Ladies and gentlemen, I am standing here today and saying in no uncertain manner: from 1993, in which the Oslo Accords were signed, the elected Israeli leadership has been - and is - in support of the solution of ‘two-states for two peoples’. Furthermore, being well versed in the Israeli Parliament, I do know that any political agreement brought before the Israeli Knesset by an elected government will be approved. Nevertheless, and with all the difficulty and pain involved, we must look at reality straight in the eye and tell the truth. Currently the practical conditions, the political and regional circumstances, which would enable us to reach a permanent agreement between us – the Israelis and the Palestinians – are failing to materialize.
First, in order to achieve a comprehensive permanent agreement, an effective leadership is required. However, the Palestinian leadership today is divided in - at least - two. The Palestinian Authority ruling over Judea and Samaria, and on the other hand, Hamas, which rules Gaza and is ideologically committed - in both its political and(( military leadership - to the annihilation of Israel.
Second, in order to achieve a stable and viable agreement, a reasonable regional and economic infrastructure is required. But we are living in a reality where the plague of murderous Jihadi fundamentalism, religious fanaticism and incitement - embodied in the Islamic State and Hezbollah - are at our very borders and have not missed out Gaza and the West Bank either; we live in a reality of a chaos-stricken Middle East in which uncertainty is the only certainty.
To this worrisome picture, add the dire economic straits, poverty, and lack of infrastructure in Gaza and Judea and Samaria, which in turn will continue the destabilization and nurture violence. In this respect Israel is devoting, and will continue to do so, vast efforts, more than any other actor in the region even at the price of complex security risk-taking – but Israeli intervention alone will not suffice.
And finally, one should bear in mind the most fundamental trait of Israeli-Palestinian relations today which is, to my deep regret, a total lack of trust between the parties on all levels; between the leaderships and the peoples.
Distinguished audience, I am afraid that for years the international community has been acting as a mediator between the parties based on one inflexible paradigm, that of striving to renew negotiations toward a permanent agreement. This paradigm draws to a dichotomy: “Two states or a bi-national state”, “All or nothing”, “Here and now” or “Nevermore”. It is by the way by virtue of that same paradigm that various European states opposed the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, claiming that it does not provide a solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Had that concept been accepted then, imagine where we would be today. This paradigm relies on the assumption that the problem which is the crux of the matter in this bloody and painful conflict is simply the lack of good faith on both parts, and that if we only exert pressure on “them”, on “us”, they will adhere to a permanent agreement and to a state of peace.
However, ladies and gentlemen, as years go by and rounds of negotiations fail one by one, bringing in their wake, waves of murderous violence and terror, it seems that this assumption of a “lack of good will” proves not only to be fundamentally erroneous, but to ignore the circumstances, the capabilities, and the present situation on the ground, which by definition would lead to the failure of any attempt to negotiate a permanent agreement.
Ladies and gentlemen, I speak before you today in the name of the citizens of Israel, grandfathers and grandmothers, fathers and mothers, sick and tired of this bloody vicious cycle which soaks up the blood of our loved ones, the blood of our sons and daughters. I speak before you in the name of these young men and women who wish to live in their country, and not die in their homeland. I speak to you today in the name of a nation which abhors war and desires life and peace. And I must say, one cannot hope to achieve better results while resorting to the same outlooks and tools which have failed time after time previously.
…........Distinguished audience, if the international community really wishes and truly aspires to be a constructive player, it must divert its efforts away from the renewal of negotiations for negotiations’ sake, and toward building trust between the parties, and to creating the necessary terms for the success of negotiations in the future.
In the current circumstances, we must all ask ourselves 'what can be done today', rather than, 'what cannot be done'. And things can be done. This mission of creating the terms for a future agreement, creating an infrastructure for trust, and for a life of dignity for both peoples, demands of us today - the international community and Israel alike - to invest tremendous efforts in four main avenues:
First, harnessing the moderate powers in the region. The cooperation with Jordan and Egypt is a supreme common interest of Israel and the international community as well, in the aim of preventing military bolstering from beyond our borders, and in order to eradicate extremism and preserve the stability of the region. Similarly, the involvement and effective guaranties of friendly states in the region may also reduce the violent friction and serve as a warranty for future action.
Second, developing Palestinian economy and infrastructures for quality of life. One cannot speak about a future agreement when people live with a basic existential feeling of having no future, no opportunities, no hope, and no horizon. With the backdrop of economic difficulties in Judea and Samaria, and the situation in Gaza, a broad economic course of action is called for.
Infrastructures must be developed - gas, electricity, water, sewage and housing - in Gaza and Judea and Samaria. At the same time, a solution must be found to the human tragedy in Gaza, whereby around 1.5 million Palestinians are held hostage by a Jihadist terrorist organization, Hamas. As must a solution be found to the movement of residents, as with the transfer of trade, and the enabling the appropriate security. On this issue, the State of Israel has repeatedly stated its willingness to join hands with the international community in a joint endeavor. Israel considers the rehabilitation of Gaza, as the economic development and equalizing of life standards on both Palestinian and Israeli part, to be both an ethical and security interest. Sources of livelihood and employment must be developed as well, as Israeli and international companies who identify the potential in investing in the human capital between the Jordan and the Sea, have already begun to do. Developing a stable Palestinian economy must be carried out while laying the emphasis on developing a real, independent, and vital private sector as a stabilizing factor free of political interests. Furthermore, developing the economy must take into account the need for developing infrastructures for quality of life, for a life of dignity and wellbeing. Rawabi, the first planned Palestinian city ever built in the Palestinian Authority, is a model of the power and significance of basic wellbeing in creating a breathing space and a feeling of movement and progress.
Third, investing in joint ventures aimed at creating joint interests. Whether we wish it or not, we - Israelis and Palestinians - share a small and common area, with common regional resources and assets, and common regional challenges. Together, we live on what is equal to one third of Austria. In such small and crowded space, creating common interests is a crucial factor in strengthening stability, and in creating the terms needed to replace the next war, with programs benefiting both parties.
We should foster and promote joint Israeli-Palestinian development ventures in the fields of renewable energy, infrastructure and the environment, joint industrial and tourism ventures, and cultural and social ventures; between Israeli and Palestinian local authorities, and between private corporations and business people on both sides. For instance, the ecological park being developed through cooperation between the regional council of Gilboa and the Palestinian city of Jenin, with the support of the international community, in which the shared Kishon River is undergoing cleaning and purification processes, with the aim of providing a solution to one of the most complex issues of the conflict – the water problem. You, ladies and gentlemen, know better than I do, how joint ventures create a horizon for another reality.
Fourth and ultimately – education. Increasing stability, developing infrastructures and strategic terms are essential conditions, but are not enough. Creating the conditions for any future agreement requires conditioning hearts on both sides for the possibility of living with mutual respect. Peace is made between leaders but peace is also made between peoples. Changing present trends requires addressing deep-rooted hatred and fear. Otherwise fear will have the upper hand, if only because it is to our regret, much more tangible than hope. Building trust demands an investment in the creation of wide channels of communication, not only in security contexts but in academic, cultural, and governance. And, at the same time, educating future generations to become acquainted with our neighbors, their culture and language.
Distinguished audience, the State of Israel values the efforts invested by the international community in general and by the European Union in particular, in seeking a peaceful future between the parties. The responsibility for building trust between us and our neighbors rests, first and foremost, on the shoulders of the two parties. But if Europe is interested in serving as a constructive factor in striving for a future agreement, it will be incumbent upon you its leaders, to focus efforts at this time in a patient and methodic building of trust. Not through divestments, but through investment; not by boycotts, but by cooperation.
It is no easy task for me to stand here before you today and say that at this time, a permanent agreement for peace between us and the Palestinians cannot be achieved. Because first and foremost I stand before the Israeli people, before my children and grandchildren, before the Israeli and Palestinian children wherever they are. It is to them that I and we, all of us, are to be held accountable. To ask ourselves what have we really done to promise them, someday, another future? I believe in the capability of both these peoples to live with each other, for the simple reason that we have no other choice. If we desire life, we must, today, invest our utmost efforts in what can be achieved, not in that which cannot – for the sake of our future, and that of our children.
I would like to thank my friend, the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, for the invitation to come here, in the same week as the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas. There can be no substitute for direct and joint conversation. In this act you have taken a step, albeit small, to bolster trust between the parties.
Distinguished audience, one hundred years ago the thought of a joint European parliament was inconceivable. Cooperation in the fields of electricity, gas and coal started this miracle of a Europe living in peace with itself. Small steps created a great reality. Help us step forward, step together with us, for the sake of the possibility that one day, an Israeli president will tell another world leader, “If we and the Palestinians have made peace and put an end to it once and for all, there is really no reason whatsoever that you cannot succeed. We fought many dozens of years and now it is over, forever.”
On behalf of the people in Israel, I wish all Europe’s Muslims and the Muslim believers throughout the entire world Ramadan Karim, Kul Am Wa Antum Bikhair.
Ladies and gentlemen, 'Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, may all who love her prosper. Peace be within thy walls and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions’ sake, I will now say, Peace be within thee. (Psalms 122, 6-8).