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PM Netanyahu addresses the Herzliya Conference

I remain committed to a solution of two states for two peoples as I said at Bar-Ilan - a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. These are the foundations of an enduring peace between us and the Palestinians.
PM Netanyahu addresses the Herzliya Conference
  PM Netanyahu addresses the Herzliya Conference
Copyright: GPO/Amos Ben Gershom
Following are excerpts from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech at the Herzliya Conference on Tuesday, 9 June 2015 :
On the Leviathan natural gas field:

We have received a great gift from nature. The gas must be extracted from the sea and brought to the Israeli economy. I do not intend to give in to populist pressure. Extracting the gas is of great diplomatic, security and economic significance and is very important for the future of the State of Israel. The outline that we are formulating gives a correct balance that also assures the extraction of the gas from the seabed and provides economic incentives to private investors to do this. This is how a healthy economy works. This is how one signals to investors that it is worthwhile to invest here. This is also how we can grow. Both Israel's citizens and the private investors will profit.

The alternative is that both sides lose and the gas stays under the seabed. This has happened in several countries. They argued about the perfect model and in the end there was nothing. I will not agree to this happening here. When it comes to long-term economic reforms, there are always arguments. I cannot recall one of the many reforms that I have passed that was not subject to pointed debate and they explained that nothing would happen and that the opposite would occur. But natural gas will flow to the Israeli economy. It will lower electricity costs and create jobs. It will be clear who is right and who shouted needlessly. We will present the outline in a few days and we will allow the public to comment. The outline will not allow the companies to price gouge. It will lead to a competitive price and will lower the cost of living.

On Iran:

I think there's a belief that if Iran is more prosperous at home, it'll be less aggressive abroad. But 50 billion dollars, 150 billion dollars and more is a lot of money. Well, the idea is that a wealthier Iran will stop funding its terrorism. I think this is wishful thinking because this big money is big money for Iran's worldwide campaigns of terror, big money for Iran's regional aggression, big money for Iran's unprecedented conventional arms buildup, big money for Iran's cyber warfare program and big money for Iran's nuclear program. And according to this deal, Iran gets this big money regardless of its behavior. That isn't even mentioned in the deal.

Iran can actually get the best of both worlds - prosperity at home, aggression abroad. That's happened before too. And Iran won't be just a big threat to Israel. It'll be a great threat to its Arab neighbors as well.

So how will they respond? How are they responding now? Some of them will pursue nuclear weapons of their own. And there are signs that this is already happening. But all of them, without exception, will seek more advanced conventional weapons too.

So the deal that is supposed to address proliferation in one country will spark both a nuclear and a conventional arms race in many countries in the most unstable part of the planet. It won't make Israel safer.

Now, I know I'm often portrayed as the nuclear party pooper. And that would be okay if I was the only voice against the impending deal with Iran. But I speak with quite a few of our neighbors, more than you think, and I want to tell you that nobody in this region believes this deal will block Iran's path to the bomb or as I said, to many bombs. And it's worth noting that no one from this region, except Iran, is at the negotiating table.

Somebody once said: "If you're not at the table, you're on the menu." The states with the most at stake are not even in the room.

To those who say this deal will change Iran, I say - You got it backwards. First, Iran should change. Then make the deal. Only then should you reward it with technology and money.

So with the greatest respect I say to our American friends - and we have no better friends and America has no better friends than Israel - I say, if Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, let it act like a normal country.

Now, we're discussing all of this with the United States, but especially two problems that emerge. The first is the danger that the Middle East will be crisscrossed by nuclear tripwires as other states nuclearize, and the second is the massive inflow of weaponry that will go to those Arab countries who legitimately feel the fear of the Iranian build-up, conventional and non-conventional, and this place is a great challenge to Israel, a double challenge, because we hope that the countries that have not been shattered will remain whole, strong, stable, but we can't guarantee that. And so Israel has to assume, has to act to ensure that it has the wherewithal, the capacity, the quantity and the quality of weaponry to be able to maintain its supremacy in the necessary fields to ensure our survival and our future.

Well, that's the bad news.

On negotiations with the Palestinians:

I said there's opportunity, and I think everyone here understands it because the trepidation of the Sunni states from Iran on the one hand and ISIS on the other and everyone else creates a change and a potential for cooperation, perhaps even to resolve the problem that we want to resolve with the Palestinians.

I don't think it will change the Middle East, mind you. I think you understand that. It's not going to affect al-Nusra or ISIS, those savages. It's not going to affect Iran either. But it might affect us because we don't want a one-state solution. I don't want a one-state solution.

I remain committed to a solution of two states for two peoples as I said at Bar-Ilan. I said in Bar-Ilan the solution as I see it is a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. These are not conditions for entering the talks. I place no conditions. But these are the foundations of an enduring peace between us and the Palestinians, assuming the region will not be swept by these larger forces.

The Palestinians expect us to recognize a Palestinian nation-state but they won't recognize a Jewish nation-state. A Jewish nation-state for the Jewish people with full rights for all the non-Jews that live here. I wish I could say the same for the Palestinians.

But that's what we want - mutual recognition. Then demilitarization. What does that mean? It's not something you put on a slide. You say security for Israel guaranteed. How do you guarantee it? How do you guarantee that if we leave those areas, what happened in Lebanon doesn't repeat, what happened in Gaza doesn't repeat? These are not whims, these are not pretexts, excuses, arguments. This is real. How do you prevent tunnels from being dug from Qalqilia to Kfar Saba? Why there only? There are several thousand tunnels in the seam line between Gaza and Egypt, that's 17 kilometers. Several thousand tunnels. You know about the tunnels they dug and are still trying to dig towards the Israeli side.

We are working on that. The Israeli mind is a gifted mind and is doing great things. But who will ultimately guarantee that those tunnels are not dug? Who will go in in Qalqilia and stop it? Who will prevent the smuggling of weapons?

Well, we had to work out something in the Jordan Valley. We should be able to do that, I agree with that. But that's not the problem anymore.

I again call on President Abbas to return to negotiations without preconditions. But I also know he has very little reason to talk. Why should he talk? He can get by without talking. He can get by with an international community that blames Israel for not having talks. In other words, the Palestinians run from the table. They ran away from Prime Minister Barak. They ran away from Prime Minister Olmert. They ran away from, before that, from Prime Minister Sharon. And they ran away from me. When John Kerry proposed a framework for negotiations, the framework for a disagreement, for God's sake, they ran away from that too.

But the Palestinians have a nifty trick up their sleeve - they refuse to negotiate and then get international pressure, sanctions, boycotts on Israel for there not being negotiations. It's a perfect Catch-22. And there are those who attempt to impose terms on Israel in the Security Council because there are no talks and some of them pretend that the dangers we face are not real dangers at all.

I think what that does is drive peace away. The idea of imposing peace from the outside doesn't work anyway, but what it guarantees is: One, we'll resist it; two, the Palestinians will not come to the table because if they can get starting terms that are unacceptable to any Israeli government and from which they can press their charges even more, why should they come to negotiate?

I hope that they change course, both in seeking an international fiat or going to the ICC. Now, that's particularly onerous. Israel fights a legitimate war. It's an embattled democracy that has been pelleted with rockets and missiles like no other, that targets the rocketeers and the missile launchers, who hide in hospitals and schools and residential areas. And Israel is hauled or to be hauled to the ICC, when the rules of international warfare are turned on their head because the ICC was set up in the wake of the Holocaust, by the way, to deal with countries that don't have functioning legal systems to monitor their military forces. And Israel is one of the - I'll be charitable - one of a dozen states that has such standards.

Now those who support the indiscriminate rocketing of civilians, which is a war crime, while hiding behind civilians and children, which is another war crime, they and their supporters are taking Israel to the international court of justice. This is something that all Israelis should unite against and all supporters of Israel and justice and truth should unite against because it's unjust. It's untrue. And it's very bad for peace.

There might be an opening because some of the Arab states silently agree with what I say, because they might be in a position to influence the Palestinians to adopt a more conciliatory and positive approach. It'll be hard because, you know, all politics is theater and international politics is theater too and everyone is cast in a role. You know the role I'm cast in, which is really the role Israel is cast in. But the truth also counts, not only imagery.

We've extended our hand time and time and time again. The problems that I described, the solution that I propose requires laborious, serious, deep negotiations. And even then we'll have to buttress it with other safeguards, not only, by the way, for Israel, but also for the Palestinian Authority because the first casualties of a bad deal here will be not only Israel, but they too. We didn't have such arrangements in Gaza, and Hamas with 3,000 people overran the PA forces with 15,000 in hours or days.

So it makes sense from the point of view of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to try to negotiate a real deal of a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the nation-state of the Jewish people.

There are many things that could ignite the region, our immediate region. The region is already ignited. It's in full ignition. One of them is Gaza. I have a very clear policy: You fire at us, we fire back. Hamas is responsible for non-Hamas rocket fire too. But we don't want the region to ignite, not here, not vis-à-vis Lebanon. But we're always preparing. And in the case of Gaza, we also want to give a solution to the humanitarian crisis there. Since last summer's operation, we've enabled 1.1 million tons of construction materials into Gaza. We enable humanitarian relief. There are kids from Gaza in Israeli hospitals. There are kids from Syria in Israeli field hospitals, which we set up across the Golan Heights. There are kids from the entire Middle East who are in Israeli field hospitals. You just go into any one of the hospitals, you'll see them.

But from Gaza. One point one million tons of construction material. We try to increase the security checks so they don't siphon off materials for the construction of tunnels. There's a risk we take. I think it's a measured risk because we don't want a humanitarian explosion. We used to pride ourselves that 250, 300 trucks a day go into Gaza in our accelerated humanitarian efforts. The number now reaches 800. That's not an odd day.

If there is one force now that is working for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Gaza and humanitarian relief, it's Israel, pure and simple. That's the truth. You're not going to read about it, but I'm telling you. These are the facts. I won't go into who's preventing that. You can use your imagination.

But these are the facts. I can always deal with facts. When people tell you these are the facts, that's fine. Deal with facts any day. It's the distortion of fact that we have to deal with day in, day out. And I think it's important that as many people in Israel unite to fend off these distortions and vilifications and slanders. I don't think we're absent tools. I don't think we're making too much of this threat, but I also think that we shouldn't make too little of our capacity to fight it. First of all, you have to resist it. The first way you resist a lie is by telling the truth unabashedly, unashamedly and without exaggeration. The second is to take measures. I was heartened by the fact that two states in the United States have adopted anti-boycott legislation and I understand there is a move in the US Congress to expand it. And that's very important, because when people have to choose whether they want to boycott the Israeli economy and be shut out from a 17 trillion dollar economy, it sort of forces their concentration.

And there are many other things we need to do, but the most important thing we have to do is unite on what we agree. I think we agree on a lot more than meets the eye, including on what I've just said. And I think that we have to speak as much as possible with one voice against the threats that I described and for the peace that we desire. I've received some requests from Arab quarters: You go out there; you tell them. I said: I do tell them. It's not easy either because we're dealing with our most trusted ally, our indispensable ally. But I feel it's my responsibility as the Prime Minister of Israel. We're not going to get another chance from history. This is it. And if I think something threatens our survival and we have an honest difference of opinion with our trusted American friends, I voice it.

But I ask them: Why are you telling me this? And the same thing - I turn to Israelis and the friends of Israel. Believe me, I appreciate the rollicking nature of Israeli democracy. I appreciate the fact that we each have at least four opinions that battle each other in ourselves. But I think on the big things, we have to tell the world. And I think we can get our message through.

I hope that there'll be a day when all our neighbors create hope for all the peoples of this region. And it may take a long time. Eric Schmidt asked me this morning, "Well, what do you think is going to happen?" because I asked him, "What do you think will happen with the internet?" And he said, "That's complicated." He said, "What do you think will happen with the Middle East?" And I said, "Well, that's complicated." But I told him I'm going to surprise you; I think that down the line - I'm very optimistic. Because I think down the line modernity beats medievalism. Free information and free choice beats cloistered minds.

That's always happened in history. That's why humanity more or less moves upward - more or less. But there are some downward spirals. And the most downward of downward spirals occurs when radical regimes get the weapons of mass death and act out their fantasies. They eventually come down, but the question is at what cost. In the long run, I think militant Islam will succumb to the forces of modernity but it could take many decades. And we have to make sure that in the interim millions of innocent people don't die and that our people don't undergo another commemoration. That's our responsibility.

And I think it's possible if we're clear-eyed, if we're resolute, if we do what we need to strength our country, to form alliances near and far, far and near, if we look reality in the eye and not try to, what we used to say in the army, force the map. Look at the world as it really is. See where you can make those changes to improve it or to ward off dangers. Build, build this country, build its economy, build its science, build its future, build its society, build alliances. Every state needs alliances. Superpowers need alliances. A small state like Israel definitely needs alliances. Definitely.

Well, until the neighborhood changes, what will give us hope? I think three things that enabled us to build this country from a beachhead of 600,000 people to a population now of eight million and a global digital powerhouse, to quote a small investor, and the many other wonders that you see around you, including this institution, which under Israeli bureaucracy is a real miracle. What will give us hope? Strength, wisdom and confidence. Israel must be strong. It must be very strong because, again, no one will make peace with a weak Israel. Second, Israel must be wise and a wise Israel means taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the dramatic changes in our region and in the world.

I want to say something about bridge-buildings. It's not always achieved by grand pronouncements. In fact, it can often be undermined by them. Bridge-building is a delicate process that has been quietly strengthened in the past few years and can be dramatically strengthened in the years ahead, especially if some of our Arab neighbors join us in influencing the Palestinians to get back to the table and negotiate a responsible deal, responsible and good for both our peoples.

And third, Israel must be confident, confident in the justice of its cause and the values it upholds. Israel's values stand out like a beacon in the dark Middle East. There was a great English writer, George Eliot, who wrote - the word she used I think is that they will be in the vanguard of the Middle East… She said, I'm paraphrasing, "…a state that will shine the light of freedom amid the despotisms of the East." Exactly.

I wish we weren't that unique, but we are. But I think our values are not only remarkable by the standards of the region; they're remarkable by any standard. What other country has been struck by thousands and thousands of rockets and acted with the restraint that Israel showed last summer? What other country would respond to… well, respond so disproportionally to the disasters in Haiti and Nepal and elsewhere?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Israel upholds these values even when the most horrific violence is meted out against it. We uphold these values even when we're defamed and libeled as killers of children, poisoners of wells and enemies of mankind. The people of Israel face many challenges, but not living up to our values is not one of them. On the contrary: We uphold universal values in a region where those values have been shunted aside, trampled upon to the dust. And while we wait for those values to take root in the shifting sands of the Middle East, we will stand proud, proud of the light that we have built in the darkness, a light that I am confident will burn even brighter in the future.

Thank you.

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