Monday, November 9, 2009

PM Netanyahu's Washington speech - outlines his vision on Peace process

"The result of our joint efforts has been a stronger Israel. And only a strong Israel can achieve peace. But even a strong Israel is still a small Israel. And a small Israel demands a secure peace. Peace in our land, the peace of Jerusalem, our eternal capital, is one of our oldest longings, expressed in our Psalms and our prayers.

Peace between Israel and our Arab neighbors: the first and immediate result would spare our children the horrors of war. It would spare our children the horrors of war. It would spare our grandchildren the horrors of war. What a great gift.

Peace could usher in a new age of economic progress for the benefit of all. We have already signed peace agreements, two of them, with Egypt and Jordan. And we are eager to achieve peace with all our other neighbors, especially with the Palestinians.

I believe there is no time to waste. We need to move towards peace with a sense of urgency and a sense of purpose. I want to be clear. My goal is not to have endless negotiations. My goal is not negotiations for negotiations sake. My goal is to reach a peace treaty, and soon.

But to get a peace agreement, we must start negotiating. Let’s stop talking about negotiations. Let’s start moving.

This past June at Bar-Ilan University, I put forward a vision of peace that has united the vast majority of Israelis.

In this vision of two states for two peoples, a demilitarized Palestinian state would recognize the Jewish state.

Now, what do I mean by a Jewish state? It is a state in which all individuals and all minorities have equal individual rights. Yet our national symbols, language and culture spring from the heritage of the Jewish people. And most important, any Jew from anywhere in the world has a right to immigrate to Israel and become a citizen.

I want to make it clear: Any Jew, of any denomination, will always have the right to come home to the Jewish state. Religious pluralism and tolerance will always guide my policy.

What does a Jewish state mean for the Palestinians? They must abandon the fantasy of flooding Israel with refugees, give up irredentist claims to the Negev and Galilee, and declare unequivocally that the conflict is finally over.

Yet, even after we achieve peace it may take years for the spirit of peace to permeate most levels of Palestinian society. Therefore, any peace agreement we sign today must include ironclad security measures that will protect the State of Israel.

Here comes that paradox again.

Israel is powerful but small. No matter where our final borders are drawn, Israel will remain exceedingly small. I am not sure you know how small Israel is. The United States and Canada are each roughly 400 times the size of Israel and the Arab world is 500 times the size of Israel. Egypt alone is roughly 40 times larger and even a small country like Jordan, our neighbor to the east, is almost four times as big. Israel is bigger than Rhode Island, but that’s about it.

Small countries are not necessarily insecure. Belgium and Luxemburg are small but they today are not insecure. Yet if their neighbors included radical regimes bent on their conquest and destruction with terror proxies firing thousands of missiles on their people, believe me, they would feel insecure. Anyone would.

Because of our small size and the radical and violent neighborhood in which we live, Israel faces security threats like that of no other nation.

A few facts to drive the point home.

A few days ago, the Israeli navy interdicted a ship carrying hundreds of tons of rockets and explosives from Iran bound for Hezbollah via Syria. Last week, Hamas tested a rocket with a range of nearly 40 miles.

Now, for a large country, that might not be too consequential. But in tiny Israel, Hamas and Hezbollah now have the power to reach Tel Aviv.

Israel’s security therefore requires that any territory vacated in a future peace agreement must be effectively demilitarized.

An effective demilitarizion of Palestinian areas is an essential component of peace recognized by successive American presidents. I want to assure you Israel is willing to make great concessions for peace. But there can be no concessions on Israel’s security. We have to ensure that weapons do not flow into the Palestinian areas in the West Bank, which overlooks Tel Aviv and surrounds Jerusalem.

We cannot permit another Gaza or South Lebanon in the heart of the country. What we want is a durable peace, a peace that can be defended. We fervently hope that such a peace will hold, but we must be prepared to defend ourselves in case it doesn’t.
My friends,

My government is working to advance peace and we are not just talking.

We have removed hundreds of security checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank. I personally extended the hours of operation on the Allenby Bridge and I’ve removed bureaucratic hurdles to Palestinian economic development.

These efforts, along with measures taken by the Palestinian Authority to improve security, have spurred an unmatched boom in the West Bank and has made life better for ordinary Palestinians.

For the first time in years, businesses, banks and industry are sprouting. Restaurants, theaters, and shopping malls are overflowing. Thousands and thousands of Palestinian jobs are being created.

I think we can do a lot more to improve the reality on the ground, and we will. I intend to do a lot more.

Prosperity can help advance peace – but only so far. To truly resolve the outstanding issues between us, we must begin and complete peace negotiations.

We should not place preconditions for holding talks. Such obstacles to talks were never set in the 16 years of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. From the day my government was sworn in seven months ago, I have been calling for peace negotiations to start.

I said I would go anywhere, anytime to advance peace. And no Israeli government has been so willing to restrain settlement activity as part of an effort to re-launch peace talks. So I say today to the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas: let us seize the moment to reach an historic agreement. Let us begin talks immediately.

I know there are many skeptics. I am not one of them. I believe that peace is possible. I know how committed the Israeli people are to peace and how committed I am to make peace. But I need and we need a determined Palestinian partner as well. A partner willing to shoulder the risk and burdens as we are.

I believe that with good will and with courageous leadership on both sides, and no less important, with the continued support of the United States, peace can become a reality. We can surprise a skeptical world".