4/18/2013 Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Remarks at Independence Day Reception for Foreign Diplomatic Corps
President Peres, first, I want to thank you, Shimon. I want to thank you for many things, but today I want to thank you for your eternal optimism, eternal youthfullism, youthfulness, no – eternal youth, well, a youth of curiosity and seeking new horizons. And I want to thank you for your world renowned statesmanship. And I want to thank you also for hosting all of us here.
Distinguished Ambassadors, Councils, heads of the religious communities,
I think it’s telling that in a very large swath of the earth’s surface around us there is tolerance and acceptance, the deepest acceptance of all faiths, and the observance of civic rights grounded in law – in law that is grounded in a genuine discipline of the heart, which is the basis of our tradition of recognizing that all human beings are God’s children, and they are all endowed with what to us are self-evident rights.
Now, that tolerance is not particularly shared in our region, although we have hopes that that too shall change. And there is violence and terror that sweeps across the Middle East and beyond the Middle East.
Yesterday, a day of enjoyment in Boston was turned into a day of terror. We send our condolences to President Obama and the American people and the bereaved families and we send our best wishes for a speedy recovery to the wounded.
On this day, on any day, Israel stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the American people. We are partners in freedom, and we are partners in seeking a better future for all of us, all of humanity.
I want to congratulate all of you, distinguished representatives and delegates here, for choosing such an uneventful country: boring, tranquil. Well, one thing Israel will never be – it will never be boring. But it is our fondest hopes and our fondest wishes to make it more tranquil, more peaceful, more secure. In this endeavor we will all work together.
I want to thank you, Ze’ev Elkin, in advance, because I expect you to bring your many gifts in coalition building and maintaining to Israel’s foreign relations. That is a job that I have to now shoulder as Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.
This is a vast improvement. I had many more portfolios in the previous government, so I want you to know that I can now focus our efforts, and they are focused on the achievement of a secure peace.
I want to make three main points on this effort: The first is that we fervently want peace. You’ve been here, some of you more than a year or two, and you see this remarkable transition from the Day of Remembrance to the Day of Independence. It comes in a flash, but we know that we purchased our independence after centuries of being homeless and being unable to defend ourselves against those who sought to extinguish our fate; we purchased that with the young men and women who fell in the battles of Israel. There is no family in Israel that hasn’t lost a loved one, a relative or a friend. There is no people that yearns for peace, prays for peace, hopes for peace, more than the people of Israel.
Because we know the sorrows of war. We know the anguish of battle and we know today that war hits not only our soldiers but our citizens.
We want peace. This is the first point, and I make it as emphatically as I can. But I don’t need to persuade you of that. If you just go around the country and talk to the people. You must have learned that. I hope you’ll report it in your cables, by the way. I was a diplomat – what is not in reports does not exist. Report, please.
Here’s the second point: The peace between us and our Palestinian neighbors will be based on the principle of two states for two peoples. I stress two states for two peoples because that’s the only way that we’ll get at the core of the conflict.
What is the core of the conflict? We recognized the principle of two states for two peoples 65 years ago, when the Jews of this land under the leadership of David Ben Gurion said yes to the UN resolution. That sought to create a Jewish state next to a Palestinian Arab state. We said yes. The Neighboring states and the Palestinians said No. We have said yes to two states for two peoples then, and we say yes to that now.
But the Arab states then, as President Peres remembers, attacked us. They tried to invade the embryonic Jewish state, to destroy our independence. And the issue then wasn’t the absence of a Palestinian state. It never really was. It was the persistent refusal to accept the Jewish state.
And this is what has to be resolved. Two nation states: one for the Palestinian people, one for the Jewish people, living side-by-side in peace and security. This gets at the core of the problem and it resolves the problem.
But for that resolution to hold there has to be a third element and that is security. Why? Because in our part of the world, the sands swirl and they shift, and you cannot be sure that an arrangement that you made yesterday will hold tomorrow. You must anchor in this inherently unstable region of the earth, we must anchor security, or rather – anchor peace and security. And the only peace that will endure is a peace we can defend.
We should be able to defend ourselves, by ourselves, against any eventuality. That has been the main transition of the Jewish people – from our life in our dispersion to our re-emergence as a sovereign Jewish state. We value our alliances, foremost the one we have with the United States of America. We value the friendship we have with all of your countries. But we know that when the test comes, we have to be able to defend ourselves, and this is true of the present and it will be true of tomorrow. It is true of today and it will be true also of tomorrow with peace, and in fact it’s a prerequisite of peace.
So these are the three points I want to impress upon your cables today. The first is – we want peace. The second – the peace will be a peace of two states for two peoples: a demilitarized Palestinian state that lives in peace and recognizes the Jewish state, the nation state of the Jewish people. And third – that peace will be anchored in solid security arrangements that enable Israel to defend itself for the peace to endure, and in case peace unravels – something we hope will never happen.
Having said that, I do want to add something that obviously is the second great concern that we have. You’ve heard me speak about it for the last 15 years, I am not as young as our President… and that is the need to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
I think we’ve seen in recent events the consequences of a rogue regime having atomic weapons – the consequences for the world, for stability, for each and every one of us. We’ve also seen that tough sanctions and tough talk do not always do the job against a regime that is sufficiently determined. So we have a great obligation to make sure that such a development doesn’t happen again.
If Iran gets nuclear weapons, this will change the world. When I said this several weeks ago, I think people heard it, and I think they agreed with it, but I think now they can agree with it from a different perspective. We cannot allow that to happen. And I believe that each and every one of your governments has to do its share to prevent something that will be dangerous for each and every one of our states and our peoples, and for the peace of the world. And time is running out.
I have put forward two modest goals, to achieve peace with our Palestinian neighbors, and to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. They are, actually, complementary. They are, I think, goals that are worthy of our common efforts, and I look forward to discussing other issues. We have close to 100 ambassadors here, so I’d love to have personal meeting with each of you today and tomorrow, to discuss the growing contacts that we have in commerce and technology and culture and everything. And Israel is such a robust society and seeks your friendship and seeks your cooperation and seeks to engage you. And when we do so, one-by-one, let us not forget these two goals. They are the most important goals in the world, and I thank you in advance for cooperating in advance to achieve them.
I hope you have an uneventful year – uneventful in war, eventful in peace.
Thank you. Thank you very much.
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