We're here today because 40 Members of Knesset have called for this special session to discuss the Government's foreign policy so I'd like to address the principles that guide our actions in the realm of foreign affairs and defense.
There are three primary threats facing us today: the nuclear threat, the missile threat and what I call the Goldstone threat. This is all on top of our mission to resume and then accelerate the peace process with the Palestinians, with the goal of reaching a settlement. These are our main tasks. I want to discuss each of them briefly and then say a few words to the Opposition.
2009 ends in just one week, and we're engaged in dialogue with our many friends in the international community about what is happening in Iran. People are looking differently at Iran now, because of the sequence of recent events – starting with the elections, but even before that, when the Iranian president started to make his goals clear. And the secret nuclear facility at Qom. All these things have led to the increased delegitimization of the Iranian regime, its desire to develop nuclear weapons and its stated goal to erase Israel from the map.
That's why there's now a possibility that the international community will impose tight sanctions against Iran. We're working hard to achieve this goal; not everything can be revealed, but we're working intensely in the international arena to ensure that harsh sanctions are imposed on Iran. Time will tell if these sanctions will be enough to halt the Iranian nuclear program, but they're a critical and even essential condition. In my estimate, decisions will be made at beginning of the 2010. I think in February – at least by the United Nations.
I can't say what the outcome of these efforts will be. I can only say that I think all Members of Knesset are all united on this issue. We're making every effort to guarantee a positive outcome. But of course, the decision will ultimately be made by the members of the Security Council, where even a single member can tip the scales the wrong way.
The threat of missiles and rockets is intensifying. We're also working here to develop a solution, and to protect those living in the line of fire. We're working together with the United States on a number of projects – ones that are familiar to you, or certainly to the members of the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, as well as some other projects. But my government has adopted a very simple policy: we won't tolerate any trickle or drizzle of rockets that later turns into rainfall and then a full-fledged storm.
Any metal cylinder loaded with TNT that's fired, even if it lands in an open field – which thankfully has been the case so far – will result in a response. Maybe not the next minute or even hour, but it will come quickly and it could be pretty painful.
Finally, Goldstone has become code for a much broader phenomenon: the attempt to negate the legitimacy of our right to self-defense. It didn't just start now. The international campaign against Israel has gone on since the Durban Conference in 2000 and since the attempt in 2003 to condemn the security fence that has protected Israeli children – but is condemned just the same – in The Hague.
I know a young man who tried to explain the role of this "awful" fence to a critic. He said: "There was a girl in my class who didn't come to school one day. We went looking for her, but didn't have any luck. Later, we learned that she was killed on a bus by a suicide bomber who crossed the border at a point where he wouldn't have been able to cross today. Because of the fence."
The fence hasn't been finished yet. But in 2003, it came before The Hague. Israel built a fence – only one small section was an actual wall – and was brought before The Hague to answer for this terrible, international crime. Later, in 2005, General Doron Almog couldn't even travel to London because he would have been arrested for war crimes. This was in 2005, even before the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and Operation Cast Lead in 2008, which I'll talk about in a minute. We all have a real problem here.
Ehud Olmert speaks on campuses in the United States, and he's denounced as a war criminal. Defense Minister Ehud Barak – they want to arrest him in London. And there's a warrant out against Tzipi Livni, the Opposition leader. This is the sequence. You all know the truth in your hearts. This is an all-out offensive, not just against one Israeli government or another. And we are taking action to confront it.
Some of the more problematic things derive from our genuine and just struggle to defend ourselves against a new form of warfare: terrorists who attack us while hiding behind their own civilians. It requires tremendous domestic cohesion. It takes doing what I did – when I stood here, as leader of the Opposition, and I said that I supported you. I gave dozens of interviews to the media. So did my colleagues, who also participated in Knesset delegations that defended our cause. Nobody looked to point fingers or criticize a government that mobilized to defend the citizens of Israel. We didn't say that it was all "your fault" just because of the international pressure or response. Our internal cohesion is so important for our international standing and we shouldn't look for opportunities or cracks to challenge a sitting government. Both the Government and the Opposition have to act with dignity and responsibility.
This brings me to the Palestinian issue, which is just as clear-cut as the Goldstone matter. I spelled out two principles that almost everyone in the Knesset can rally around.
The first one is the demand that the State of Israel be recognized as a Jewish state. This includes relinquishing any claim to a right of return – code for the destruction of the State of Israel – and an end to all other claims. This will guarantee that peace is genuine and not just a tactic to continue fighting.
The second principle – which comes along with our recognition of the Palestinians' desire for a state of their own – is a demand for full demilitarization, so that things don't go back to the way they were. Full demilitarization is not a piece of paper. It's not just an agreement. And it's not just about some Security Council resolution. Our problem is that we'll be withdrawing from territory and the void will be immediately filled by Iran or its proxies, or by Iranian and Syrian weapons.
Our problem isn't Hezbollah or our border with Lebanon. It's the border between Syria and Lebanon. That's where the weapons are coming from. And our problem with Hamas isn't a border or a seam between Israel and Gaza. It's those 12 kilometers between Gaza and Egypt because, again, that's where the weapons are coming from. That's why the demilitarization problem is a real one, not just about paper. There will be talk about Security Council Resolution 1701, or about some kind of multi-lateral agreement. But Gaza has proven that this is indeed a serious problem because most of the weapons aren't manufactured in Gaza, they're imported. At least the effective ones are. And they're getting even more so.
That's why we need a real solution to guarantee demilitarization. I know what the minimal conditions need to be – and we'll discuss them too when the time comes – but were going to have to insist on more than just words. We can't talk about a solution without talking about these two things, recognition and demilitarization, as fundamental conditions. What I said at Bar-Ilan University, and what I've said on other occasions, represents a broad consensus that had to be forged and will gives us great strength.
But we didn't settle for mere statements. Words are important, but actions are even more important. We said what had to be said, but we also took action. Member of Knesset Sarsur said the first thing we did was "promise that Judea and Samaria would be a paradise". Well, I didn't promise it would be paradise, but I did promise economic prosperity.
Hamas turned Gaza into hell on Earth, but Judea and Samaria can be transformed. Maybe not into paradise, but into one of the world's most prosperous economies. In absolute terms, and not just relative growth rates.
How? Why is the Palestinian economy, in today's global economic environment, experiencing growth of 7%, 8%, 9%, or maybe even higher? How much would it have grown if we hadn't removed those checkpoints and barriers? I know, we all know that there is more work ahead of us
And we did something else. From day one, we told the Palestinians, the Americans, the Europeans, the Russians and the entire world that negotiations have to start right away. From day one. I think a call was even issued from right here, on the Knesset podium, to the Palestinian Authority. And it would be an understatement to say that we've never received a response.
We also took other steps just recently. The US Secretary of State said they were unprecedented. It's true. But in your hearts, you all know the truth that from day one, we demonstrated a real willingness – reflecting the unified will of the people – to jumpstart the peace negotiations. And I tell you that, even if not everyone agrees, we still have a real desire to complete those negotiations based on the principles I talked about earlier.
What have we gotten from the other side? The Goldstone Report, complaints about building in Gilo and all kinds of unprecedented and unjustified preconditions. Let me tell you where it all came from. From expectations that this government could be branded and blamed for everything, despite these facts that I've shared with you and that you know are true. And from the belief that conflict and criticism can take the place of the full agreement that we really need.
I'm here to tell you that internal cohesion is the most important thing that will allow us to achieve two tasks: defending ourselves against attacks on our right to self-defense and ensuring that the Palestinian Authority comes to the negotiating table, because we all know the facts.
This is why I say that we need to fight side-by-side, to counter the false allegations against the State of Israel, just like we've done in the past. When we take real, unprecedented measures to resume the political process, we have to work together. Even though we're doing some things that nobody's ever done before, I know that our desire for peace has always been shared by everyone and so, we need to work together on this.
The only real choice before you is to criticize or support. I'm not asking Members of Knesset for any more than I asked my fellow Opposition members, when I was Opposition leader just a short while ago. When it comes to the major issues concerning the security and foreign policy of the State of Israel, you really have just one choice. Not to criticize for the sake of criticizing, or to find all kinds of excuses why you don't support a policy that you know is just and right for Israel at the present time. You have only one real, responsible choice, and that's to support the Israeli government at this time.