On Sunday, 5 January 2014, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman opened the Heads of Missions conference at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. Following are the main points of his address to the ambassadors:
With regard to the main issues of foreign policy facing the State of Israel, I would like to address seven main points. I could bring up 17 different issues, or 34, but the following are issues in which I intend to be personally involved. They are not in order of importance.
1. Relations with the US: Without a doubt, our cooperation with the Americans is the basis on which Israel’s foreign policy is built. It must be understood that the US today is confronting many challenges: North Korea, the China-Japan-South Korea triangle, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt. This is in addition to internal problems: the budget, the health bill, immigration, etc. We must think not only of how to get help from the US, but how the small state of Israel can aid the US. How we can develop new directions, not instead of the US, but in addition to it.
2. New areas of focus for Israel's foreign relations, with an emphasis on Africa: Today, unfortunately, we are overly identified with conflict, terror, the Palestinian problem and Iran – all heavy and not-so-optimistic topics. Happily, one other topic has become associated with Israel in recent years, and that is “the start-up nation.” But that’s not enough. We must lead more in green topics, put more emphasis on our ability to contribute to the international community, especially in difficult places struggling with problems of poverty, starvation, severe water shortages, etc. I believe that we must do today, in the year 2014, what we did in the 1960s – send our best people to Africa, to be in the front line of solving problems.
3. The Iranian threat: Concerning Iran, the issues are clear and well-known, but some points should be stressed. As we speak, the centrifuges continue to spin and to enrich uranium, and they intend to replace the old centrifuges with new ones that have the ability to produce five times more than the existing ones. Most of the countries that produce energy for civilian purposes from atomic power plants do not need enriched uranium. At the research reactor in Tehran TRR, which uses uranium enriched to 20%, they are using 115 kg of 20%-enriched uranium that they got from Argentina in the 1990s. As of today, Iran has enriched more than 200 kg to this level, and they have enough to operate the TRR until 2050.
American expert Bob Einhorn once said that the Iranian demand to enrich large quantities of uranium to 20% in order to produce electricity is like asking for a 30-cm-long commando knife to spread jam on bread. Not only that, but the claim that they need a stockpile of enriched uranium because they plan to build a lot of nuclear power stations in the future is as ridiculous as saying that we are building a petrol station next to our house because in 20 years we intend to buy a car.
Also, Iran’s involvement in terrorism, its active aid to Assad and to Hizbullah, reveals the true nature of the regime. Iran hasn’t changed in relation to human rights: Iran holds second place in the world in the absolute numbers of executions it carries out, and first place for the number of executions relative to the population. In 2013, more than 600 people were executed. Since Ruhani’s election last June, 367 people have been executed. Among these were 18-year-olds who committed the crimes when they were minors; after they were sentenced to death, Iran waited until they reached the age when they could be hanged. In short, charm notwithstanding, Iran is the same Iran.
So, we will follow the implementation of the Geneva agreement that was reached with the Iranians, but in the end, responsibility for the security of Israel’s citizens and the future of the state is entirely in the hands of the Israeli government. We will not hesitate to make decisions according to developments.
4. Concerning the Palestinians, I have said that I definitely support a diplomatic arrangement that will be comprehensive, genuine and sustainable. Despite all the doubts in my heart concerning the true intentions of the other side, the dialogue between us is important. Even when we don't agree, even when we don't completely trust each other, the ability to talk to each other and to maintain our daily lives in a reasonable manner is of utmost importance.
Therefore, I would like to express genuine appreciation for the efforts of Secretary John Kerry, who is working incessantly and giving his all in the attempt to bring about an end to the conflict between us and the Palestinians. It is impossible to ignore the effort [he is investing], on topics that are of critical importance to us, such as security arrangements and recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. I am well aware that no one else in the international arena has brought positions as clear and resolute on these two crucial issues as Secretary Kerry, who deserves our highest appreciation for that.
I have spoken with many people from the Palestinian side, from simple fellaheen that live near my community, Nokdim, to people close to Abbas as well as those opposed to him. I have to say that no one has any illusions. This road is hard and long.
It is important to think not only of the signing of an agreement, but of the day after. How will an independence Palestinian state affect Arab Israelis? Will signing an agreement with the Palestinians bring an end to the international pressure on Israel? Or, instead of the settlements and the so-called “occupation”, will they continue to attack us over issues such as the Bedouins in the Negev, or the strengthening of the Jewish presence in the Galilee? Already there are those who are preparing the next attack. They don’t intend to rest for a moment or to give us credit for any arrangement with the Palestinians.
In my view, any comprehensive agreement with the Palestinian must include an arrangement for the Arab citizens of Israel. I know it's not politically correct, but without some exchange of land and populations, Israel Beitenu will not support any agreement. When one talks about land exchange, one has to add land and population exchanges. We are not talking about transfer, as was the case of the Jewish population in Gush Katif (in the Gaza Strip). No one will be expelled from their homes and no one's possessions will be taken away. The border will simply be moved. I'm talking about the Triangle [an area of Arab villages near the Green Line] and Wadi Ara. There's no reason why they shouldn't join their Palestinian brothers under full Palestinian sovereignty and become citizens in the future Palestinian state that they want so badly.
I will not agree to any “right of return” to the State of Israel, not even for one person. Because retaining that option, even theoretically or in a limited way, will in the end lead to all the pressure being brought on that one point. It must be understood that, since the signing of the Oslo Accords, more than 10,000 Palestinians have moved to the State of Israel on the basis of “family unification,” and more than 100,000 people have moved into Judea and Samaria, mostly from Jordan and other Arab states. Israel agreed to grant Palestinian identity cards to close to 50,000 of them.
When I talk about the day after, imagine that there is an independent Palestinian state that has the sovereign right to issue identity cards to whomever it pleases. What will happen? Almost 3 million Palestinians live outside of Judea and Samaria and Gaza, and most of them will want to come to Judea and Samaria as soon as the Palestinian state is established. These are not the Palestinians who have been successful in Saudi Arabia or in the Gulf states. They will come from Syria or Lebanon, not only because they want to come – the regimes there will kick them over the border at the first opportunity. They’ve been waiting for this day.
Let’s think one step further. Will the economy in the West Bank be able to absorb another 3 million Palestinians? Where will they live? What will they eat? Where will they work? And how will this affect Israel?
My conclusion from everything that has happened in our region, in Libya and in Iraq, is that we must always think about what will happen the day after.
5. Relations with our neighbors - from Turkey and Iraq, to Libya and Sudan: Concerning the states bordering us, and those with which we have some kind of ties, we should learn from past experience. Our main mistake was that, when we signed various agreements with states in the region, we signed only with the rulers, not with the states or the people. This has resulted in a strange situation in which, on the one hand, we have diplomatic relations and, on the other hand, among many parts of the population, which include liberals as well as religious radicals, there is a consensus on hatred and incitement against the State of Israel. Every time, we are told that we have to consider the reality, the difficulties they face internally, and, since the security situation is okay, not to pay attention to incitement within those countries or to the anti-Israel positions that they adopt in every possible international forum. This is unacceptable to me. We must not agree to a situation in which, as [former Mossad head] Meir Dagan once described Israel is like a mistress in the region – everyone enjoys her and no one acknowledges the relationship with her.
We must demand diplomatic benefits, not only security. We have to ensure that, when we sign a peace agreement, it is with the state, that it is an agreement between peoples and not just with the rulers. Because an agreement with the rulers is not sustainable, and the regimes are not willing to explain the agreement to the people and to confront the incitement. On the contrary, they show a willingness only to hide their ties with Israel. We must weigh if this is what we need right now and whether this is the right approach.
The other two issues are:
6. Relations with the BRICS emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa; and
7. Relations with the European Union, particularly France and Germany, because the latter determine 90% of the European Union’s positions.