A Quaker Lobby in the Public Interest
FCNL Mailing to Congress Highlights Need for Mideast Peace
Transcript of Speech by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud BarakFCNL sent the following letter and transcript to all members of Congress to emphasize the dramatic statement by former Israeli Prime Minister and current Defense Minister Ehud Barak stating publicly the risk of Israel becoming an apartheid state. Barak firmly argued that Israelis should embrace a two-state solution and work hard towards it, and FCNL expressed to Congress our desire that the U.S. show the same commitment. The PDF original version with formatting is available by link above.
March 18, 2010
Dear Senator or Representative:
In January 2009 both House and Senate overwhelmingly passed resolutions expressing strong support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict (H.Res 34, S. Res. 10). We at FCNL are grateful for that strong support, as it seems to us the best path to peace.
We are, however, deeply concerned that the possibility of achieving a two-state solution is rapidly dwindling. For us, the most recent confirmation of the urgency of achieving a two-state solution was the stunning speech that Israeli Defense Minister and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak delivered at the prestigious Herzliya National
Security Conference near Tel Aviv this February 2. Mr. Barak described the future facing Israel if there is no two-state agreement in stark terms:
The reality is cruel but simple. Between the Jordan River… and the Mediterranean, 12 million people live, 7.5 million Israelis and 4.5 million
Palestinians. And the simple truth is that as long as in this territory to the West of the Jordan River, there is only one political entity which is called Israel, it is going to be necessarily either non-Jewish or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of Palestinians … vote in the elections it is going to be a bi-national state par excellence. If this bloc of millions of Palestinians… are not going to vote, it's going to be an apartheid state par excellence.
Those two possibilities are not compatible with the Zionist dream. And I would like to restate that if this Palestinian bloc would be able to vote it is going to be a bi-national state, even if we call it a Zionist Jewish state, and if this bloc of Palestinians would not be able to vote, it's going to be an apartheid state, even if we call it the fulfillment of our dreams.
Not only Israeli, but Palestinian and U.S. interests require urgent and determined efforts by the United States to achieve an agreement and avoid the nightmare that an Israeli leader like Ehud Barak can describe as an apartheid state in the Middle East.
We at FCNL urge you not to just pay lip service to a two-state solution but to press the Obama administration to act decisively for peace in the months ahead, before it is too late.
Thank you for your attention.
Legislative Secretary for Foreign Policy
Israeli Defense Minister and Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak
Address to the Tenth Annual Herzliya Conference: The Balance of Israel's Security
Herzliya, Israel, February 2, 2010
[Note: the following is a transcription prepared by the Friends Committee on National Legislation of the simultaneous English trans-lation of Mr. Barak's address in Hebrew to the Herzliya Conference at 8:30 p.m. February 2, 2010. A menu that includes the video clip of the address in English and Hebrew is located here.]
My friends… dear guests, ladies and gentlemen:
At the beginning of 2010 we are facing here in Israel a compilation of threats from near and far: the Hamas, the Hezbollah, and more, in addition Iran as well, and we are also facing very important opportunities, including the opportunity to renew the negotiations with the Palestinians and the more distant opportunity of renegotiating peace with the Syrians.
We are in a period of peaceful borders and this peacefulness has not been manifested in many years and this is the result of the deterrence that resulted from the second Lebanon war, the Cast Lead operation, and the joint efforts of the Palestinian and the Israeli security forces in Judea and Samaria. But side by side with this peacefulness we have a whole spectrum of threats menacing us on the horizon and these threats are resonating in between themselves and create a picture which is very complex even when we look back dozens of years.
Against this reality which we are facing with those opportunities and threats within a global environment that has witnessed an unprecedented economic crisis, and facing one global superpower which is the United States, which has an internal and an external agenda which is rife as it has never been before. I don't think there is anybody in this audience that is jealous of the leaders of this administration including Barack Obama with the problems of governance within the United States: the economic crisis, and its internal ramifications, and also the crisis of the healthcare reform-but this is nothing vis-à-vis the external challenges such as Pakistan that is a nightmare to whomever looks around himself, the possibility of having there an unplanned change of the regime, and who could control the reality? As well as Afghanistan, North Korea, as well the difficulties in coordinating the activities with Russia and even more so with China, with missile defense, Iran, Iraq, we and the Palestinians, we and the Syrians, the Hezbollah, the Hamas, all those things are on a very compact and dense agenda of the United States.
These things require political and strategic entrepreneurship, cleverness, soberness, and responsibility, and as far as the state of Israel is concerned, this also requires a deep understanding that we have to act according to what is right for the state of Israel, and we should do things rather than speak.
I would not hide from you the feeling that has accompanied me for many years and this is that the Middle East is a tough neighborhood, it is not Western Europe, it's not North America, this a neighborhood where there is no compassion for the weak, there is not going to be a second chance for whoever cannot defend themselves. And against this backdrop only a strong and deterring Israel would be able to make peace. A political arrangement in the area is not going to possible as long as our enemies around us think that Israel can be defeated by military power or can be fought against by a war of attrition, of terrorism. Only when people understand these things can't be achieved, there is going to be peace in this area. And we are going to achieve peace when we stand in a position of self-confidence and power side by side with a soberness and looking at things matter of factly. And we are going to reach out despite these circumstances and try to achieve the appropriate arrangements with our neighbors.
But having said this, I would like to add that as a political leadership we are highly responsible to look for any possible way within these circumstances to make progress in the political arena. The alternatives are worse. The way to fulfill the Zionist dream goes through the combination of military, social, economic, technological, and scientific might, but at the end of the day it passes mainly through the ability to make peace with our neighbors. A Zionist, Jewish, democratic state is going to be there for eternity only when we are able to arrive to agreements with our neighbors.
The reality is cruel but simple. Between the Jordan River,a few dozens of kilometers, east of the state of Israel and the Mediterranean, 12 million people live, 7.5 million Israelis and 4.5 million Palestinians. And the simple truth is that as long as in this territory to the West of the Jordan River, there is only one political entity which is called Israel, it is going to be necessarily either non-Jewish or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of Palestinians with their own national awareness vote in the elections it is going to be a binational state par excellence. If this bloc of millions of Palestinians west of the Jordan river are not going to vote, it's going to be an apartheid state par excellence.
Those two possibilities are not compatible with the Zionist dream. And I would like to restate that if this Palestinian bloc would be able to vote it is going to be a binational state, even if we call it a Zionist Jewish state, and if this bloc of Palestinians would not be able to vote, it's going to be an apartheid state, even if we call it the fulfillment of our dreams!
This is why reality is going to be substantiated by the reality rather than by words with which we envelop it. We have to understand that the alternatives dictate to us this imperative: to demarcate a border within the land of Israel within which we are going to have a massive, robust Jewish majority for ages and on the other side of this border a Palestinian state. And we need it not because we are doing a favor to the Palestinians, but rather because this is the only way in which we would be able to ensure our identity and the future of our children and grandchildren.
And we have to be sober and responsible when looking at the alternatives. The alternatives that we can see on the world map, what's happening in Bosnia and in Belfast, nobody would like to see it here. Another alternative is being swept gradually into a reality of one state for two nations which is the reality of South Africa in the past and I see here Stanley of old Rhodesia. These things are not what we have been dreaming for all along the history of Zionism. The reality, the third reality possible is taking one sided steps which would be accompanied by a growing global isolation because 42 years after having started to occupy another people, the world is not going to accept this reality and the pendulum of legitimization is going to move gradually towards the other pole and not towards our pole.
I don't think that this is all the whole description, however these processes even when they are unilateral, either on our side or on the Palestinian side, as well as I can see, all these possibilities they are worse than understanding and reaching an arrangement through a negotiation between us and the Palestinians. Today Israel is powerful and deterring-it's much more powerful than any other entity from Libya to Tehran, and that is why it can afford to do these things and to make progress towards these arrangements. Within the Israeli public opinion, some of these things are controversial and the controversy is not a simple one.
And I would just like to say to our friends, to my brothers, the religious ones wearing their skull caps, we have to demarcate the border within the land of Israel, not because we do not have a linkage and a right-we have a linkage, we have a right--but because the reality of sitting, of standing on this stage of history in realistic terms requires us to take, to pay attention to practical constraints, the ones that I have just described to you.
I, as a history buff, look sometimes at the borders of the Jewish regimes, the King David's kingdom, and the Hasmonean kingdom, and now from the return to Zion until now we are in the midst of the third kingdom, but the borders are extending and retracting according to the reality. The alliance between God and Abraham happened and God promised what he did to Abraham, but borders, practical borders, change because the rational leaderships understood that the borders of sovereignty behave according to real circumstances-and when we did not behave likewise, the Talmud in the Giteen tractate you can find some of the lessons learned. In other terms, what happens to a nation that can't be careful of different things which are detrimental to its fate.
But I would like to say also to my friends on the left wing, we have a small piece of land, the Palestinians have even a smaller one, we have our own small piece of land-we are responsible for the security and safety of Israelis wherever they are, of Jews all over the world and we are all brothers. Peace is not a religion, it is not exhausted by quarrels, this is only a means in order to achieve the goal of a prosperous and strong state of Israel. And we have to enlist to the endeavor of peace in a sober way taking into account different considerations, especially the security ones.
And I would like to tell the politicians that they have to overcome the NIH (not invited here)…….. and the WBB and to do everything in a practical and a concrete way. I expect politicians……at least what's said in the center, left side of the political map and that is to enlist with the efforts made by the leadership. We don't need the……, this is the anti-aircraft people, the person who was thrown off the pilots and he was sent to the anti-aircraft artillery because he wanted, he said if I don't fly, nobody's going to fly. And I don't want people to belong to the Trotskyites who say it should be quite worse before it becomes better and only then, they say, we will have the ideal government and it's going to make peace.
The unpredictable results law works overtime in the Middle East and you find that you are blocked by a wall and you are not going to face peace, you are going to face violence. Violence is the domain of the Hamas and the Hamas takes in control of the Palestinian people and we don't know who is going to control the state of Israel according to the polls. And we have to make progress. The two sides are not homogeneous; they are multifaceted. But decisive resolutions are being taken in different circumstances and sometimes it's the opportunities of greatness of the leaders, sometimes they are being taken within crises and what Barbara Tuchman called the "despotism of circumstances." And leaders are supposed to make these decisions, they find it more difficult when they are in the corridor so to speak, when there's no arrangement as yet but they start to pay the price. It's difficult for leaders on our side and on the other side as well and we have to invest a lot of thinking into trying to shorten this corridor and enable the leaders to face their responsibility towards the nations and to history.
I said to Arafat in the presence of Bill Clinton, and I said a few months ago I said it to Abu Mazen. I told him, Abu Mazen, "your most difficult decisions will have to be taken vis-à-vis your own people, not vis-à-vis Netanyahu. And Netanyahu is also going to have to make the most difficult decisions vis-à-vis his nation. Only if you are able to rise to this height we going to have peace in the Middle East. I think that this is a prerequisite and it is also possible. The decisions are tough. In Israel there is a clear silent majority in favor of peace and I am sure that when people see this possibility, this silent majority despite the fact that in the elections they seemed to go more to the right, I think that in due course of time they are going to support the government.
On the Palestinian side, it's less taken for granted, but I think that there as well, underneath the surface there has been a change and the person who is here with us this evening is responsible for that: the Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. What he has brought into the Palestinian experience, and you know that we are told not to praise people in their presence so I will try to be more delicate, he brought in concrete, practical thinking, not romantic or ideological thinking-not a victimization, and not dependency, and not blaming everybody. But rather doing, from bottom-up, building institutions, building infrastructure, building security, building public order, and economy building, the institutions. And through this, creating the demand to recognize the results of all this. From this aspect, very important things are happening.
I am a great believer in building the Palestinian capabilities; some people question it but I am a great believer in reaching out. We are not going to leave our security interests, we are not going to ignore them. We have the supreme responsibility towards security, but we can't ignore, and I'm telling it because I have those blatant conversations with the heads of the settling movement in Judea and Samaria. They also say the truth, and that is that in Judea and Samaria it is safe and secure today and this is the result of work on both sides and of taking the responsibility. And whoever roams Jenin and Ramallah-and Jenin used to be a stronghold of terrorism-sees a totally different reality, and Prime Minister Fayyad is going to speak about it.
I'm a great believer in Robert Frost's words, that "good fences make good neighbors." We have to know where does our territory finish and where does theirs begin. We are here, they are there, this is a prerequisite for the crea-tion of a proper neighborhood. The inter-Arab discourse has gone a long way since the 'no's of Khartoum twenty years ago [sic], to the reality of today where the Arab countries are competing in presenting peace programs. We did not accept all of them, not all the details, but we cannot ignore this change. We should not ignore this change, because the situation is now ripe for making advances on both sides.
We can see the basis in 442 and 338 but we remember Oslo, we remember the Bush letter, the declarations of Obama, and Hillary Clinton, and Annapolis, and the Saudi program, the Saudi plan. We do not take anything as it is, word by word, but there is no logic in ignoring this new reality which has been, which is reflected in these advances.
We still face some challenges which are not simple on our road to peace with the Palestinians. First of all, Gaza. The Palestinian Authority does not control Gaza, it is controlled by Hamas. This has to change so that the agreements can be applied. There is the challenge of defense, of security. We do not want to be in a situation where we have the final state solution. We will have a situation such as we had in Lebanon which we have completely evacuated until the last centimeters, which we have also done in Gaza. And there will be security arrangements required, side by side with the progress in the coming decade which would bring the Palestinian state into a different reality.
The negotiations will command some time, I believe they won't take less than a year or two years and application might take another year but we have to enter the negotiations, instead of speculating. And I know the speculation is on both sides: is Netanyahu really ready or ripe to make decisions, the required decisions, or not? Does Abu Mazen have the strength, or not? Instead of all this foreplay and all these speculations, we should go down to the nitty-gritty, to get into the negotiation room and start talking about all the issues. The basic issues are known to each and every one of us, we are all familiar with every wadi, every hill, every road. We are all familiar with the problems of Jerusalem and all the other problems.
Whoever thinks or believes that trying to catch on to one or another of the issues each time will bring us to some solution is mistaken. Decisions cannot be taken by the leaders if they do not understand also what they are giving, not only receiving. So there should be more wisdom on both sides, and advancing on a wide scale of issues at the same time.
We are talking about some proximity conversations, together with the Americans, but this is only the initial stage after which we will be commanded to find the way together with the Palestinians and with the backing of the entire world, to move forward to a full negotiation. The position of our government is very clear and well known. This government, the present government, adopts the roadmap, is prepared to go by phase I or phase II of the roadmap, or both, or a combination, to accept the agreements signed by the previous Israeli governments, to accept the principle of the two states for two peoples. The Prime Minister has already declared at the Bar Ilan University that we see in our vision the state of Israel and side by side with it a Palestinian state with a national anthem and a flag, and a vibrant economy.
But there is a reality that there are certain restrictions and obligations. We must be ensured that work will go bottom-up but will be done on both sides. With all the details, like with Jenin, like with the 5th regiment of the Palestinian security forces which is training and enforcing law and order, and the activities of the Palestinian police, should be expanded to other places to ensure law and order and removing roadblocks, and all these things are actually progressing, but they should continue to progress to enable the other party to make advances on his own. These are things that Salam Fayyad is addressing together with the help of Tony Blair. The Europeans are helping, General Dayton from the United States, but there should also be a top-down process of agreement, in what form, how do we go into these talks? What are we discussing? And I firmly believe that we can go forward.
I feel that in order for both sides to go into these negotiations, we need a reality in which the Palestinians will see, facing them, a united foreign front, without any crevasse, a uniform front together with the Americans, the Russians, the Europeans. Because if we leave anything open, the slightest crevasse, the Palestinians might try to hold on to it. And with the backwind of the moderate Arab countries, and Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, and together with the economic and financial assistance which the Palestinian Authority requires in order to continue the thrust of economic development.
And we must ensure that in the negotiations, first and foremost, the security interest of Israel will be firmly in accord, and we should not lose eye contact with our goal. And our goal is to obtain an agreement with the Palestinians which will put an end to the conflict, will put an end to mutual demands, and will establish side by side with Israel a viable Palestinian state. This is required, this is a requirement for us, not only for them. Churchill once said that a pessimist sees a difficulty in every opportunity and an optimist sees an opportunity in every difficulty. And I tell all of us: Let's be optimistic in this sense, let us not lose eye contact for one moment with our ultimate goal, and if we are firm and clear, then half of it is already secured, and I trust that in the Palestinian people there will be those prepared to take a step on their side, and to make a sacrifice on their side as well, and from that stand of strength, moral strength, will extend a hand to Israel.
That reality seems quite far today but it is in fact as close as the degree of realpolitik on the part of the leaderships on both sides and their courage. Thank you very much!
Simultaneous translation transcribed by:
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