Israel wants peace, but it is not willing to sacrifice its security for it, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Thursday evening at the closing session of the Presidential Conference.
“For peace to be maintained, we must be strong in the present and in the future. Because a peace accord that compromises our security will not endure, and I will never compromise the security of the State of Israel and its citizens,” said Netanyahu.
“Therefore, when we talk about ‘tomorrow’ I talk about a tomorrow of peace, security and also prosperity.”
Israel, he said, “must remain strong. And the greatest threat that we face is that the most dangerous weapons in the world fall into the hands of the most dangerous regimes in the world – especially one regime. We cannot allow Iran to achieve nuclear weapons.
“Now, mind you, the people of Iran, they want a better tomorrow. The election results show that very clearly. But Iran’s dictator denies them their rights and he prevents them from materializing that better future.
“The first thing the newly elected president said was that Iran must be guaranteed its rights. He didn’t say: the Iranian people must be guaranteed their rights. He said: Iran must be guaranteed its rights. And the right that Iran stresses that it must have a guarantee on is to develop nuclear weapons.
“This is what this regime is about. So we may be seeing a change in style, but not a change in substance. In fact, the President elect is the author of a doctrine that I call ‘Talk and Enrich’ (enrich nuclear material): You smile, you talk and you move forward towards the bomb. He takes great pride in the fact that when he was Iran’s nuclear negotiator, that’s exactly what he did for many years. He criticizes the past president for not engaging in this tactic to achieve the unchanging and fixed strategy of arming Iran with nuclear weapons.
“We cannot allow the Iranian regime to play that game,” stressed Netanyahu, who said Iran will be tested not by what it says but by what it does. “And what they have to do is to abide by the international demands, stop all enrichment at all levels, remove the nuclear material that’s already been enriched and shut down the illicit nuclear facilities,” he said.
“I say to the international community: keep up the pressure, keep up the pressure and keep to those demands.
“This is fundamental for international security, and it’s fundamental for our security.
Regarding the peace process, Netanyahu once again called on the Palestinian Authority to return to the negotiating table without preconditions.
“The only way to achieve peace, the only way to negotiate a peace and to end the negotiations for peace is to begin the negotiations for peace,” he said. “We’re ready to begin negotiations now, without preconditions. And I hope that the Palestinian leadership is equally ready.
“We’re only 15 minutes apart. Well, with a police escort you could do it faster, but that’s the distance from Ramallah to Jerusalem. There’s no reason on earth we shouldn’t negotiate. And we give Secretary Kerry all the support for his important effort, and I hope he succeeds, because we want to succeed.
“But I’ll say one thing about peace. I think the reason there is no peace has to be addressed. Not in opening the negotiations, because I put no conditions and no requirement on entering the negotiations. But in order to end the negotiations successfully we must address the question of why we’ve been unavailable, why we’ve been unsuccessful in getting peace. Why have successive governments, six prime ministers since Oslo, and before Oslo, have not been able to achieve peace with the Palestinians.
“I think it must be understood that this conflict predates 1967 by almost half a century. It predates the settlements, although that’s an issue that will have to be discussed and resolved. All these questions will be discussed.
“But the question we have to ask is why did this conflict rage from 1920, when the first Palestinian Arab attacks on the Jewish immigration office in Jaffa began, till 1967? That’s 47 years. What was that all about? I’ll tell you what it was about. It was the fervent opposition to a Jewish state in any boundary. It didn’t even exist, and once it existed, there was an attempt to put out the life, to extinguish the life of the embryonic Jewish state in the War of Independence and then in the years that followed. That was the reason.
“And then we vacated settlements. We left Gaza and it still continued. And those who are firing rockets into our towns and to our villages, you ask them, ‘Why are you doing this? We left every square inch of Gaza. Why are you doing this?’ They say: ‘To liberate Palestine.’ And we say: ‘You mean Judea, Samaria, the West Bank?’ ‘No,’ they say, ‘Palestine. We mean Be’er Sheva, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Jaffa. You know, Palestine.’ That was and remains the basic problem.”
Netanyahu noted that “Palestinian society is divided into two: those who openly call for our destruction and use terror for that effect, and those, the other half that refuses to confront the first half. And I say, if we’re going to have peace, we’re going to have Palestinian leadership that faces up to this and says: ‘We are willing to make peace with the Jewish state. We will accept the right of the Jewish people to have a nation state.’ That was and remains the underlying problem that makes peace elusive.”
What will ultimately bring about peace, he stressed, is “the willingness of the Palestinians to accept a Jewish state, to accept the right of the Jews to live in their ancient homeland as a sovereign people, this is the most important thing that will determine the success of our efforts.”
He added, “We seek peace with all our neighbors. We seek a Middle East of peace, security, stability, prosperity. We will work to ensure it for our own state. We pray that we can achieve it with others. And I hope that they will pray that same prayer too.
“That’s the tomorrow I wish for. That’s the tomorrow I know you wish for, everyone here, everyone, from Shimon Peres to the last guest here, and everyone who is listening to us out there, may we succeed.”