President Shimon Peres, this evening (Tuesday, 1 October 2013),
delivered a speech before the Dutch Parliament and afterwards held a
closed-door question and answer session with MPs. In his speech
President Peres laid out a vision for a Middle East based on science and
a modern economy and addressed the major issues of the day. President
Peres called upon the European Union to maintain the pressure on Iran
and to acquiesce to Secretary Kerry's request not to implement the new
guidelines which would hamper the peace negotiations.
Madam Speaker of the Senate, Madam Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a privilege to address your great Parliament. Which is a
bastion of freedom and a model of human rights, at home and abroad. Your
democracy is not just a right to be equal, but an equal right to be
different. In the Netherlands, freedom and equality are indivisible.
The founder of the Zionist movement, Theodor Herzl, wrote in his
journal: "I see suddenly a city rising from the plain, without mountain,
river, or sea. This is The Hague. Evidence that will-power can make
The Netherlands is an example of what people can achieve from the
most arid of lands.” And David Ben Gurion, the founder of Israel, wrote
later on: "The Dutch Delta Works are the greatest human endeavor of our
The real question in the Middle East today is how to divorce from
the old age and embrace the new one. Poverty, hunger, thirst, scepticism
are remnants of the long-gone era. Only a science-based economy is
capable of escaping poverty.
“Respect the old and sanctify the new”, advised wisely our late
Chief Rabbi Kook. It enabled Israel to overcome poverty. I believe that
our neighbours can do likewise.
Of the three dangers that threaten the Middle East - war, terror,
hunger - poverty looms today over the others. Poverty claimed more
victims today than the swords of yesterday.
Historically, wars were caused mainly by territorial disputes.
Today science is more important than land. Armies cannot conquer
science. So war has lost its reason.
Today terrorism is made of small groups. They tear to pieces their
own lands. Terror lacks a common policy. Terrorists are divided among
themselves and fight one another. They replaced policies with violence.
They divided the Palestinian people. They devastated Lebanon. They
shattered Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya. They move like a dark cloud over
the skies of more people.
Traditional foreign aid cannot meet the growing scope of poverty
today. The population of the Middle East grew five times, in the last
fifty years. The donors, some of them facing the economic crisis, cannot
meet the growing demands.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The fate of the Middle East depends today upon its entering the age
of science. So to overcome the catastrophes of the past that brought
the shortage of food and the lack of freedom. Israel is a typical Middle
Eastern land. Mostly deserts and constant drought. Science enabled us
to improve the land and overcome the droughts. It can be done by all
While events make headlines, developments make history. The current
events in the Middle East make pessimism a headline. But the parallel
developments offer hope.
Among these developments, I would refer to at least three of them.
Firstly, among the 350 million inhabitants of the Middle East, on hundred million already have access to the internet.
Secondly, over 60% of the population are below the age of 26. It
is them who raised the call for an Arab Spring. They were right but
unfortunately disorganised. Yet they remain the majority. It is
estimated that in the next year the number of connected people in the
Middle East will double. The digital age may serve as their organizer.
The elder people are no longer a majority. Furthermore, they do not
propose an alternative solution. To be digital or not, makes all the
Thirdly, the protests in the streets brought an end to some
dictators. To the others, the future is not promising. The end of
dictatorship raises the chances of democracy.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A responsible coalition of the peace-seeking countries was formed
to prevent Iran from attaining its dangerous nuclear ambitions.
President Obama has engaged the United States as well as the
European Union, among others, to impose sanctions upon Iran, in order to
stop it from building nuclear weapons. The coalition preferred,
rightly, to start with diplomacy while the military option remains.
The end of the Iranian nuclear threat, as well as the end of Iran
being a centre of terror is the right way to keep the world free and
secure. The sanctions led so far to the new tone of Iran.
President Rouhani's address to the United Nations must stand the
test of real implementation. Today it is just a declaration, in a
Furthermore, the realities of today in Iran are in stark
contradiction to his address. The construction of a nuclear bomb is a
fact not a phrase. The building of long range missiles capable, of
carrying nuclear warheads continues. It is a danger to the entire world.
Nobody on earth threatens Iran's existence.
Meanwhile Iran is building a nuclear bomb. Spreading terror remains a menace to the entire world.
the Jewish people knew friendship with Iran. The Iranian threat began
when Khomeini took power. It is up to his successors to bring an end to
President Rouhani wants the sanctions to be reduced right away so
to ease the Iranian economic crisis. Actually, Iran herself can improve
her economy by ending the waste of money spent on building military
nuclear reactors and military nuclear long-range missiles.
The Syrian agreement to dismantle their chemical arsenal was done
only after Syria was threatened militarily. Humanity has no right to
forget the lost lives of thousands of Syrians – innocent civilians,
young children – were murdered on their own land, at the hand of their
own leader. It is time for Assad to understand that the world has moral
boundaries, not just geographical borders. He crossed all of them.
History has ups and downs. The Jewish people experienced the
heights of friendship and, alas, the abyss of the Holocaust. Many of us
found in the Netherlands a shelter and a home.
Anne Frank describes the darkness of the Shoah:
"I see the eight of us in the Annex, as if we were a patch of blue
sky, surrounded by menacing black clouds. We are surrounded by darkness
and danger, in our desperate search for a way out."
Six million of our brothers and sisters – among them a million and a
half who were younger than Anne – were murdered by the Nazis in cold
blood, by gas, rifles, starvation, on European soil. Of the 140.000
Jewish people who lived in the Netherlands, 100.000 were murdered by the
Nazi industry of death.
Local collaborators aided them. Others stood aside. Yet 5 thousand
Dutch heroes endangered their lives and the lives of their families to
save Jews. Their courage saved Jewish lives and kept the honor of the
Netherlands. We shall never forget them. The Shoah is both a burning
reminder in our hearts and a warning to humanity for the future.
While never forgetting the past, we have to look to the future. To
the new Netherlands. To the new Europe. They are a real departure from
the past. The united Europe divorced a thousand years of blind
hostility. It has invited rays of togetherness and friendship. Borders
are no longer dams. Bridges of science replaced them and opened the
ports to the new age.
A global age which does not allow racism. The Netherlands of today
is a land of light. Darkness has gone. The Netherlands became a builder
of the new Europe. The new Netherlands has become a moving friend of
Israel. Thank you.
The Netherlands, like Israel, sees its destiny in a biblical touch.
What we call in Hebrews for Tikkun Olam, which means bettering the
world. Values outweigh expediencies.
Our relations are close and friendly. The economic cooperation is
constantly increasing. Cultural exchanges brought books and art.
Scientific collaboration offered a great potential for the two of us.
Dutch contribution to the peace process in the Middle East is valuable
and meaningful. Yesterday, today and may I say tomorrow as well.
The new age reached new heights. The sky is no longer the limit.
The past became archaeological. The present is dwindling. The future
Our young generation resides already in the world of tomorrow. They
are constructing a world of their own. They are right to do so. There
is no better match than young people and new age.
Israel rose out of the ashes of the Holocaust. It had to overcome the hardship of war. And made a barren desert flourish.
Israel is rich in holiness but poor in natural resources. We were blessed with a rich history but cursed with meagre geography.
At the time our dreams seemed surreal and absurd. Nobody believed
that Israel would become a reality. Yet the present reality exceeds the
past dreams. Maybe we should have had the courage to dream greater. When
I think about we were mistaken by the size of our dreams, we should
always have the courage to dream great and high.
The potential of science with the devotion of the pioneers
converted smallness into greatness, compensating for past shortages with
We created a democratic society. Free. Pluralistic. Varied.
Today our great dream is peace with our neighbours. Nothing is more
important and urgent.Extending our hands in peace to the entire
In the 65 years of Israel , we went through seven wars. No other
country has the same experience. We were outmanned, we were outgunned.
We lost some of our best children and we miss them.
But never in Israel did a day of war postpone a day of freedom.
Never did a war weaken our search for peace. Had we been unable to fend
off wars, we would have ceased to exist. We had to either win and live
or lose and disappear. But would we give up our search for peace, we
would betray our moral heritage which is so dear in our hearts and
In spite of hostility, we made peace with two of our important
neighbours – Egypt and Jordan. Once we made peace we gave them back all
the land, all the water, all the assets. We kept nothing for ourselves.
Those peace agreements withstood the storms of our vicinity to this
very day. Now we renewed the negotiations of peace with our Palestinian
neighbours, with the help of Secretary Kerry, with the support of the
United Europe and the United States
I believe it is possible. I believe it is realistic. I believe it should be done as soon as possible.
All of us agree, Arabs and Israelis and the whole world, that the
two state solution is the right one– a Jewish state, Israel and an Arab
state, Palestine – living side by side in peace, respect and security.
The European Union, and the Netherlands in particular, were and
remain very supportive, playing a meaningful role in making peace a
Spinoza described peace beautifully: "Peace is not mere absence of
war, but is a virtue that springs from a state of mind, a disposition
for benevolence, confidence, justice.”
Secretary Kerry asked the European Union to suspend the recent new
guidelines, so as to free the negotiations from an added burden.
When peace will be completed, and it may happen quite soon, those
guidelines will anyway become unnecessary. I believe that the answer of
Europe to the request of the Secretary will be positive to make the
negotiations flow uninterrupted. I believe it will be unnecessary in a
There is no need for interim solutions. We shall make peace, there
is no need for half measures. To cross a chasm, it is safer to do it in
one brave step. Two steps is dangerous.
From Jerusalem, I carry the prayers of our people for the well-being of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima.
I witnessed His Majesty’s devotion to peace when he presided over
the trilateral committee of Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians to
make water flow peacefully and efficiently. I happened to represent
Israel so I watched with admiration the way he ran the committee and the
results are still evident today.
King Willem-Alexander is the youngest king in Europe. As we know,
the future belongs to the youngsters. My age permits me to declare
Israel and the Netherlands are on a journey through a meadow of
tulips. Moving together to our promised lands, and make our lands a real
promise. On the horizon still hangs the great vision of Isaiah for a
world free of wars and the great vision of another prophet Amos for a
just society for all.
Our record provides us with a licence to keep on dreaming because
yesterday's dreams gave birth to today's miracles. You are a miracle by
making land from water and we follow you as a miracle by making land
from desert, what was considered impossible became a reality. Our age is
facing dangers and difficulties but it also has a clear call for hope.
I do believe that hope will win.
Thank you very much.