5th Annual International Conference: Security Challenges of the 21st Century
This year's conference focused on "Israel's Search for Opportunities in a Turbulent Region." The leading topics for discussion were the Iranian challenge; the upheavals int he Arab world; the Israeli-Palestinian issue; US-Israel relations; and the defense budget in an era of "social justice." PM Netanyahu and DM Ehud Barak were among the speakers.
PM Netanyahu Speech
[Translated from Hebrew]
I would like to speak about the goals of peace, the manner in which to attain it, and above all, the conditions necessary to uphold it. A peace agreement with the Palestinians is necessary first and foremost to prevent a bi-national state. It is preferable to live in peace. Peace is better than any other situation, but we need to prevent a bi-national state, as well as strengthen the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic country.
We do not want to rule over the Palestinians, nor do we want the Palestinians to be citizens of the State of Israel. That is why three times - in my speech at Bar-Ilan, in my speech in the Knesset and later in my speech at the American Congress - I declared that I support and welcome peace between two nationstates - a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state, and Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people.
I believe there is very broad support among the people for such a peace agreement, one based on mutual respect and security for Israel. By security, I mean substantive security arrangements on the ground that provide a response to the ongoing threats and any new threats that are introduced.
I believe that the unity government under my leadership is an expression of this broad support, and I call again on Mahmoud Abbas not to miss this unique opportunity and give peace a chance. Let me clarify - I have not set any conditions to enter into negotiations. Certainly I will have conditions to conclude negotiations, and so will Mahmoud Abbas. This is natural and it is the reason we conduct negotiations.
But this is why I say to Abbas - don't miss out on this opportunity to extend your hand in peace. If I had to say it another way, I would say, "President Abbas, all we are saying is 'give peace a chance'."
This is a real opportunity. It will not necessarily be repeated in general or political history, but it exists now and peace negotiations need two sides. One side is ready and willing. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians is in the clear interest of both peoples, but it must be said clearly that there are things that peace with the Palestinians will not bring. Despite popular opinion, peace with the Palestinians will not ensure regional peace. Tremendous historic forces are working in the area in opposition to regional peace, and they will continue to unsettle our environment. On a day to day basis, they work to destroy the State of Israel and they are interested in undermining any peace agreement - those that have been signed and those that we hope to sign in the future.
These extremist forces are motivated by religious fanaticism and a fundamental objection to Western culture, of which Israel is a clear representative. So far we have been successful in overcoming these and other forces that have opposed our existence. We did so by maintaining our qualitative advantage.