Israel’s bright future emphatically does not depend on peace with the Palestinians, however desirable and important that may be. Israel will flourish even if the Palestinians refuse to make peace with Israel on reasonable terms.
Fresh back from meeting President Barack Obama and speaking at the United Nations about Iran, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will address the nation this coming Sunday night at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He is to speak on “Israel’s Challenges” with a vision of the future. Here is the speech I would like to hear him deliver:
My fellow citizens: As I look towards the future, I am filled with confidence about the fortunes of our re-born Jewish state. Despite the invective sometimes thrown at Israel, despite the Islamic earthquakes shaking the ground in the region around us, despite our occasionally deep internal disagreements, despite all the challenges – Israel is strong and advancing in the right directions.
Israel is a vibrant democracy with a robust economy and a multi-faceted, creative and highly-patriotic citizenry. We are the demographic and spiritual center of the Jewish world. We are producing and exporting exciting scientific technologies and breathtaking works of art and scholarship to the world. The IDF is the most capable military in the region with the motivation, equipment, intelligence and training necessary to overmatch the capabilities of any challenger. Our adversaries are weak, and their societies are sadly in terrible crisis.
Israel is thus a very resilient state. Israelis possess tremendous personal fortitude. We believe in the justness of our historic national journey, and this gives us great strength.
I know that in recent years there has emerged a burgeoning literature that highlights Israel’s real and imagined flaws, emphasizes our “increasing isolation,” and even questions the legitimacy and staying power of the Zionist dream. I reject this doom and gloom.
Yes, we are small state with significant dependency on the great powers and on great allies. But a detailed and dispassionate assessment of the balance of power between Israel and its detractors, and an assessment of Israel’s international standing, validates my assertion that Israeli is in stalwart position.
We are not alone! We are not isolated. Our ties with the United States are sturdy and institutionalized, and our support among the American people is broad and deep. Legions of Christian friends around the world pray and advocate for Israel every day. We also enjoy warm and growing relationships with the emerging powers in China and India, and with Muslim countries outside the Middle East.
I am aware, of course, that the unresolved conflict with the Palestinians saps support for Israel in some places in the world. Reaching agreements with the Palestinians and ameliorating the conflict is important for its own sake, and for our international standing. Consequently, I am committed to a best effort at achieving peace with the Palestinians, if and when the Palestinian leadership is truly willing to compromise for peace and to educate its public towards lasting peace with Israel.
Yet I specifically want to reject the notion, voiced by Ehud Olmert and others, and hinted at by John Kerry, that “Israel is finished,” or that “the Zionist dream of a Jewish and democratic state is over,” or that “US-Israel relations will crumble” – unless a Palestinians state is “rapidly” established.
Such apocalyptic talk is rubbish and irresponsible. It is rubbish because Israel’s future and its relations with the world do not depend on the Palestinians or on catering to every Palestinian dream and demand. It is irresponsible because attempts to rashly ramrod Israel into “urgent,” ramshackle and unsustainable agreements with a partner that is not ready for real peace – is a dereliction of duty.
It is my job to preserve Israel’s rights and interests for the long term. I am charged with averting over-zealous, frantic, faulty diplomacy that will not bring peace to Israel. Risks for peace – yes. Ridiculous and break-neck risks for peace – no. A window of opportunity for peace – yes. The “irrevocably last opportunity for peace following which comes catastrophe” – no.
The Oslo agreements demonstrated our willingness to partition the Land of Israel with the Palestinians, albeit with a heavy heart. But it also taught us the dangers of too-hasty and ill-thought-through concessions, and the gargantuan mistake of ignoring the undemocratic nature of our negotiating partner. Israeli society paid dearly for that experiment.
This time around, we need to approach the negotiations with the conviction that time is on our side, and that perseverance will bring Israel great benefit. This time, we cannot overlook anti-Semitism and human rights abuses in the Palestinian Authority, nor disregard the dictates of defensible borders for Israel.
It is not always politically-correct to speak one’s mind on foreign affairs. But tonight I feel it opportune to do so. I sense and I believe that intellectual honesty has to inform the diplomatic processes we are entering.
Being intellectually honest means laying out the moral asymmetries between Israel and the Palestinians. The fact is that we recognize them, but they’re not willing yet to recognize our legitimate, historical rights in the Land of Israel. The fact is that Israel protects religious rights and minority rights in Israel for religions and peoples of the world, while the nascent Palestinian state already in place does not, and could very well be on its way to becoming yet another failed Arab state. The fact is that Israel proudly hosts 1.5 million Arab citizens, while the Palestinians demand a Judenrein, ethnically-cleansed state in historic Judea and Samaria.
All this cannot be left unsaid, nor can it be papered over with festive handshakes on the White House lawn celebrating Israeli territorial withdrawals.
I believe that you, the People of Israel, support my approach, and are willing, if G-d forbid necessary, to withstand friction and conflict in order to hold firm on our moral, diplomatic and security red lines. We have the stamina to endure a long and difficult negotiation, to achieve durable results. And similarly, we have the grit and the guns to outlast and overpower more distant adversaries, such as the radical mullahs in Iran.
But I did not come here tonight to speak primarily about the Palestinian conundrum, because, as I say, Israel’s rosy future emphatically does not depend on peace with the Palestinians, however desirable and important that may be. Israel will flourish even if the Palestinians refuse to make peace with us on reasonable terms, and even if we have to manage the conflict with the Palestinians, and conflicts with other radical neighbors, for many decades to come.
Israel’s future rests completely with us, the People of Israel. We have the powers within us for even greater achievements, in clean-tech, bio-tech and music, in Torah scholarship and bio-ethics, in compassionate care for our elderly and social justice. We can make this an even better country to live in, especially for our magnificent youth who toil so hard in their twenties and thirties, and we can contribute even more to the world though agricultural and medical assistance and more. We can truly advance Israel towards the Biblical model of a people that is a moral beacon unto the nations.
I know that you stand with me, all together, in making this vision for Israel a reality.
The writer is director of public affairs at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, which marks its twentieth anniversary next week with an international conference at Bar-Ilan University (open to the public) on “Israel Towards 2020: Perils and Prospects.” www.besacenter.org