Good evening ladies and gentlemen.
First of all, thank you for having me here in London.
It is always a pleasure to be with friends here in this great city.
I am particularly honored to be speaking to BICOM. I have been acquainted with your work for some time, I read your astute research papers and analysis, and have seen – first hand – your impressive media briefings and seminars.
Thank you for everything you have done.
The State of Israel has been fighting for its survival on many fronts, for many years.
I have spent the vast majority of my life fighting for Israel’s security. But today, Israel’s security, well-being and future are under threat from a host of forces; many of which are well beyond the traditional battlefield.
BICOM was one of the first groups to realize the significance of this battle. Poyu, you have realized your vision – in an impressively short time – thanks to the commitment of BICOM’s remarkable team.
Your model is simple and effective: You present a nuanced picture of Israel, adding much needed color to a picture that is all too often presented in black and white.
In times of such regional uncertainty, your work has never been more important. On behalf of the people of Israel, I want to thank you for this essential contribution.
In my life, I thought I had seen everything. From sitting across the table with Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama… to fighting terrorists in the streets of Beirut dressed as a young girl… I have seen a lot .
The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius notes in his Meditations, “How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life.”
But in our part of the world, the surprises just keep on coming…
Today, our whole region is undergoing a geopolitical earthquake on a scale that has not been witnessed since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
Regimes are falling like dominoes. Those regimes which are not yet falling are wavering in fragile uncertainty.
The former British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli once said that “circumstances are beyond human control… But our conduct is in our power.”
This statement rings true in today’s dynamic and unpredictable Middle East, in which circumstances – on the whole – are beyond Israel’s realm of control, but our conduct is still in our power.
We live in a tough neighborhood, one in which there is no mercy for the weak and no second chance for those who cannot defend themselves; “a villa in the jungle”, as I once put it.
In such a place, it is imperative to remain strong, open-eyed, with both feet on the ground, ready to stretch out your hand (preferably the left one) seeking an opening for peace, while keeping the other hand and its index finger ready to pull the trigger, should the need arise.
We always say that a pessimist in the Middle East is merely an optimist with experience.
Let’s look at the evidence…
Egypt has entered a new era.
The Muslim Brotherhood regime provides a tailwind for Hamas in Gaza and extremists in Jordan.
The peace treaty with Egypt remains a strategic asset for both countries and we expect the new government to respect it, as well as all their other international obligations for the sake of peace and stability for the entire region.
‘Peace’ and ‘stability’… these are two words that Syrians can only dream about today.
In Syria the bloodshed continues. Over 30,000 Syrians have already been killed. Iran and Hezbollah are the only allies Assad has left.
They will suffer a major blow with his inevitable downfall.
We can only hope that it won’t end up in total chaos, and another hotbed of terror on our borders.
Taking into account the warm ties between Hezbollah and Syria, I have instructed the IDF to closely monitor the possible transfer of advanced weapons systems and Assad’s chemical arsenal into Lebanon. We will take any necessary action to prevent this.
Hezbollah is a terrorist organization that has amassed over 50,000 rockets and has murdered Israelis and Jews around the world for decades now. I would like to thank the British Government for its leading role in the campaign to have Hezbollah added to the EU’s terror list.
We also appreciate that the UK is a key driving force behind the sanctions against Iran.
A militarized nuclear Iran means the end of any conceivable non-proliferation regime. Saudi Arabia will become a nuclear power within weeks, Turkey within a few years, and Egypt will follow suit shortly after. The countdown towards nuclear materials falling into the hands of terrorists will begin.
Iran will revamp its exportation of terror (in Afghanistan, India, Yemen, Somalia to name but a few) while emboldening their proxies; encouraging them to act with greater assertiveness.
A nuclear Iran will intimidate its neighbors in the Gulf and threaten the channels through which approximately 40% of the energy for Europe and the East passes.
We cannot forget that this extreme regime threatens to wipe Israel out the pages of history.
These are just some of the reasons why Iran is a genuinely global threat; not just a threat to Israel and the region.
Unlike the situation a few years ago, today the whole intelligence community agrees that the Iranians are determined to defy and deceive the rest of the world in order to become a nuclear power.
Five years ago, when I entered this role, Iran had 800kg of lowly enriched Uranium. Today they have 6.5 metric tons of LEU, and approximately 200kg of Uranium enriched to 20%; part of which has been reprocessed into fuel rods.
The Iranians are deliberately trying to create a level of redundancy and protection for their program, what we call the “immunity zone”, before charging towards a weapon.
Diplomacy efforts continue, and sanctions are both unprecedented and genuinely biting. Unfortunately based on experience, we are highly skeptical about the chances of success.
We, all the leaders of the world, are using the same language. “We are determined to prevent Iran from becoming a military-nuclear power.”
All options are on the table to prevent Iran from crossing the point of no return.
We expect all those who say it to mean it; we mean it.
Once the Iranians enter the ‘immunity zone’, fate… will be out of our hands.
The State of Israel was founded precisely so that our fate would remain in our own hands. When it comes to the very future of Israel, and its vital security interests, we cannot… and will not outsource the responsibility for making the decision. Not even to our closest and most trusted allies.
Now to the Palestinians.
I have been the Minister of Defense for the last five years, during which the security situation in Judea and Samaria has become more stable than it has been for many years. Credit must be given to the exceptional work of the IDF and the coordination between the Palestinian and Israeli security forces.
A provocative Palestinian bid to become a non-member state at the UN cannot replace direct negotiations without preconditions, and would undermine this delicate framework of cooperation.
We strongly recommend that friendly governments oppose this campaign, while persuading the PA to get back to the negotiation table.
The objective of these negotiations is clear: Two states for two peoples.
We must demarcate a line within the land of Israel… Within which we have the settlement blocks and a solid Jewish majority for generations to come. And on the other side of this line; a viable, independent Palestinian state.
While painful concessions are inevitable in any agreement, we will not compromise on our security interests: a long term military presence along the Jordan river, as well as in a few other strategic sites.
In the meantime, we must continue to press for direct negotiations without preconditions with the PA.
If a permanent peace agreement cannot be achieved under the present circumstances, we should settle for an interim agreement.
And if an interim agreement is unobtainable, then we should consider unilateral actions in order to place a wedge on the dangerous slippery slope towards a binational state, which would risk both the Jewish and democratic nature of the State of Israel.
National strength, however, is not just a military matter.
It includes international legitimacy, a strong and vibrant economy, social cohesion, solidarity and unity, a sense of purpose, and a common vision regarding the future of the state.
We have an agile and adaptive high-tech and export oriented economy. This strength emanates from an eruption of talent and an underlying entrepreneurial spirit amongst our youth.
This is the very same spirit that brought, last summer, hundreds of thousands of mainstream Israelis to the streets, calling for social justice and the closing of the inequality gaps in our society.
I strongly believe that we have to listen to them, and take heed of the direction that they want to take this country, in order to secure our future.
My vision for Israel is clear.
A strong, self-confident, flourishing Jewish and democratic state, living in peace and security with its neighbors.
An exemplary state at the cutting edge of world societies in the disciplines of science, technology, education, culture, infrastructure, quality of life and, finally, standard of living.
A society which promotes solidarity, provides opportunities for all to fulfill their potential, while demanding responsibility from every individual or group.
A society that will strengthen the unique mutual relationship with the Diaspora.
A society we can be proud of…
A society you can be proud of…
As we near the end of 2012, the magnitude, depth and scope of the strategic changes taking place in our region are breathtaking.
In the spirit of Disraeli’s words, we must conduct ourselves with vigilance and thoughtful sobriety in the face of today’s challenges… While also recalibrating our strategic watches, so that we are equipped for tomorrow’s.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are at a decisive junction… May we have the strength and courage to make those tough decisions for the future peace and security of the State of Israel.
השם עוז לעמו ייתן, השם יברך את עמו בשלום
May the Lord bestow his people with courage, and may the Lord bless his people with peace.