I would like to welcome all the participants from the economic and academic fields who deal with questions of our national security. I welcome you all, distinguished guests.
Today I would like to speak about peace, but first I want to say a few words to our host, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Yadlin, about extending our hand in peace. It appears that a hand extended in peace is not always met in kind, and I am not just speaking metaphorically.
Look at the story of the Israeli mountain climber – he did not think twice when he reached out his hand to his Turkish colleague and saved him from certain death just days ago. Unfortunately, the strong and I must say, natural desire of our people to extend our hand in peace is not always answered by governments in our region.
Just last night we heard about the Turks' intentions to issue arrest warrants for IDF soldiers, including you, Amos, who is heading this conference, and the former Chief of General Staff Gaby Ashkenazi. I would like to say clearly to the soldiers and commanders of the IDF: the State of Israel will always stand beside you, wherever you are and in any situation. You defended us; we will protect you. This is an important rule, and I know all the citizens of the State of Israel support its realization.
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 nation-states – 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. Today we face new challenges that obligate us to find new ways of maintaining this advantage. In order to have peace in situations of conflict, a balance of power or excess of power is needed. In our case with regard to the extremist religious fanaticism that is directed at us, we need an excess of power. We must safeguard our advantage in the fields that I will detail later.
There are four threats that challenge the State of Israel today and threaten it and peace. We are prepared to provide a response for each and every one of them. The four threats are nuclear, missiles, cyber and vast weapons reserves that are being stockpiled in our region. There is also a fifth threat that I will discuss later.
As to the nuclear issue, let me address the talks between the superpowers and Iran. Not only do the sanctions need to be harsher, the demands on Iran for which the sanctions are imposed must be strengthened and the powers must insist that Iran fulfill these demands in full. Iran must stop all enrichment of nuclear material; it must remove all materials enriched to date from its territory; and it must dismantle its underground nuclear enrichment plant at Qom. Only a specific Iranian commitment during negotiations to meet all three demands and a clear confirmation that they have been executed can stop Iran's nuclear plan. This should be the goal of the negotiations. But I must say regretfully that this is not what is asked of Iran today.
To date, there have been several rounds of talks in which the Iranians were required to stop low levels of uranium enrichment, this is to say, to stop enrichment of 3.5%. Even though that is a low level, it is a significant part of the enrichment process needed to prepare fissile material for a bomb. Not only did the Iranians not do this, they continued enriching uranium without interruption and increased their level of enrichment to 20%, and as it has recently become apparent, even higher than that. In other words, they are constantly advancing their nuclear program to create atomic bombs.
One would expect that the powers demand that Iran stop all enrichment in light of its serial violations and in light of the fact that they are currently enriching at a level of 20%, but instead they are reducing their demands. In the first round, they demanded that the Iranians stop the 3.5%, and even that is not happening now. In this round, they are not even insisting that the Iranians stop all enrichment. On the one hand, it is good that they are imposing heavy economic sanctions on Iran. This is a positive and important thing. We asked for it, and I must say with satisfaction that this pressure is being put on Iran. However, on the other hand, these sanctions must be accompanied by the demands I outlined. It is the combination of the two that will lead to the stopping of the Iranian nuclear program. It is very possible that the Iranians will temporarily stop their enrichment at 20%, but that is not enough. The test will be if the Iranians will agree to stop all enrichment, remove all enriched material and to dismantle their underground nuclear facility at Qom. This is the test and there is no other.
Regarding the missile threat, from the moment our enemies understood they cannot beat us on the military battlefield, they turned to missile and rocket weapons that they use against our cities and communities. No other country is more threatened by missiles than the State of Israel, and no other country is as advanced in building a missile defense system as Israel.
We employ two kinds of defense. In the field of active defense, we invested in the Iron Dome system and we are expanding its deployment. We appreciate America's important support in this regard. This is in addition to developing new systems – David's Sling and the Arrow missile system for multi-layered defense. With regard to passive defense, we installed sirens across the country and we are preparing a warning system that will directly dial the mobile phones of each and every citizen. There was a trial run of this in Netanya today, and it will not take long before we are able to warn people about the firing of missiles. This will allow us to prevent the entire country from becoming paralyzed and focus on the threatened area.
These passive and active systems – but first and foremost active – not only improve defense, they improve our offensive and deterrence capabilities because they expand our maneuvering space for activating our offensive capabilities. We are not being dragged into unconsidered responses. We have more time, and I think that we use it with great consideration in choosing the appropriate action. The defense systems against the missile threat will be able to do what the separation fence against suicide bombers did. However, I would like to point out something that I say at every opportunity, and I will say it again today – defensive force is not enough. Offensive force is needed to strike at the enemy and deter further action. The combination of offensive and defensive force can prevent war or shorten it.
The third field, the cyber field, also affects the first two threats. It is certainly wrapped up in the nuclear and missile problems. The cyber capability that we are developing increases the State of Israel's defensive capability. In the cyber field, a country's size has little meaning, but there is great meaning to its scientific power, and in that, Israel is blessed. We are investing a great deal of capital in this – human and fiscal capital alike – and I expect that these investments will grow in the coming years.
It must be said also that all advanced, developed countries are currently under threat from cyber attack systems. Because we are one of the most computerized countries in the world, we are especially exposed to cyber attacks, and in order to improve our ability to defend ourselves, this year I established a national cyber headquarters. Like any other matter of importance, I set a goal: that Israel be one of the five leading countries in the cyber field worldwide. I believe we can achieve this goal.
The nuclear, missile and cyber threats are new threats that we are preparing for, but unfortunately there is a fourth threat – an old threat, one that is familiar to the veterans here who served in the IDF and our defense establishment and that is the vast weapons stockpiles in the region. We cannot entirely rule out the possibility that weapons supplied today to other countries in the region will not be used against us in the future. We cannot rule out the possibility that extremist forces will take over regimes that today do not pose a threat to us and that these forces will not use the weapons found there against us. After all, this is not a theoretical matter. It has already happened – quite prominently in Iran – and it can also happen given the tremendous shock our region is experiencing, and it can certainly happen in other places. This is why maintaining Israel's qualitative advantage is a central component in our national security. It is an issue we discuss constantly with our allies and our friends in the United States, and we will continue to do so.
That is how to deal with the fourth threat, but as I mentioned earlier, there is a fifth threat that can endanger the future of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. This threat is the breaching of our borders by illegal infiltrators seeking work. At the beginning of this government's term, I already began to deal with this problem. As early as 2005 or 2006, people spoke about it. Shortly after we withdrew from Gaza, people said that a fence must be built. In 2009, when this government began its work, there was still no fence, not even the beginning of a fence. There was no budget for a fence and there was no agreement about the need for a fence. It was said that a fence would be ineffective, that it would not stop anyone, that it was too expensive, that it was superfluous. When I insisted, people said, "Well then, we'll build two sections". I insisted otherwise. People told me, "But it will cost two billion shekels". I said that we would allocate funds without breaching the budgetary framework as this was a matter of priority. And it is a national priority, because otherwise we will be swamped. We will have not tens of thousands, but rather hundreds of thousands of infiltrators, and our country is too small. Other countries lost control of their borders at costs that they still cannot fully assess, but we know that we cannot allow ourselves to do so. Therefore, less than a year after the government's establishment, we decided to erect the fence, allocate funds for it and complete its construction from Gaza to Eilat. This fence will be completed in several months of extraordinary work. I go down there every few months with my military secretary, Johanan Locker, who played an important role in expediting and pushing the system, but today, the systems is already pushing itself.
My policy with regard to the illegal infiltrators seeking work is clear – first to stop their entry with the fence, while at the same time deporting the infiltrators who are in Israel. We will begin by deporting the South Sudanese infiltrators dependent on the court's approval, which I hope we will receive over the next several days. Later, we will continue with other groups.
It is important to understand that international law makes deportation very difficult. It states that if one wants to return illegal infiltrators to their countries of origin, one needs the approval of the country. If one wants to return them or deport them to a third country, one must obtain the country's approval. In both cases, one must ensure that no harm comes to them; in other words, that the conditions in the country do not threaten their lives. In order to uphold this condition, we are in contact with many countries. It is not a matter that can be resolved overnight, but unlike what I read today, it is also not a problem with no solution and no action to be taken. It is true that if we had not decided to erect the fence two years ago, then we would not be dealing with 60,000 illegal infiltrators; within several years we would be dealing with 600,000 – the problem would be magnified by a factor of ten. So first of all, we are stopping them, and although it is difficult and it is not a problem that can be solved overnight, we can deport them and we will. Just as we solved other problems, we will solve this problem methodically and responsibly, in accordance with international agreements.
I am aware of the distress suffered by the residents of South Tel Aviv and Eilat. I visited them and spoke with them, and with the residents of Arad and of other communities and cities in Israel suffering from this problem. However, I reiterate my call to public figures and to the residents to show restraint and act responsibly. We are a moral people and we will act accordingly. We denounce violence; we denounce invective; we respect human rights. Refugees have rights and we respect them. People who do not have the right to be here still have certain rights, and we respect those too, but we will deport them according to the law, responsibly. We will not lose our humanity and we will not deprive anyone of their humanity. However, at the same time, we will not accept a reality in which infiltrators from an entire continent come here en masse to work. We are committed to defending our borders in order to defend the future of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic country.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There are people who, when they hear about these threats that I outlined, do not think that we should devote most of our efforts to thwarting them. They think that we do not have to concentrate so much effort against a nuclear Iran, or against the missile threat or the cyber threat or the breach of our borders. They claim that if we just sign a peace agreement with the Palestinians, everything will fall into place and that somehow things will work out. I do not share this opinion. Once people told us that if we only solved the Syria problem everything would work out, do you remember that? That same Syria is currently slaughtering its people with horrible brutality, with, of course, the assistance of Iran and Hezbollah – real assistance, not just political support: assistance in murder. Well, I do not share that opinion. We do not share that opinion about Syria, but we do share the opinion that we need to act simultaneously against the threats, while at the same time trying to advance the peace process with the Palestinians. We strive for peace with our Palestinian neighbors at the same time that we are thwarting the threats against our security. These actions do not conflict. On the contrary, they are complementary. The great American historian and gifted author Will Durant expressed my approach to ensuring our existence well. In 1968, towards the end of his life he wrote a small book of 100 pages, which he called, The Lessons in History. In it, he wrote, "These faiths and Christianity assured their followers that the good spirit would win in the end, but of this consummation history offers no guarantee. Nature and history do not agree with our conceptions of good or bad; they define good as that which survives, and bad as that which goes under; and the universe has no prejudice." Later on, he writes, "In the present inadequacy of international law and sentiment a nation must be ready at any moment to defend itself and when its essential interests are involved it must be allowed to use any means it considers essential to its survival." He wrote this in 1968.
My friends, I thank you for this opportunity to present you the principles that guide me in ensuring the existence and future of the State of Israel in security and peace.