I think that we have proven in the 65 years of Israel's existence that we
are exceptional, but we must continue to be so, also by preserving our
spiritual foundations. Two weeks ago, archaeologists found a gold medallion
near the Western Wall. The archaeologists dated it to the beginning of the
seventh century and there is a menorah on the medallion – our national
symbol. On one side, a Torah scroll and on the other a shofar. The entire
Torah on one medallion and of course, this was after 2,000 years of Jewish
existence in the Land of Israel. This existence has lasted for nearly 4,000
years. Apparently there is something special about this exception of ours,
in our unique combination of our past heritage and the way that we look to
the future with our full force and talents and I would even say genius.
There is no doubt that this university is part of our national and
international effort to preserve our heritage and of course combine it with
I thank you for your invitation to speak here, on the 20th anniversary of
the founding of the Begin-Sadat Center. Many things have happened to us
during those years. On the political front, we signed a peace agreement with
Jordan. During all that time, exactly 20 years, we have been conducting
negotiations with the Palestinians, trying to achieve a peace agreement, and
despite ups and downs during these two decades, we managed to maintain the
peace accords with Egypt. This is not insignificant.
However, without a doubt, the most significant developments in the Middle
East during this entire period are those of the past few years, and they
overshadow all the rest when taking a broad view. Two of these developments
include the historic unrest taking place in the Arab world – unrest that is
at its height and far from over if such a thing can actually end; and of
course Iran's ongoing efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Iran's goal is to
take over the entire Middle East and beyond, and to destroy the State of
Israel. This is not speculation; this is their goal.
Israel and the United States agree that Iran must be prevented from arming
itself with nuclear weapons. Just days ago, the Iranian president said at
the UN that Iran is only interested in civilian nuclear power. That's what
I do not believe him, but anyone interested in examining his statement
should ask the Iranian regime one simple question – if you only want
peaceful nuclear energy, why do you insist on centrifuges to enrich uranium
and on plutonium reactors? Neither of these things is necessary to produce
peaceful nuclear energy. There is no need for them; however they are the
essential components for producing fissile material for nuclear weapons.
This must be understood – they are not needed at all for peaceful purposes.
Seventeen countries, including some of the leading countries in the world –
Canada, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Indonesia with a quarter of a
million people – and many others produce nuclear energy without centrifuges,
without plutonium reactors.
Only someone who wants to produce fissile material for nuclear bombs insists
on these components – not only insists, but is willing to inflict great
suffering on his people because this insistence involves sanctions and
dictates by the Security Council. Why do they do this? Perhaps they are
lacking energy resources? They have gas and oil. I mention natural gas on
purpose because it is immediately available for industry and for everything
else. They have so many resources that they can provide for the needs of
considerable areas of the world for many years with what they have,
certainly for the needs of their own country.
Therefore, the international community should take the following position
vis-à-vis Iran – we are ready to reach a diplomatic resolution, but only one
that dismantles Iran's ability to produce nuclear weapons. In other words,
no centrifuges or enriched uranium, no plutonium reactor. As long as Iran
does not dismantle its centrifuges and plutonium reactors, the sanctions
must not be eased at all. On the contrary, they should be increased.
The truth is simple, it is clear, it cuts like a razor through the fog they
are trying to create. If their intentions are peaceful, they will agree. If
they are not peaceful, they will not agree. But perhaps the formula should
be put simply as follows: they dismantle, they receive; they don't
dismantle, they don't receive. And this is a difficult struggle because it
is human nature to hope, to believe, to try – we are willing to try but not
to conduct an open experiment without criteria and certainly not without a
realistic and clear-sighted view.
Parallel with the attempt to stop Iran's nuclear armament and preserve the
peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, we are interested in bringing the
conflict with the Palestinians to an end. Achieving a genuine and secure
peace, with real security and not just on paper but on the ground – for us,
our children, our grandchildren – this is the greatest wish of all citizens
of Israel. In order to bring about an end to the conflict, the root of the
conflict must be understood.
I bring this up because, in my opinion, in all the discussions regarding the
conflict with the Palestinians, at least one thing has been achieved and
that is that whoever believed that it was the core of the conflict in the
Middle East – well, now it is difficult to say such a thing without sounding
absurd. It is not the core of the conflict – not what is happening in Libya
or Tunisia or Algeria or Egypt or Yemen or Syria or Iraq and so on and so
forth. But for years they told us that the core of the conflict in the
Middle East was the Palestinian matter and how shall I put this? That
sacred cow is one of the victims of the Arab revolution.
However, there is a second sacred cow in equal measure. When people are
asked what the root of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is – since if you
want to provide a solution or fix a certain problem, first you must
correctly diagnose the illness. Well, when asked what the root of the
conflict is, people usually have an answer at the ready: the occupation, the
territories, the settlements and so on – it is all the same. Israel "taking
control of the territories", the area of Judea and Samaria after the Six Day
War, the settlements – this is what sustains the conflict, this is what
created the conflict for the most part. And I ask, is it really?
In my opinion, if one must choose a process by which the conflict started in
actual fact, I would set the date at 1921 on the day on which the
Palestinian Arabs attacked the immigration hostel in Jaffa.
Many Jews were killed in this attack, including the well-known writer Y.H.
Brenner. This attack was directed against Jewish immigration. My grandfather
arrived in Jaffa, at that same hostel, the year before, as did many others.
Clearly this attack was not about territory or settlements; it was against
Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel. Later there were more attacks: In
1929, the ancient Jewish community in Hebron was brutally slaughtered. It
had existed there nearly uninterrupted for close to 4,000 years. After that,
there were attacks in '36, in '39 – what they called unrest. These were
repeated and methodical attacks against the Jewish community in Israel.
Later on there was the Partition Plan of 1947, wherein it was proposed that
there be an Arab state – they didn't say Palestinian state, but rather Arab
state – and a Jewish state. The Jews agreed, the Arabs refused. Because the
matter was not at that time, nor is it today, the question of a Palestinian
state, but rather was and remains, unfortunately, the Jewish state. And even
before 1967, for 19 years, they had us in a chokehold; there was a
stranglehold around us with the sole goal of uprooting us, of extinguishing
our lives. What was that about?
There were no territories then either. There was no occupation, unless Tel
Aviv is occupied and Jaffa is occupied. There were no settlements for 46
years, from 1921 to 1967, nearly half a century. We were excoriated by the
Arab public unrelated to settlements, unrelated to what is presented as the
historic heart of the struggle. I say these things because I can – well, so
it ended there, but later everything changed.
Later on, events developed as they developd. We withdrew from Gaza, every
last centimeter. We uprooted communities and the attacks against us
continued – approximately 10,000 missiles were fired at us from Gazan
territory, from territories from which we withdrew. And when we ask those
who launch the missiles and those who stand behind them: why do you fire at
Jews? They say: in order to free Palestine. And what is Palestine? Judea and
Samaria? No. Of course, they are part of it, but they say: Beer Sheva and
Ashkelon, Majdal and Acre and Jaffa.
Fine, those who say such things belong to Hamas or Islamic Jihad, but the
more moderate elements in Judea and Samaria, the Palestinian Authority – it
is true that they do not engage in terror and this is an important
distinction. They do not engage in terror, but when they are asked to say:
Well, do you recognize? Not in Judea and Samaria, not in the West Bank, but
are you ready finally to recognize the Jewish state? They answer: We are
prepared to recognize the Israeli people; we are ready to recognize Israel.
I say, that is not the question I am asking: Are you prepared to recognize
the Jewish state, the nation state of the Jewish people? And the answer so
far has been no. Why not?
During my speech here four years ago, I said that the solution is a
demilitarized Palestinian state. The reason for demilitarization is clear to
everyone in light of our experience – true and ongoing demilitarization with
very clear security arrangements and no international forces. But a Jewish
state – recognize the Jewish state.
Why are you not willing to recognize the Jewish state? We are willing to
recognize your nation state, and that is at great cost – it involves
territories, our ancestral lands, which is not insignificant. And I say this
as well – this is a very difficult thing. But you need to make a series of
concessions too and the first concession is to give up your dream of the
right of return. We will not be satisfied with recognition of the Israeli
people or of some kind of binational state which will later be flooded by
This is the nation state of the Jewish people. If they want, Jews immigrate
to this country. Palestinian Arabs, if they want, will go there. Recognize
the Jewish state. As long as you refuse to do so, there will never be peace.
Recognize our right to live here in our own sovereign state, our nation
state – only then will peace be possible.
I emphasize this here – this is an essential condition. There are other
conditions important for concluding the negotiations – not for conducting
negotiations, but for concluding them, but I mention this because the
political process with the Palestinians involves resolving complicated
problems. It will be deemed successful only if it is built on the
foundations of truth, the truth of the present and historic truth and
unfortunately, the truth that is under constant attack from our enemies and
opponents. They try to undermine the ancient connection of our people with
the Land of Israel and obfuscate the basic facts of the conflict between us
and the Palestinians in the 20th century.
For example, several days ago, I heard Iran's representative half-heartedly
comment on the Nazi crimes – it is difficult for them to say Holocaust – but
immediately he added vigorously that one shouldn't allow the Zionists to
take advantage of the Nazi crimes, i.e. the Holocaust, in order to harm the
Palestinians. Iran's representatives repeat time and again the familiar
trope that the Holocaust occurred without any connection to the Palestinian
question and only later the Zionist leaders came along and made use of the
Holocaust to repress the Palestinians.
Well, what are the facts? The undisputed leader of the Palestinian national
movement in the first half of the 20th century was Mufti Haj Amin
al-Husseini. The Mufti was the living sprit behind those same attacks I
described, from 1921 in Jaffa through the Second World War.
All this is known, but here are some facts about the Mufti's activities that
are less well known:
On November 28, 1941, the Mufti flew to Berlin and met with Hitler. He
expressed to Hitler his readiness to cooperate with Germany in any way. And
he did so – both by recruiting Muslim fighters to join the ranks of the S.S.
in the Balkans and by broadcasting propaganda for the Nazis.
Here is a typical example of the propaganda broadcast by the Mufti in 1942.
I quote, "If England is defeated and its allies overwhelmed, it will provide
a final solution to the Jewish question, which in our mind is the greatest
Between 1942 and 1944, he worked from his base in Berlin and tried to
prevent Jews from being saved – in Hungary, Germany, Bulgaria, Croatia –
countries which, despite being enslaved to Hitler, allowed the Jews to
escape to the Land of Israel and other places. The Mufti protested to the
Nazis that they hadn't provided enough resources to prevent the escape of
the refugee Jews from the Balkans. In his testimony at the Nuremberg Trials
on August 6, 1947, the German commander Wilhelm Melchers said, "The Mufti
made his protests known everywhere, in the Bureau of the Foreign Minister
and the State Minister and in other headquarters of the S.S." On May 13,
1943, for example, the Mufti submitted a letter to the Nazi Foreign Minister
Ribbentrop in which he objected to the understandings Germany made which
allowed for the deportation of 4,000 Jewish children from Bulgaria. He asked
to see, "everyone," and I quote, "everyone wiped out."
Eichmann's deputy, Dieter Wisliceny, provided the following chilling
testimony at Nuremberg: "The Mufti played a role in the decision to destroy
the Jews of Europe. The importance of his role cannot be ignored. The Mufti
repeatedly proposed to the authorities with whom he was in contact, first
and foremost Hitler, Ribbentrop and Himmler, to destroy the European Jews.
He saw in that an appropriate solution to the Palestinian question".
Wisliceny even provided hearsay evidence that the Mufti was directly
involved in the Final Solution. "The Mufti was one of the initiators of the
methodical destruction of the Jews of Europe and was a partner and
consultant to Eichmann and Hitler on how to execute the plan. He was one of
Eichmann's best friends and constantly pushed him to speed up the
destruction. With my own ears," he said, "I heard him say that he visited
the gas chambers of Auschwitz anonymously in the company of Eichmann."
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As opposed to the things being said by Iran's representatives and others,
the Zionist leaders did not use the Holocaust to destroy the Palestinian
national movement. On the contrary, the most senior Palestinian leader at
the time, the Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini preached and acted to implement the
Holocaust in order to destroy the Zionist movement. It almost worked.
European Jewry was indeed wiped out, in part because of the Mufti's efforts,
but Zionism was not wiped out and the State of Israel was established.
I mention these things here because these roots, this poisonous tumor, must
be uprooted. The Mufti is still an admired figure in the Palestinian
national movement. Go look at websites, go to schools, look at schoolbooks.
This is the tumor that must be removed, this is the root of the conflict,
this is what keeps it alive and the root of the conflict was and remains
that which has been repeated for over 90 years – the profound objection by
the hard core of Palestinians to the right of the Jewish people to its own
country in the Land of Israel. In order for the current process to be
significant, in order for it to have a real chance for success, it is
essential that we finally hear from the Palestinian leadership that it
recognizes the right of the Jewish people to its own country, the State of
Israel. I very much hope that it will happen so that we can move toward a
real resolution of the conflict.
There are many other subjects that we will of course have to resolve during
the negotiations. First and foremost, there must be a real and sustainable
solution to Israel's security needs in the unstable and dangerous region in
which live, because even if we do achieve this recognition, after years of
incitement that still continues, we have no assurance that this recognition
will filter down into all levels of Palestinian society and that is why we
need very solid security arrangements, so that we will be able to defend the
peace and defend ourselves if the peace is violated. This is a realistic and
responsible approach, one that is ready to move forward but not blindly.
This reminds me of another issue. I think an essential condition for
reaching a genuine resolution clearly was and remains the reversal of the
refusal to recognize the right of the Jews to a nation state of their own in
the land of their ancestors and this too is the most important key to
resolving the conflict, recognition of this right.
I believe in the power of the people of Israel and I believe in the power of
the State of Israel. What we have accomplished over the last 65 years is
indeed wondrous. Today we mark 40 years since the Yom Kippur War. In the
ensuing 40 years, the population of Israel has increased two-and-a-half
fold. Israel's GNP has increased 25 times. That is like taking 25 economies
of the State of Israel and placing them side by side. We can mark
achievements in all fields – in immigrant absorption, immigration,
technology, freeing up the economy, developing the Negev and the Galilee, in
the cyber city we are building in Beer Sheva, in the biotech city which will
be established now in Safed, which is rising before our very eyes.
These are tremendous things. We did not wait for our neighbors in order to
develop our country. We continue to do so. There is a connection between the
two things – as long as we continue to grow our power, as long as we fortify
our country, as long as we build our economy, as long as we strengthen our
society, as long as we are strong – there is a chance that this change will
also occur among our neighbors. We cannot give up on this – it is essential
for safeguarding our future and ensuring our safety.
6 October 2013