On its 64th birthday the Knesset of Israel has renewed confidence and renewed legitimacy. The eyes of the public are fixed on you, the members of Knesset, in expectation that you will be their loyal representatives for the creation of a better future. In this Knesset are a record number of new Knesset members, 48 in total, and an increasing number of female Knesset members, 27. This is an achievement but still far less than the equality we seek. During the last elections the cynicism waned and the scornfulness reduced. Young people were elected, free from the bonds of the past and with wings to fly anew. Veterans were elected and those with experience who will create a constructive balance between new and experienced. The Knesset is not above the nation, it represents the nation. It should serve the nation more than rule over it.
We are faced with serious challenges, which may turn out to be existential threats or new opportunities. We must see inwardly and look outwardly, with an investigative eye. Israel is an island in a stormy ocean. We must protect the island and work to calm the angry ocean. Domestic issues dominated the election and a new budget is the most pressing matter. Israel's economy has avoided the surging global deficit and managed to maintain its unique position. As Prime Minister and Minister of Finance I learnt to be wary of two evils: Deficit and inflation. A rising deficit creates high interest levels and nothing is produced. Inflation gnaws away at trust in the currency and discourages investors; the success of the economy is dependent more on joining hands than twisting arms.
Cutting the deficit demands widespread political agreement and cooperation between the three parts of the market – the government, workers and employers. It is difficult to reach a deal of this sort, but it is dangerous to remain without it. I urge members of the house to join in a collective effort to curb the deficit and return to growth, the greatest challenge facing you is the expectation of the people for social reform.
First Session of the 19th Knesset (Photo: The Knesset Channel).
On the eve of the elections you made promises, almost unanimously, that this Knesset will be the most socially-minded Knesset of all time. That you will bridge the gap between those with influence and those being worst affected by the difficulties, equal sharing of the national burden. We cannot accept a reality whereby 900,000 children lack food, and are disadvantaged when it comes to education. The State of Israel is a democracy based on individual freedom and the rule of law. Those who determine the conduct of society, the character and destiny of our democracy are the institutions of the elected representatives.
Democracy is not only the right to be equal but the equal right to be different. There is no place for discrimination. Not religious discrimination, not ethnic, not national and not gender-based discrimination. Our nation suffered from racism. We will not allow for racism in our country.
Israel is small in size but can be large in social justice. The issue is critical for young people, it is good to be young but these days it is also expensive. We demand from our young people to attain higher education, to be competitive internationally, to manage high food prices and improved medical care which has also become more expensive. The price of land has gone up because the population has increased and the size of the land remains the same, likewise the cost of accommodation. I remember the first days of Israel, there was equality but there was nothing to share. We had to create something from nothing. There is nowhere like Israel, a country that has created so much from so little. What we have has been created from almost nothing. Now we have – we must share equally. We must be caring, brothers and sisters to one another.
Members of Knesset, around us there is a storm. In the Arab world a young generation has risen who has had enough of being subjugated and they have rebelled. They have yet to achieve their aims. This is a new development. And we wish them success. Conversely, from Iran the threat is growing. It threatens our existence and the independence of Arab states. At its head stand a group of Ayatollahs. They have become a brutal dictatorship which casts a stain on Persian history and is a nightmare for its people. That group seeks Iranian hegemony over the entire Middle East. They have terror agencies such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Iran smuggles weapons into Arab countries to undermine their stability. Iran exports wild incitement against Israel. Their leaders are both Holocaust-deniers and threaten a Holocaust. They are building a nuclear weapon and claim it is against their religion. They do not tell the truth and they denigrate the individual. They are the deniers of enlightenment in our time. President Obama has built a wide coalition to prevent a nuclear Iran. The coalition began with diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions and has made clear that it will take no options off the table. The United States can put an end to the Iranian threat and I believe that the President of the United States is determined to do it. Iran is a threat and Syria is a tragedy. The president of Syria is butchering his own people. The United Nations must, in my opinion, give the Arab League the mandate to immediately form a transition government in Syria and to save Syria from self-destruction. Assad who has murdered so many, has also murdered Syria's future.
Members of Knesset, protecting the security of Israel are our security forces. The IDF is rich with historic achievements and the security forces excel in their personal abilities and professional skills. The current generation of IDF commanders, and at their head the Chief of Staff, have proven once again their incredible ability and won the trust and love of the people. The IDF must constantly train its soldiers. And renew its technological advantage time and again.
Israel can develop unique technology on a global scale. The security services are focused today on building the army of tomorrow, which will be quicker and stronger. I recommend to our enemies not to be mistaken about our abilities both overt and covert. Strategy is based upon military strength and diplomatic wisdom – a strategic victory is not just defeating our enemies but securing peace. We must eradicate hostility, not only our enemies.
There is no security without an army and no peace with diplomacy. Peace requires security mechanisms and security requires diplomatic mechanisms. We made peace with Egypt and Jordan. And we started negotiations with the Palestinians. If we complete the negotiations, we will create a strategic depth which each of the components alone is missing. In Jewish tradition, peace is a traditional obligation. David Ben Gurion summed it up in one sentence: "Israel's fate is determined by its strength and is righteousness."
Israel's scientific ability strengthens its political ability and increases economic output. Our high-tech transformed a recalcitrant soil into a producer of abundant crops. From one dunam of land we produce crops as if from five dunams. From one drop of water we recycle three drops. Israel has proven that even from the desert hope can spring, that makes us an example to the world. Our agriculture not only increased yield, it is also able to raise their nutritional value.
In our history we had help and in our future we will be able to help others. Already today, Israel is able to provide unique support across the world in the fight against hunger, poverty and natural disasters. In the field of terrorism we have gathered experience which we put at the disposal of other countries.
I am incredibly proud of the scientific advances in medicine in Israel both in terms of innovative equipment and unique treatment. 15% of the world's modern medical devices are made in Israel. Medicine is the diplomacy of friends. Israel continues to march forwards in medicine. Israel is able to create a key to crack the genetic code of each individual and to reduce reliance on hospitals and medication, something that will lead to the democratization of medicine. Equality for all. Israel is also advancing when it comes to space. Israeli satellites are some of the most advanced in the world, they are smaller and cheaper, they enable smaller countries which aren't as rich to enjoy their capabilities.
A decade ago we put Nano-technology at the center of Israel's scientific endeavors. We were right. Today we need to put brain research at the center of our research efforts. When a person knows his own brain, he knows how to control himself, to choose wisdom over folly. Peace over violence. The European Union decided to allocate one and a quarter billion euros for brain research. The first to benefit from this program are Israeli researchers and institutions. These are the first fruits of our efforts. I am so proud. It is no coincidence.
Members of Knesset, the smallness of our territory requires a greatness of minds. An Israel that will be built on values. That will be just for all citizens. A state that will be daunting to our enemies. A country that contributes. Our foundation is the Ten Commandments. Our vision is the edge of science. Members of Knesset, you are privileged to be representatives of the people. There is no greater right than to serve your nation. One who serves many. Better to serve the nation than rule over it. Please, carry with you a vision of a better world, for each of us individually and collectively. For our nation and other nations. The vision of the prophets is a journey from slavery to freedom, the promised land. I wish you all success.