[Dr. Aaron Lerner - the "if pigs could fly" vision: "I remain committed to a
vision of two states for two peoples where a demilitarized Palestinian state
recognizes the Jewish state"
PM Netanyahu's Address to the Jewish Federations of North America General
(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Tuesday, 10 November 2015),
addressed the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly.
Following are his remarks:
"Ladies and Gentlemen,
I’m delighted to be here today with you, the leaders of Jewish communities
across North America. You work tirelessly to strengthen Jewish identity and
you work tirelessly to support the State of Israel. You are Israel’s
partners; you are my partners in building the Jewish future.
Now, this past year has not been simple. Great issues were debated. Passions
ran high and the stakes were even higher. But we must always remember two
simple truths. The first one is that no matter what disagreements there are
between Israel and the United States, Israel has no better friend than
America and America has no better friend than Israel. Here's the second
truth: No matter what disagreements there have been within the Jewish
community, maintaining the unity of our people is of paramount importance.
There is only one Jewish people. There is only one Jewish state. And now,
more than ever, we must work together to unite the Jewish people and secure
the Jewish state.
Israel is a state of amazing, amazing successes. If we were in the South, I
would say amazing grace. I'm saying it here too – amazing success, amazing
grace. You know all about the start-up nation. You know that Israel is a
global epicenter of innovation, of ingenuity – a leader in water technology,
in agritech, in medicine, in science, in cyber.
I want to give you two numbers. First on water: We had twice the rainfall in
1948, the year of Israel's founding and one-tenth the population. So in 67
years, the water supply has gone down by half from rainfall, roughly half,
and the population has grown ten times. Our GDP per capita has grown 40
times, and with it goes water usage. So we had to have a big water problem,
but we don't. We have a water surplus. Israel leads the world by far in the
recycling of waste water and in so many other technologies related to water.
And people are coming to us and they say: Teach us. Or la'goyim. Teach us.
Teach us what you've done for yourself. We can do it in Asia, in Africa, in
Latin America. Every week somebody else comes and says teach us how to get
water out of the stone.
So here's another little factoid. Is that how you call it, factoid? Factum?
Fact. Okay, here's another fact. In 2014 Israel was receiving 10% of the
global investment in cyber security. That's an extraordinary number given
that we are… It's about 100 times our size in the relative population of the
world. In 2015 that number has changed. It grew from 10% to 20%. It doubled
in one year, one year. So in cyber, Israel is punching 200 times above its
weight. That's an extraordinary figure.
In cyber, in water and in many, many other fields of Israeli technology, our
economy continues its remarkable ascent. In 1948, Israel had roughly the
same GDP per capita as our neighbors. Today Israel’s GDP per capita has
surpassed the European average and according to three of the four indices
that I looked at before I came here, it surpassed that of Japan. And as our
economy has grown, so has the reach of Israeli exports. Today Israel is
dramatically increasing trade with India and China. I point that out because
they're two small countries, and together with our small country, we
encompass about a third of the population of the world, which is another
factoid you can file away. The combination of new innovations, really new
products and services, and new markets, is propelling Israel’s economy to
ever greater and greater heights.
That's important because, you see, while we have tremendous opportunity, we
also have one or two challenges. I think you've heard about them. We have to
pay for defense. Defense is very, very expensive. In fact, it gets more and
more expensive all the time, so the principal way by which we pay for our
defenses is by growing our economy. And the other, I have to say, is the
generous support that we are getting from the United States of America, and
yesterday I had a wonderful discussion with President Obama how to secure
that assistance for the coming decade. Thank you America and thank you
I know that all of you are proud of Israel’s stunning technological
achievements. But I think we should no less be proud of Israel’s values. And
you see those values on display every day. You see it in our freedom – when
you watch the passionate speeches in our Knesset, if you bring noise plugs,
and indeed when you read the spirited debate in our press – bring pink
sunglasses; it'll lower the glare. But this is democracy. This is intense,
You see it in our pluralism – in our growing and thriving Christian
population, the only Christian population in the Middle East that is growing
and thriving and not shrinking and being decimated; in our proud and our
strong LGBT community. Tel Aviv is a renowned capital of pluralism and
diversity and tolerance, as is Israel altogether.
You see it in our egalitarianism. You see it in an Arab schoolboy who knows
that – or schoolgirl – they can grow up to be Knesset members or ambassadors
or a Supreme Court justice. We have an Arab Supreme Court justice, in case
you didn't know. And it's the only truly independent court in a very, very
large radius. You see it in Israeli schoolgirls who know they can become
fighter pilots, central bank governors and prime ministers. We've had one of
each, actually more than one of each – one of each for prime minister.
You see our compassion when you visit the hospitals, the field hospital that
we've set up that treat thousands of wounded Syrians from the battles inside
the Syrian inferno. We set up a field hospital I think about ten or fifty
yards away, on our side of the Syrian border, and we take in these people
who've suffered unbelievable tragedy. We take care of them at our expense
and we've been doing so for years. You won't read about it, but you should
know about it. It's very important.
And you see our values when you follow our expert rescue teams to faraway
places like Haiti and Nepal. Just recently we had this horrible earthquake
in Nepal and the biggest rescue delegation was from India. That's a small
country. The second largest in the world came from Israel. Second largest
rescue delegation in the world.
Now, the demonstration of liberal democratic values would be impressive
anywhere, anytime. But what is truly remarkable is that Israel upholds these
values in the darkest and most oppressive region on earth and when facing
unmatched security challenges. This is why when our detractors defame
Israel, we must defend Israel. This is why when they tell us that we should
be ashamed of Israel; we must tell them we are proud of Israel.
From my office in Jerusalem the dangers facing Israel can sometimes appear
daunting. Israel is surrounded by many forces driven by fanaticism and
hatred. Militant Islam is on the march – the Sunni extremists led by ISIS,
the Shiite fanatics led by Iran.
But despite these enormous dangers, I have no doubt that Israel will
continue to flourish in the years and decades ahead because the people of
Israel are strong, because the alliance between America and Israel is strong
and because the partnership between Israel and Jewish communities around the
world is strong.
Through decades of war and terrorism, three generations of Israelis have
shown extraordinary fortitude and resilience. I visit our troops just about
every week. I go and see our young men and women in uniform and it is an
experience that I hope that all of you can share, possibly have shared. To
talk with our young men and women in uniform is to be inspired by their deep
faith in the justice of Israel’s cause and by their fierce determination to
defend our homeland. We're going to be celebrating Hanukkah. These are the
new Maccabees. They have such fortitude, such courage, such spirit. These
soldiers are Israel’s future. So believe me when I tell you, Israel's future
is in very, very good hands.
The second source of my confidence in Israel’s future is the unshakeable
alliance between Israel and America – an alliance that I believe will only
get stronger. And as I said, yesterday I had a very good meeting with
President Obama at the White House, and I deeply appreciate his commitment
to bolster Israel’s security at the time when the Middle East is becoming
more dangerous than ever.
And I also want to say that we are sharing so many things. The United States
is giving indispensable help to Israel, indispensable, but Israel is
returning that assistance almost on a daily basis in intelligence and in
many other things. I think that what is important is not merely President
Obama's commitment to bolstering Israel's security for the next ten years,
but also his commitment to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge so
that Israel can defend itself by itself against any threat. That is the most
important commitment. And despite our disagreement over the nuclear deal
with Iran, I believe that America and Israel can and should work together
now to ensure Iran complies with the deal, to curb Iran’s regional
aggression and to fight Iranian terrorism around the world.
Now, the third reason I am confident about the future is the tremendous
partnership between us. Since the founding of Israel, well, even before the
founding of Israel, you have been our partners in building the Jewish
future. Your support has been invaluable in helping Israel successfully
absorb millions of immigrants, build world-class hospitals, create an oasis
of modernity in the middle of the desert, and in the last two decades, well,
in the last two decades, well, Israel has begun investing in you.
This was a revolutionary idea that was put to me, a young prime minister, 20
years ago. They said, well, you know, the Diaspora and Jewish communities,
especially in North America, have been investing in Israel, you know, for
five decades. How about returning the favor? As our economy grows, we could
invest in Jewish education, in Jewish identity. And I said, well, that's a
crazy idea. I like that. So well before we reached our current economic
levels, we began, and Natan Sharansky remembers that very well, we began to
invest in Birthright, which I thought was an extraordinary idea.
Now, half a million people later, half a million young Jews, young men and
women who have visited Israel, I'm proud to say that we'll continue to
invest in Birthright. It is, after all, our birthright. And tens of
thousands of course, tens of thousands have participated in the longer Masa
programs. And thousands have decided to make Israel their permanent home. I
think the hundreds of thousands have come back to their communities – this
is a large number. Hundreds of thousands who come back to the Jewish
communities with stronger Jewish identities and a stronger commitment to the
Jewish future – that strengthens the Jewish world. It is a remarkable
program. And whether Jews decide to live in Israel or not, I want to
guarantee one thing to each and every one of you: As Prime Minister of
Israel, I will always ensure that all Jews can feel at home in Israel –
Reform Jews, Conservative Jews, Orthodox Jews – all Jews.
As a testament to my commitment to this principle, I have established a
roundtable, headed by my Cabinet Secretary, to address the concerns of the
different streams of Judaism in Israel. That's significant. That's a
governmental decision. You want to know our politics? Not now, but that's a
significant decision. This is a roundtable of the Government of Israel in
which the various streams of Judaism sit together side-by-side to discuss
problems and more importantly to discuss solution. And now, for the first
time, the Government of Israel is joining with the Jewish Agency to invest
in strengthening Reform and Conservative communities within Israel. I am
also hopeful that we will soon conclude a long overdue understanding that
will ensure that the Kotel is a source of unity for our people, not a point
of division. And we're getting there, I have to say.
My dear friends,
The unity of the Jewish people is important at all times, but especially at
this time. It's especially important when the assault on the Jews is not
confined to the Middle East, because as Michael said correctly there is a
wave of anti-Semitism that is raging across Europe, but it goes beyond there
to other continents as well.
I want to say something about anti-Semitism. My father was a great historian
and a student of this phenomenon. It has ancient roots. It goes back roughly
to Hellenistic times, five hundred years before the birth of the Christian
era. It has a long tradition and old traditions die hard. Sometimes they
don't die. For centuries the world believed the worst things about Jews –
and these lies were believed not just by the ignorant masses; they were
believed as well by the educated elites. They said about us that we were
poisoners of wells, spreaders of plagues, killers of children. Now the lies
that were once leveled at the Jewish people are now leveled at the Jewish
state. They say that Israel harvests organs, spreads AIDS and executes
Once, the Jewish people couldn't even raise its collective voice to fight
against these lies, these slanders. Today, we have a voice. Today we have a
voice. And we must ensure that our voice is heard loud and clear. We must
speak out against the slander of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.
Now, whether it's the Prime Minister of Israel speaking at the United
Nations or Jewish students speaking at a college campus, we can and must
fight lies and the only way you fight lies is telling the truth. We have
nothing to be ashamed of. We have everything to be proud of. Stand up
proudly. Speak the truth about Israel. Be proud as Jews.
The truth is Israel is a great country, a deeply moral country. Of course,
like all countries, Israel is not a perfect country. But Israel is
constantly judged by many in the international community according to a
standard of perfection that is applied to no other country and that no
country could possibly meet.
There is a name for holding the Jews to a different standard than other
people. You know what it's called. It begins with an "a" and it ends with an
"m". We recognize it for what it is. You cannot, you cannot hold the Jewish
state to what I call the triple standard. One standard is for the
dictatorships – you don't expect much of them. The second standard is for
the democracies. And the third standard – it's not even a double standard,
it's the triple standard. There's a special defined standard for the
democracy called Israel. No way, no double standards, no triple standards.
Treat Israel fairly. Treat Israel decently.
Now I have a friend whom you may know. His name is Alan Dershowitz. And he
gave what I think is a very good test. He said this in the Oxford Student
Union. By the way, he said he was the only one who won an Oxford Student
Union debate on Israel. He gives a great fight. So here's what our friend
Alan Dershowitz, a great exponent of the truth, said. He said name a single
country in the history of the world faced with threats comparable to those
faced by Israel that has a better record of human rights, complies more
rigorously with the rule of law and does more to minimize civilian
casualties. He asked that and the answer was: There is no other country.
Israel stands at the top of the list.
And I think we have to speak the truth about peace as well. The truth is
that the reason that we don’t have peace yet with the Palestinians is not
because of the settlements or a territorial dispute, the territories that
that were won in our defensive war of 1967. Israelis and Palestinians had a
conflict for half a century – almost 50 years – before Israel captured any
of those territories or built even a single one of those settlements. And
afterwards, we left part of that territory – Gaza. Left it to the very last
centimeter or inch. Stripped out the settlements, went to the '67
boundaries, uprooted all the people who were there, disinterred people from
their graves. What did we get? Peace? We got rockets.
The truth is that the reason that there isn't peace between Israelis and
Palestinians is the persistent Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewish
state in any boundary. That's the truth. If you recognize the problem,
you'll be able to get to its solution.
And here's another simple truth: The truth is that Israel seeks peace. The
truth is that I seek peace. And when Israel, the people of Israel, the
governments of Israel, met Arab leaders who wanted peace equally, like Egypt’s
Anwar Sadat and Jordan’s King Hussein, Israel made peace. We could do so
when you meet an Arab leader who essentially says we're burying the past.
We're seizing the future. We have no more demands of the Jewish state.
And when Israel will face a Palestinian leadership that seeks peace, that is
willing to bury the past, that will make no more demands on the State of
Israel – not get a state next to Israel in order to displace Israel, not get
a state next to Israel in order to flood the adjoining State of Israel with
millions of Palestinian descendants; when we meet a leader who actually is
willing to recognize finally the Jewish state, we will have peace and that
is the first requirement, the most essential requirement.
I remain committed to a vision of two states for two peoples where a
demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state, and Israel will
continue to work for peace in the hope that what is not achievable today
might be achievable tomorrow.
If you have any doubts about Israel's future, I suggest you think about how
far Israel has already come. You know, for each of us, especially the older
ones, we have a personal perspective that we can… we can assess the future
based on the road we've travelled so far. I was born a year after the
founding of the state, and the change, in my perspective, has been nothing
less than stunning.
I remember as a child the excitement that gripped my friends and the entire
country as we celebrated our first decade of independence, chag asor. It was
a decade in which we won our War of Independence and doubled our population.
And as Israel turned 20, I celebrated as a young soldier, with my fellow
soldiers and with the people of Israel – I'd enlisted shortly after our
great victory in the Six Day War and I was still awed that only a year
earlier we had liberated and reunited our eternal capital Jerusalem.
I remember the feeling; I remember the feeling at the end of the Six Day
War. I'd grown up in Jerusalem, and my father's office – he was the
editor-in-chief of the Hebrew Encyclopedia – and his office was right next
to the wall separating Jerusalem. And I would go there because the bicycle
fixers were there, so I always knew that I couldn't go that direction
because I'd hit the wall and Jordanian snipers. And all of a sudden, there
was, at the end of the Six Day Way, there was a breach in the wall and we
started flowing, just thousands, tens of thousands flowing through that
breach into the Old City to the Kotel. And we went there and just stood next
to the Kotel. Nobody said anything. We were just so mesmerized by realizing
the dream of ages. That was what I remember from the third decade of
Israel's existence, the beginning of the third decade.
And then, at the end of it, when Israel turned 30, we were on the verge of
achieving a great historic peace with the largest Arab country, with Egypt.
And when I was privileged to preside over Israel’s 50th anniversary
celebrations as prime minister, we were already at peace with Jordan and we
were busy welcoming home nearly a million immigrants from the former Soviet
Now, two decades have passed since that 50th anniversary – nearly two
decades since that 50th anniversary celebration, and we have since then
liberalized our economy, won eight more Nobel Prizes – that's a large
number – built 21st century roads and rails, discovered gas, transformed
Israel into a global technological power and reversed that joke, "How do you
make a small fortune in Israel? Start with a big fortune". Turned it
completely on its head. And we are showing the world new ways to travel, new
ways to enrich life, new ways to protect health, new ways to grow crops.
Today we're forging new ties with countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America,
and no less important, today we're forging new ties with Arab states in the
region that increasingly see Israel not as an implacable enemy but as a
valued ally, as a partner, in confronting common dangers together. I hope
they also see it as a partner in seizing the future for the betterment of
their peoples in this great battle between modernity and medievalism.
Modernity must win.
So now that Israel is approaching the end of its seventh decade, we can only
marvel at what we have been able to achieve against impossible odds. And I
have no doubt that despite the enormous challenges we still face, Israel
will continue to thrive because I believe in the indomitable spirit of our
people, because I believe in our unshakable bond with the United States and
because I believe in you, in the unbreakable bond that unites Jews
everywhere with the Jewish people. It's a bond of faith. It's a bond of
hope – not the shallow hope of wishful thinking but the deep wellspring of
confidence that comes from a people who have forded history’s most turbulent
rivers and emerged triumphant on the other side in the Promised Land. That's
what I believe in.
Thank you all for your indispensable part in our common journey. And thank
you all for your unceasing efforts to secure our common future. Thank you
all. Thank you very much."