Thank you Michael, and thank you all. He was subtle, wasn’t he? Well, wait until you hear me.
I want to start with the most important thing: the most important thing is to assure the security and the future of the Jewish state, the one and only Jewish State of Israel. For decades we have been struggling mightily against a regime that calls for our destruction and it pursues nuclear weapons in order to achieve our destruction. Other’s destruction too, but first ours. It is a vital interest for other countries – the United States, the Europeans, many others, the Arabs, in my opinion the Chinese and the Russians as well – but for us it’s a matter of our existence. And the international community has placed demands on Iran to cease and desist the building of capabilities to produce atomic bombs that will threaten us and threaten the peace of the world. They put together a sanctions regime that has brought Iran to its knees, crippling sanctions. The purpose of those sanctions was to get Iran to dismantle – dismantle – its nuclear enrichment capabilities, which are used for atomic bombs and its heavy water plutonium reactor, which is used for atomic bombs.
This is what the sanctions are for. They’re not for preventing civilian nuclear energy or medical isotopes. I suppose Iran is building those ICBMs in order to launch medical isotopes to the Iranian patients orbiting the Earth. It is to prevent fissile material – that’s the material that you put inside an atomic bomb – that’s what those sanctions were about. To dismantle the centrifuge installations, underground military installations, centrifuge halls, and the plutonium reactor.
Now there’s a deal. Why the Iranians came to deal is obvious: because the sanctions are biting, biting their economy, crippling that regime. So they came to the table because they have to. And what is being offered now, and I’m continuously updated in detail. I know whereof I speak. What is being proposed now is a deal in which Iran retains all of that capacity. Not one centrifuge is dismantled. Not one. Iran gets to keep tons of low enriched uranium and they can take these centrifuges, which are not dismantled, in the halls, underground, which are not dismantled – using advanced centrifuges that they’ve already installed, some of them, that are not dismantled – and they can rush within a few weeks, maybe a couple of months, that’s all, and create at the time of their choosing, the fissile material for a bomb.
Iran does not give up anything of that. It makes a minor concession that is meaningless in today’s technology and in their current capacities. In other words, none of the demands of the Security Council resolutions, which the P5+1 powers passed are met. None of them! But what is given to them is the beginning of the rollback of sanctions. This means that the sanctions that took years to put in place are beginning to rollback with several billions of dollars of assets that are freed up; the automotive industry contracts that is central to Iran’s economy freed up; petrochemical industry freed up; matters that involved gold and even petroleum revenues freed up some.
There are people here who deal in the marketplace. The price of anything is determined by future expectations. The pressure on Iran today is based on future expectations. That’s the pressure that’s built up in Iran. That’s the pressure in the international community. But when you start letting up sanctions, rolling back sanctions, you are signaling in Iran that it’s reversed. For the first time, you go down. And people understand it’s over.
This is the deal that is proposed now. Iran does not roll back its nuclear weapons-making capacities at all, but the P5+1 are rolling back sanctions. That’s a bad deal. It’s a dangerous deal because it keeps Iran as a nuclear threshold nation and it may very well bring about a situation where the sanctions are dissolved or collapsed. It’s a bad and dangerous deal that deals with the thing that affects our survival. And when it comes to the question of Jewish survival and the survival of the Jewish state, I will not be silenced, ever. Not on my watch.
When the Jewish people were silent on matters relating to our survival, you know what happened. This is different. We are the Jewish state. We are charged with defending ourselves and we are charged with speaking up. And it is time now to speak up – all of us. All of us have to stand up now and be counted.
I can think of nothing that is as important and as crucial. We shall continue to work with the rest of the world, and it’s good that we have now a few days because this is not only in the interest of Israel; this is in the interest of the entire world. Yes, we speak up, but I think there are other nations in this region and perhaps beyond who can now unite and say: we do not want a nuclear Iran and we stand together to make sure that Iran dismantles its enrichment capacities, its heavy water plutonium reactor, all the things that they need to make nuclear weapons. They’re not entitled to it and it is possible right now, given the precariousness and vulnerability of the Iranian economy, to press forward the demand for Iran to dismantle its nuclear bomb-making capacity. That’s what I expect from every one of you, and I know it’s achievable. And it’s important.
I know that there have been many times that we have stood together. You have stood together with us. I have to stand more comfortably. Well, I have a list of all the people who are here and I want to acknowledge all of you, my dear friends. First of all, my friend of many, many decades, Michael Siegal. Michael, you’re a true champion of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
And Dede Feinberg and Jerry Silverman and Michael & Susie Gelman and Ronny Douek and recently elected Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat, doing a great job. Well, one mayor deserves another, Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, welcome.
Well now, I know something about Philadelphia. It’s the City of Brotherly Love. We’re all brothers and sisters here in a common cause, so welcome back to Jerusalem all of you.
Every five years, the Jewish Federations convene the General Assembly here in Israel. Well, that’s a fact. You’ve come here in good times, and you’ve come here in difficult times. You have come here when we have have faced violence and terrorism. You kept on coming and so I am very glad to welcome you here. And you demonstrate by doing this to the entire world that there is a vibrant, united Jewish world, and that is exemplified first by the tremendous bond between Israel and the Jewish communities of the United States and Canada. You are our partners. You are our brothers and sisters, and we are one big Jewish family. And like all families, we have to face challenges together. That’s what families do.
I mentioned Iran, and I mentioned those ICBMs. What is Iran targeting when it’s building those ICBMs? Not us. They already have rockets to reach us and missiles. They need those ICBMs to reach North America. It’ll take them a few years – not many by the way. And they could be nuclear tipped ICBMs. That’s the plan coming to a theater near you. Do you want that? I don’t hear you. Well, do something about it. We are. This is the greatest threat. I began with it, I continue with it. Iran must end enrichment at all levels, because they don’t need it. They must take out from their territory all the fissile material. They must stop the construction of the heavy water reactor in Arak. And Iran must dismantle the considerable military nuclear infrastructure, including the underground facilities and the advanced centrifuges.
It’s not my position. This has been the position of the international community. I stress it again. So here’s what you see over time: what you see is as you go from 2005, 2004, Iran is steadily building its nuclear weapons capability and the international community is steadily diminishing and reducing its demands. It’s almost a perfect scissor’s movement. That’s the bad news. The good news is that parallel to the increase in Iranian capabilities, just to give you an idea, they had I think in 2005 around 170 centrifuges. You know how many they have today? About 18,000. That’s not 100% increase – it’s a hundred fold increase. This in the face of all international resolutions. That’s not surprising because this is a regime that, in the face of all international resolutions, murders tens of thousands of innocent people, including children, in Syria. It participates, its keeps Assad going. There is no Assad regime; there’s an Iranian-propped Assad regime. It’s a regime that practices terror as we speak on five continents; a regime that supplies Hamas and Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah with endless rockets to fire on Israeli civilians; a regime that remains committed to our destruction and subverts just about every single country in the Middle East, and let me tell you, beyond the Middle East. It’s a regime that tries to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington and sends its killers either directly or through its proxy, Hezbollah, to Bangkok, to Nigeria, to Bulgaria, everywhere. This regime cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapons. It’s a historically pivot.
So the good news is that the international community did do something powerful and the powerful thing was to get those sanctions that followed Iran’s building of its capabilities and now, when Iran is on the ropes, now when Iran has to come to negotiate, now when Iran understands that if they don’t make a real compromise, they’ll get more sanctions – now you let it out? Now you say, well, if we don’t acquiesce to their demands, they’ll continue? They can’t continue because their economy will collapse. And even if they do, they’ll maintain their capabilities now? I always said that the combination of crippling sanctions and a military option – that has the power to stop Iran and everything I see tells me that. I think it’s important to have steady nerves and a firm purpose and stop this program. We can do it.
In any case, you know that the idea of the Jewish state and the purpose of the Jewish state is to enable Jews to defend themselves. This is something that we could not do before we had the Jewish state. But we can do it now and we shall always, always defend ourselves and defend our state.
I heard the learned commentaries of experts who explained to us that Israel cannot defend itself. They must know something I don’t know. This is our purpose. This is our goal. This is our way of assuring our destiny. And we have not come nearly four millennia in our odyssey over time, from the time that Abraham set foot in this country to the present, to have the likes of the ayatollahs threaten our life. We will always defend ourselves and our state.
We also want to see peace with our Palestinian neighbors. I want to see peace with our Palestinian neighbors. I am ready for a historic compromise. We need to end this conflict once and for all, and to end it, there’s a simple principle. That principle is: two nation-states, two states for two peoples. Not one state for one people, the Palestinians, and then another state for two peoples. No. Two states for two peoples, which means that if the Palestinians expect us to recognize the Palestinian state for the Palestinian people, they must recognize the Jewish state for the Jewish people.
Now, you’ve got to ask yourself a simple question: not why am I raising this obvious, simple, basic demand; but why have they persisted in refusing to accept it? Why? Why do they refuse to accept the simple principle of a Jewish state? Now, I’m not asking it for them to affirm our identity. I don’t need that. I know our history, believe me; I know our attachment to this land; I know our own nationhood. I’m asking it because I want them to give up any demands, any national demands, any claims on the Jewish state. That’s what peace is about. It’s not to make a Palestinian state from which they continue the conflict to try to dissolve the Jewish state, either through the “right of return” or through irredentist claims on our territory in the Negev and the Galilee or anywhere else. It’s to finally come to grips with something they have refused to come to grips with for close to a century – that the Jewish state is here by right, that is has a right to be here. And they must recognize that right and teach their children to recognize that right and to accept it.
I think this conflict began in 1921. My grandfather came here in 1920 in Jaffa, got off the boat to a little boat and then in a dinghy came to Jaffa port; went from there to the Jewish immigration office in Jaffa. In 1921, a mob attacked this immigration house because the Palestinian Arabs were opposed to any Jewish immigration at all. This was followed in 1929 by the massacre of the ancient Jewish community of Hebron. Horrible, disembowelment of children, beheading of babies, horrible. And that was followed by system attacks on the Jewish community from 1936 to 1939. And that was followed by systemic efforts by the Palestinian leadership, led by the Grand Mufti, Haj Amin el-Husseini, during the war years in Berlin with Hitler to advocate the Final Solution. Don’t expel the Jews, he said, destroy them. And that was followed finally after the tragedy that befell our people, with a declaration and a resolution by the United Nations for two states – a Jewish state. They didn’t say a Palestinian state, by the way. They said an Arab state, but that’s all right. We accepted and they refused. And then from 1947 until 1967, system attacks on us, an attempt to snuff out the life of the Jewish state by three Arab countries and several Arab armies in May of 1967 that we foiled in the great victory of the Six Day War.
So from 1921 to 1967, nearly half a century – 46 years – there were systemic attacks on the very nature of a Jewish state. Not on settlements – there weren’t any. Not on our presence in the territories – we weren’t there. What was this conflict about? Not on the absence of a Palestinian state. They rejected it; we accepted it. This conflict was not about settlements, about territories, even though these issues will have to be resolved. It wasn’t even about a Palestinian state. It was and still is about the Jewish state. They have to recognize the Jewish state.
And you know, afterwards, when we left Gaza, every square inch of it, and they kept on firing rockets at us, and we asked them: why are you firing rockets at us? Is it to liberate Judea and Samaria, the West Bank? They said, yeah, sure, but that too. We said, what do you mean, that too? They said, well, it’s to liberate Palestine – Ashkelon (they call it Majda), Ashdod, Beer Sheva, Jaffa. So that’s the bad guys, the guys who are lobbing the rockets on us. What about the other part of Palestinian society, those who don’t engage in terror (and it’s good they don’t engage in terror)? I ask them, so will you recognize the Jewish state? We recognize the Israeli people, we recognize the State of Israel. No, no, no, that’s not what I asked. Will you recognize the state of the Jewish people? You have a state. Palestinians can go there if they choose. We have a state. Jews can come here – a Jewish state – if they choose. Do you recognize that? No. Do you recognize that you won’t have any national claims wherever the border is drawn? No answer.
This conflict is about the Jewish state. Have I made that point, you think, subtly enough? You get it. Alright. So now let’s ask the second question. Because, you know, since 1921 until today it’s almost a century of unremitting incitement and an education of hatred. Now, I don’t mean in Hamas or Islamic Jihad. I mean in the Palestinian Authority: textbooks, schools, kindergartens. I showed John Kerry a teacher teaching young kids – four year olds, five year olds. What will you be? Shaheedim, martyrs (that’s suicide bombers)? And what will you struggle for? Palestine? What is Palestine? From Kiryat Shmona to Umm-Rash-Rash (that’s Eilat). From the river to the sea.
That’s what they teach. In their textbooks, Israel disappears. It completely disappears. In their state-controlled media – what a wonderful term – in their state-controlled media, they control everything. That’s what they put forward. We had a wonderful initiative that President Peres and I put forward to bring the Barcelona team, the soccer team, to Israel to play with the Palestinians and then to play with Israel, combined Jewish-Arab games in Israel. In the Palestinian territory, they played in Hebron. When they came to President Peres a day later, there was a song in Hebrew, in Arabic, we talked of peace, we talked of two states for two peoples, we had an exhibition game – Jewish children, Arab children from Israel… that was Israel. A day earlier – I found out that a day later but a day earlier in Hebron, in the soccer stadium, the Palestinian football federations, an official arm and an official spokesman and he said to the Barca team: welcome to Palestine. Palestine is from the river to the sea, from Lebanon to the Red Sea, from Eilat to Rosh Hanikra, the Arab name for Rosh Hanikra.
There is a century of this. The minimum thing that we can demand, aside from demanding the end of incitement, but to get a deal is that the official position of the Palestinian leadership recognize the Jewish state. That’s a minimum, but I don’t delude myself. This will be a long process. But it must begin with that. Otherwise, what are we saying? That this plan to dissolve Israel in stages will continue? Of course not. But we also have to recognize that it may not take root. It may not. We have at best a cold peace. I hope for a warm one. By the way, a cold peace is better than a hot war. But a warm peace is better than a cold peace. I hope for a warm peace, beginning with that recognition of the Jewish state and the abandonment of the “right of return” and all those other fantasies that are still harbored in Palestinian culture.
But we have to know that even if the Palestinian leadership puts an end to 90 years of rejection, and even if they recognize the Jewish state, we know that in this volatile and violent region, that can be reversed. We know that in our region, there can be no durable peace that is not based on security. A peace agreement that is not based on absolute, robust security arrangements for Israel, by Israel, will not stand the test of time. We want a peace that endures. We need a peace based on security. That’s the other fundament. We need security to defend the peace. But we also need security to defend Israel in case the peace unravels. And in our region, peace has a tendency to unravel now and then, if you haven’t watched around us. You have.
Now for this genuine peace of a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state, for this peace I am willing to make difficult decisions. I am willing to be both creative and flexible. But I cannot compromise and will not compromise on the safety and security of the one and only Jewish state. And the Palestinians, of course, will have to compromise too. They’ll have to compromise and accept the legitimacy and necessity of robust security arrangements that ensure that Israel’s security border does not begin four miles from Ben-Gurion airport and a few hundred meters from this hall.
You know, Israel is the most challenged country on Earth. There is no other country, no other power, that is challenged for its very survival as we are, and we are one of the smallest countries on Earth. We need to have very robust security arrangements, and these are the two essential foundations for a secure peace – mutual recognition of two nation-states and robust security arrangements. This is what we need – we need many other things, believe me, many other things. For example, we have this minor attachment – well, I’m joking – we have this small… no, we have this huge, historic attachment to our capital, Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people. It’s always been our capital; it always will be our undivided capital.
But I don’t want to do the negotiations here. I do want to say that I hope that this current round of talks will lead to peace. I hope the other side, like me, is ready to make tough decisions for peace. I stood at Bar Ilan University – it’s a religious university – and I expressed my willingness to recognize a Palestinian nation-state alongside their recognition of a Jewish nation-state. That wasn’t easy. In my previous government, I agreed to an unprecedented freeze on construction in the settlements. Believe me, that wasn’t easy. But there is something even harder, maybe the toughest decision I made. I agreed to the release of terrorist prisoners. They served 20 years. They killed a lot of people. I’ve made difficult choices to try to advance the peace, but it must be a two way street. It cannot be that the Palestinians are forever pampered by the international community; that their incitement goes by without a tick; that their refusal to recognize a Jewish state goes by without a bat of an eyelash; that their inefficacy in fighting terrorism is accepted or lionized as a great capacity. It’s time that the international community, certainly the serious members of the international community, understand this is a two-way street because peace is not a one-way street and it won’t be. To stick, it’s going to be very tough, not only for Israel. Everybody says that. It’s going to be very tough for the Palestinian leadership. It must be, otherwise it’s not a genuine peace. And we don’t want a fake peace. We’ve had enough.
So the question is, will they rise up to it? I don’t know. It’s in their interest. I hope that they stand up, not only for themselves – and I think they would if they accepted what I’m saying, but they would ensure a future for their children and for their grandchildren and for future generations. But they must be able to give the Beir Zeit speech. They must be able to give the Beir Zeit speech. A Palestinian leader must do what Anwar Sadat did. He said, it’s over, it’s gone. No more war. No more bloodshed. But he was speaking for Egypt. A Palestinian leader must stand and say, I accept the Jewish state. That’s a simple litmus test of seriousness.
We have another kind of peace that we have to foster and continuously promote – it’s our internal peace. We call it shalom bayit, peace in our house. That’s always guided me as Prime Minister. I always said I have to keep the peace of the Jewish people. I am the Prime Minister of Israel, Israel is the Jewish state. I have to worry about the inclusion of Jews from every part of the Jewish world.
The Kotel is in Israel, but the Kotel belongs to all the Jewish people. And I have been working with you – not merely for you, with you – because I think we have to consult together and reach solutions together. I asked Natan Sharansky, a great Jewish leader, to bring the Jewish people a solution, to bring me a solution, and I think he has. I asked my Cabinet Secretary, Avichai Mandelblit, a very able, very able public servant, to help along with that. We have now a solution; it reflects my desire to have a solution for all of you, by all of you, with all of you. And I am convinced that we can soon have this solution in place.
We have also been working closely to have young Jews from North America and from around the world, come to Israel. When I was Prime Minister the first time – this is my third term. In my first term, people came to me, Michael Steinhardt and Charles Bronfman, came to me with a revolutionary idea of having Taglit. They said they’re putting up the money, but they said, you know, there’s one small factor: you have to put up money too. And when we spoke about it with the Cabinet and with others, they said, what? Israel will pay money? You remember this, Natan. Israel will pay money to bring American kids here? And I said, yeah, it’s our future, and yes, we’re going to do it. And we’ll put our money where our mouth is. And we did 15, 16 years ago. And we’ve done it since. It’s been a tremendous success – Taglit, Masa, Hefzibah. We’re committed to this.
Now, as you know, we have a new initiative, a broad and deep initiative to unite the Jewish people, to initiate programs to help reach the inner cords of identity of the Jewish people around the world. We know we’re challenged by the internet age. We know that it fragments people. We cannot change that; we don’t intend to change that; we don’t intend to go against the internet. We intend to use the internet. We’re not going to go into horse and buggies. We understand it’s a new age. In fact, Israel is leading technologically this tremendous development. But we also know it challenges our unity. We also know that the forces of assimilation and intermarriage are there. We also read these recent polls. We understand: we have a challenge. You understand, together, that we have a challenge. And we have sponsored this initiative to work together, think this through together, and then put forward programs to help solidify the core of the conviction and identity that is so central to securing our future.
When I think of the challenges that the Jewish people have undergone, challenges that no nation has undergone, no people have undergone, and we’ve been able to overcome them over nearly 4,000 years – challenges to our physical survival, challenges to our spiritual survival and cohesion. I know that we have that inner strength to guarantee the Jewish future. I know it and you know it; and together we’re going to achieve exactly that – to defend and secure the Jewish people and the one and only Jewish state. I say that here in our eternal capital, Jerusalem, and I know, I know that you stand with me.
Thank you very much, all of you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.