President of the State of Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres,
Ambassadors and Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
I am delighted to be here to celebrate with you Israel’s 66th Independence Day. I am especially delighted because during the years that I have served as Foreign Minister, many of you who serve here have become real friends, both of the State of Israel and myself personally. So it is especially enjoyable to celebrate such an occasion with friends.
On this day, during these many years where I stood here at five o’clock in the afternoon, the President, Shimon Peres, also became an inseparable part of my Independence Day. I am certain that no matter what, next year I will also have reason to spend part of my day with him, if not here, maybe he will join me for the traditional annual barbecue of the Yisrael Beytenu party from where I just arrived.
On my way here from that barbecue, I saw the people of Israel celebrating, and I say with pride that there is much to celebrate.
Even today, 66 years after its establishment, I still consider Israel a miracle. Israel is a small country made up of people who returned after 2,000 years of exile from every corner of the earth to renew our sovereignty, many arriving straight from the hellish Holocaust, who had to fight for its very existence. Moving to the present, it is clear that Israel has become one of the global powerhouses of hi-tech, innovation, energy and agriculture.
Even with the challenges associated with living in a tough neighborhood, it is an enlightened democracy, one of the most advanced in the world.
Ladies and gentlemen.
In English, when one wishes to describe perfect vision, one says the vision is 20:20. However, in Hebrew, we say it is 6:6. So in honor of our 66th Independence Day, please permit me to say that this is an appropriate date to look with great clarity over the political situation here.
While I assume that what occurred during the last few weeks should not have taught anybody anything new about the situation, recent events certainly do not leave any doubt about the principal actors here in the region and their real desires.
It is very clear that regarding the negotiations, there is absolutely no desire on the part of the Palestinians to reach an agreement with Israel. Only a few weeks ago, everything was ready for the signing of a document that would lead to the continuation of negotiations between us and the Palestinians. There were understandings in place between Prime Minister Netanyahu, Chairman Abbas and Secretary of State Kerry.
However, two hours before the convening of the Israeli government to approve the package, Abbas announced the request for the Palestinians to join 15 international treaties and deliberately blew up the negotiations. Subsequently, Abbas threatened to dismantle the Palestinian Authority and cancel the Oslo Accords. After this, he signed a unity agreement with the murderous terrorist organization Hamas - an organization whose charter aspires to a holy genocide against Jews everywhere.
Abbas needs to decide if he is prepared for peace and with whom. It is impossible to have peace with Israel and Hamas. The creation of a Fatah-Hamas unity government will signal the end of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Unfortunately, this is merely following a long-standing and familiar pattern of behavior by Abbas and the Palestinians. Whenever there is progress and a step forward in negotiations, the Palestinians take two steps back. Also, when there was an intention to sign an agreement to give the Palestinians everything they could have dreamed of, like the offers by former Prime Ministers, Olmert at Annapolis in 2009 and Barak at Camp David in 2000, they balked.
The State of Israel has proven on numerous occasions that it is willing and ready to reach a permanent accord with the Palestinians. However, despite great efforts on the Israeli side and a willingness to reach an agreement, it did not happen.
Even during the previous government, a series of confidence-building measures was agreed to, including a difficult and painful decision to freeze building in Judea and Samaria for 10 months. Even so, we did not make a millimeter of progress on any final status issue or towards ending the conflict itself.
Even the evacuation of 21 communities from the Gaza Strip and the transfer of 10,000 Jews, did not move the Palestinians one millimeter towards peace. On the contrary, the response to our return to the pre-1967 lines was 16,000 rockets and missiles sent from Gaza into southern Israel. Therefore, it is clear that the real problem is not settlements in Judea and Samaria but the clear reluctance of the Palestinians time after time to pursue peace.
However, unfortunately, time after time there are those who do not want to admit this. Even after the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority signs an agreement with an organization which openly seeks the destruction of the very state where we are celebrating independence, some, especially in Europe, continue to blame Israel for the deadlock in negotiations.
Even though we are celebrating Independence Day and not Purim, it is time to remove the mask from the face of Mahmoud Abbas and say clearly that he consistently rejects peace.
Abbas acts according to the strategy that he learnt during his time at university in Moscow during the 1970’s of “no war, no peace” adopted by Trotsky at the end of the First World War. The strategy is to wear the opponent down and never to commit to anything. This is exactly what he is doing. Meanwhile he enjoys his status as the leader of a national liberation movement and travels around the world, spending more time in London, New York and Paris than in Tulkarem and Jenin. It is clear that Abbas has no desire to bring peace to the people he supposedly represents.
Ladies and gentlemen.
We expect the international community to stand by its commitments and demand that Hamas abide by the three conditions laid out by the Quartet:
1. The renunciation of violence
2. Recognizing the State of Israel
3. Accept previously signed agreements
Two additional issues that can not be compromised on are a Palestinian recognition of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish People and the abandonment of the so-called Palestinian “right of return”. Any attempt to advance an agreement without an explicit recognition of the State of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people by the Palestinians will be a non-starter.
As many people I greatly respect are confused by this issue, I am happy to explain the significance of this demand for recognition.
While Abbas demands that a Palestinian state will be ‘Judenrein’, without a single Jew, and will not recognize Israel as the Homeland of the Jewish people, it becomes clear that he seeks a 100% homogenous Palestinian state and a binational state in Israel. As many of the Arabs living in Israel identify as Palestinian, it is his intention to create a link between a future Palestinian state with the Palestinians living in Israel in order to undermine it in the future at any time of his choosing. After all, Abbas has said countless times that he is not ready to accept a single Jew under Palestinian control, not even a Jewish soldier as part of a multi-national force, when the idea of such a force was raised.
Furthermore, this lack of recognition undermines the basis of the creation of the State of Israel, and international understandings like the Balfour Declaration, the Peel Commission and the Partition Plan, which consistently called for a Jewish and an Arab state. The term Palestinian State was never used.
As for the so-called “right of return”, we will not agree to even the return of one person to Israel. Those who talk about a “right of return”, knowingly or not, are talking about the destruction of the State of Israel de-facto. If we allow one refugee to come to Israel, a million will follow after him. Furthermore, the meeting yesterday in Qatar between Abbas and Khaled Meshaal and the recent developments in Judea and Samaria demonstrate with certainty that Hamas is on its way to controlling the whole Palestinian Authority.
Regardless of when elections will take place, it is clear that Hamas will win convincingly. This will be the result of the recent agreement signed with Hamas by Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas brought Hamas to power in Gaza and he is now bringing them to power in Judea and Samaria. However, we are determined to prevent Judea and Samaria from becoming the new Gaza.
Ladies and gentlemen.
It is important for me to restate while talking about our challenges that Israel has always been and always will be a peace-seeking nation. Israel seeks peace, Israel wants an agreement, but we will not be fools.
Happy Independence Day and I look forward to seeing you next year.