A Conversation with Benjamin
American Enterprise Institute
November 9, 2015
DANIELLE PLETKA: Mr. Prime
Minister, youíve been welcomed only three or four times already. Let me
welcome you again to the American Enterprise Institute. Weíre delighted to
have you here with us.
BENJAMIN NEYANYAHU [Prime
Minister of Israel]: Thank you. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
MS. PLETKA: Thank you very much.
MR. NETANYAHU: I have to
interject. I want to tell you. Iím not used to receiving awards in Israel,
especially not from the media. (Laughter.) I do get them from the public on
election day. But itís very moving for me to be here.
I do remember Irving Kristol as a
great intellect, as a fearless intellect. Political correctness was thrown out
of the window. He called it like he saw it and he had a profound influence on
many. He had a profound influence on me. And I consider myself honored and
privileged to have spent many hours with him. I think heís left a great legacy
and heís left a great family.
And I want to especially welcome
his wife, Bea. Iíve read her books, recently a book, believe it or not on
philo-Semitism in Britain. Can you imagine? A tremendous book. This is a
tremendous family. It goes on in the next generations. I am deeply honored to
have received this award from you. Thank you. (Applause.)
MS. PLETKA: I donít think
anybody sitting here in this room would underestimate the affection and respect
that the American Enterprise Institute, our entire family, our entire community
has for the Kristol family, for Irvingís legacy. So thank you. Thank you so
much for saying that.
Now, let me pick up my remarks.
Just a quick, brief word. For those of you who have been with us for many years,
in years past we have had our honorees give a speech from the podium. And this
year, we asked you to have a conversation. And thank you for being willing to do
that. We thought it would more interesting, a little bit more enlightening,
perhaps, for some of us. And, in addition, it would provide an opportunity to
hear about a range of issues that would be of importance to everybody.
But, perhaps more importantly, I
think there are some who may be a little disappointed that Iím not going to
interrogate you in Washington style about a variety of issues. Iíd like to
remind all of our guests, AEI is not a news organization. I may disappoint you.
Iím very sorry. But we are a think tank, and weíre interested in the big
questions. And I hope that if we can take something away, it will be some big
MR. NETANYAHU: Well, I hope this
catches on. I mean, itís a wonderful idea. (Laughter, applause.)
MS. PLETKA: Weíre all about
Mr. Prime Minister, youíve said,
ďIsrael has always been pro-American. Israel will always be pro-American.Ē
You yourself spent many years in the United States, as did your father. Tell us
a little bit about what is at the heart of Israelís and your affection for the
MR. NETANYAHU: Common values
first. I think the values of freedom, free societies, the idea of individual
choice that is enveloped with a collective purpose. And I think that defines
Israel and defines America. These are two societies built on a purpose, on the
idea of freedom.
Iíve spoken in the Congress a
number of times, and each time I look and I see the emblem of Moses in the
American Congress, and it says a lot. Itís the idea of the Promised Land, the
land of freedom, freedom from bondage, freedom to pursue your future. So I think
this is the identity of conviction.
But there is something else that I
think has to be seen in a historic context. We were a people scattered among the
nations. We had no capacity to defend ourselves. And by dint of historical
regularity, we should have disappeared. Most nations that existed in the past do
not exist today. And certainly a nation scattered from its land and becoming
utterly defenseless, subject to the whims Ė the worst whims of humanity should
We gathered our resolve, came back
to the land of Israel, the Promised Land, rebuilt our country when we
repossessed the power to defend ourselves. But it was said here before that all
powers, all countries, even great powers need alliances. We need an alliance,
We did not have that alliance in
the first half of the 20th century when the founding fathers of Zionism
identified the threat of anti-Semitism, the growing threat of anti-Semitism in
Europe, we had no capacity yet to build our nation. We built it having lost six
million of our brethren. And I believe that if the United States had been the
preeminent world power in the first half of the 20th century, things might have
turned out differently. And yet, Israel was born in mid-century. The United
States became the global power at that point.
And what a difference it made. It
made a difference for the entire world by guaranteeing liberty, by facing down
Soviet totalitarianism. It made a difference for us in that we had a partner.
And I think that not only the common ideals of Israel and the United States, and
they were mentioned here, but I think itís also the role Ė the active role
of the United States in defending liberty around the world and standing by its
allies, in this case the best possible ally of the United States, Israel, I
think itís made a world of difference.
And I bet on this alliance. I
wouldnít sell the United States short. I wouldnít sell Israel short. And I
would not at all diminish the importance of this alliance. I think itís
pivotal for the future of our world. And if you ask me about it, Iíll tell you
more. This is what I believe. (Applause.) With a sore throat.
MS. PLETKA: Like the United
States, which was founded on a big idea and by a group of people seeking
freedom, Israel too was founded on a big idea, that of Zionism. But the
countryís come a long way since 1896 when Herzl wrote ďThe Jewish State.Ē
MR. NETANYAHU: Right.
MS. PLETKA: Is Zionism still the
animating idea of the state of Israel? Is there another direction that Israel
goes in? Where does Israel go in the 21st century?
MR. NETANYAHU: Well, having not
had a state for 2,000 years, we have secured it again but we have to assure the
Jewish future. Thatís what Zionism is about, having Ė giving the Jewish
people the ability to have their own independent state.
But, you know, this is an ongoing
effort. The challenges keep changing. What you want to make sure is that you
have the inner strength to confront these challenges and also to make these
alliances that I talked about. Nobody makes alliances with the weak, and nobody
makes peace with the weak.
So the first obligation we have to
further the future of Israel is to make sure the country is strong militarily,
but thatís expensive. I hope you know that. Itís very expensive. So the only
way you can actually fund Israelís defenses to safeguard the Jewish future is
to have a very vibrant economy. The only way youíre going to have a very
vibrant economy is to make sure itís a free market economy.
That is something that Iíve
devoted a good part of my life to do and I think that weíre successful in
doing that because in Israel what is happening now is that we are harnessing the
power of innovation through the power of free markets. If you have intellectual
or even technological brilliance but you have no free markets, itís not going
to go anywhere.
The former Soviet Union had
incredible metallurgists, incredible physicists, incredible mathematicians, but
they were utterly useless. If you put them on a plane and took them to Palo
Alto, they were producing value within three weeks.
Israel had incredible
technologists, incredible scientists, incredible, but we had to liberate our
markets, which is a process I had something to do with. And as a result, Israel
is becoming, I would say, the preeminent or one of the two great centers of
innovation in the world.
And, as a result, our ability to
make alliances is shifting. We are now in an extraordinary relationship with two
small countries in Asia, India and China, and Japan. Together, we account for
roughly two and a half billion people in the world. Now, theyíre all coming to
this new Israel.
You asked, where is Israel going?
In the century of conceptual products and knowledge, the ones who will prosper
are those who can innovate faster. Israel is a speed chess (?) innovator. We
donít have that large a number of innovators but we have a very, very large
number of very fast innovators. And our culture promotes that. So I think Israel
is moving into a leadership position in technology.
Iíll give you a number to
illustrate this because I think itís important that I take this away from
general concepts and make it concrete. In 2014, as a result of a deliberate
policy that my government is leading, Israel had 10 percent of the global
investments in cybersecurity. Thatís 100 times our size. In 2015 Ė we
tracked that number Ė we received double that amount. We receive 20 percent of
the global investment in cybersecurity. In cyber, weíre punching 200 times
above our weight. This is an indication of how you can increase your capacities
and how you can harness your innate ingenuity both for national power and for
I read a book by a wonderful
writer named Will Durant. Well, he wrote some 12 volumes on history. And towards
the end of his life, I think in the late í60s, he wrote a small book. Itís
100 pages long, and itís called ďThe Lessons of History.Ē Well worth
reading. I suggest AEI reprint it. Itís tremendous. Every sentence is potent
and pregnant with meaning and insight.
And I want to give you the bad
news and the good news. The bad news, if I have to Ė if I can use the word
crystallize Ė what Durant is saying, he says that in history, numbers count.
That is big nations overcome smaller nations because, you know, they have bigger
GDP so they can have a bigger military and so on and so forth. And then I think
on page 19 or so, he says there are exceptions sometimes when nations can
harness their cultural force. And he says the young state of Israel may be an
example of such an exception. Well, half a century later, I think we proved the
So where do we go? We maintain the
defenses of the Jewish state, we develop its economy, we allow our ingenuity to
flourish, we become a technological powerhouse, and we hope that in the great
battle between modernity and medievalism that afflicts our area, modernity wins.
If that happens to be the case, we all win. (Applause.)
MS. PLETKA: There is, though, a
great battle going on between modernity and medievalism in your part of the
world. And if you talk about democracy being the idea that made Israel strong
and markets and capitalism being the idea that will propel Israel into the 21st
century and beyond, there are other ideas at play throughout the region.
And there are a lot of people who
suggest that, in fact, one of the things that is animating those terrorist
groups that have now risen up throughout the region and are tyrannizing most of
the people, many of the people of the Middle East, that they are founded on an
idea and that as many drone strikes or air strikes or even ground wars that
happen, without having an idea to substitute for theirs we cannot win. You
canít beat something, as one of my colleagues so often says, with nothing.
So what I want to ask you is as
the leader of the only truly democratic market economy in the Middle East, what
is the idea that is going to beat this? Is it democracy?
MR. NETANYAHU: Itís certainly
greater freedom. I think thereís a process in which the Arab world and parts
of the Islamic world move toward the idea of greater freedom. Itís not
automatic, but itís certainly a good contrast to the kind of tyranny and
savagery that theyíre experiencing now. And the brunt of this savagery is
afflicted on Muslims right now. Millions have been displaced and hundreds of
thousands butchered, so they have a pretty good idea of what they donít want.
I actually think that sometimes in
these kinds of battles, itís first of all important to win physically Ė win,
fight. I mean, combating Nazism first involved beating Nazism. You know, you had
de-Nazification after you won. You have to win. (Applause.) Itís very
important not to allow these beasts the freedom to prowl because what theyíre
doing is theyíre emptying parts of the Middle East into Europe. Theyíre now
going to empty Africa. And you have these two human streams feeling misery.
I spoke to Prime Minister Renzi of
Italy and to David Cameron, prime minister of Britain, and to Angela Merkel just
in the last few weeks. And I said Ė I donít want to talk about ISIS.
Thatís politically loaded. You can ask me privately later.
But I wanted to speak about Boko
Haram. I wanted to speak about al-Shabaab. You know, there must be at least 12
probably closer to 20 leaders of African nations who came to Israel just as Asia
is coming to Israel and they only want three things from us: Israeli technology,
Israeli technology, and Israeli technology.
The African states all come and
they say, we want Israeli technology in agriculture, in health care, in
irrigation, whatever. And they all come down to one word: security. Help us in
security. So I suggest that to some of the European countries a simple
partnership. We form consortiums to deal with individual countries, help them
with their economy, help them with their security. The Islamist movements in
Africa are not yet strong. They can be defeated today. They can be defeated
today. It will be a lot harder tomorrow.
And my point is in addition to the
battle of ideas, thereís the battle. You have to win the battle. And the
earlier you win it, the cheaper it will be. The longer you wait, eventually
these forces will dissipate because there is no hope. There is no future for a
world of darkness. And I think the Islamists will lose out, but it may take
decades. It may take half a century. Nazism was defeated but it claimed the life
of millions, tens of millions of people and a third of my people. I think
defeating them early is important. Weíll defeat them in the battle of ideas,
but letís defeat them on the ground as well. (Applause.)
MS. PLETKA: I hope you wonít
mind if I press you a little bit more on this question because there are plenty
of voices, I would say growing in volume, both in the United States and I think
even in Israel who suggest that we are better off with the Gaddafis and the
Saddams and the Assads in place to tamp down on the Islamists who rise up and
that secular dictatorship is really the solution that we should look for for the
rest of the Middle East. Others say that democracy is only fertile ground for
Islamists to rise up. Where do you come down on that?
MR. NETANYAHU: Well, I went to
serve in the United Nations 100 years ago as Israelís ambassador, and there
was a woman there. Her name was Jeanne Kirkpatrick. (Applause.)
And I had read an article that she
had written called ďDictatorships and Double Standards.Ē And she said
basically in this article, she said, we are committed to the larger battle
against Soviet totalitarianism. And, on occasion, we decide for the larger goal
to make arrangements with secular dictatorships. Thatís basically what she
Now, mind you, Saddam was
horrible, horrible, brutal killer. So was Gaddafi. Thereís no question about
that. I had my own dealings with each of them. But I do want to say that they
were in many ways neighborhood bullies. That is, they tormented their immediate
environment, but they were not wedded to a larger goal.
The militant Islamists, either
Iran leading the militant Shiites with their proxies, Hezbollah and an Islamic
Jihad and Hamas, or Ė even though Hamas is Sunni Ė or the militant Sunnis
made by Daíesh by ISIS, they have a larger goal in mind. Their goal is not
merely the conquest of the Middle East. Itís the conquest of the world. Itís
unbelievable. People donít believe that. They donít believe that itís
possible to have this quest for an imamate or a caliphate in the 21st century,
but that is exactly what is guiding them.
And against this larger threat
that could Ė that would present two Islamic states, one, the Islamic state of
Daíesh (sp), and the other, the Islamic Republican of Iran, each one of them
seeking to arm themselves with weapons of mass death, chemical weapons in the
case of ISIS, nuclear weapons in the case of Iran. That poses a formidable
threat to our world.
And, therefore, if I have to
categorize the threats, I would say that these are the larger threats. And it
doesnít mean that you have to form alliances with secular dictatorships. It
means you have to categorize what is the larger threat. And that is something
that I think is required from all of us.
Political leadership involves
always choosing between bad and worse. I seldom have had a choice between bad
and good. I welcome it when it happens. But these are by far the easiest
choices. Itís choosing between bad and worse that defines a good part of
leadership. And I think I know how to choose that. (Applause.)
MS. PLETKA: Letís talk about
Syria for a moment, and then I want to turn quickly to Iran. Syria is spiraling
out of control. The situation seems to be going from bad to worse. When you
think about this, how do you see the implications for Israel? How do you see
this affecting Israel? How do you see solutions that Israel can effect?
MR. NETANYAHU: I have this
weakness. You know, Iíve done a lot of economic reforms in Israel, I think
about 50 Ė a lot. You can ask me later about them but I want to give you a Ė
MS. PLETKA: Iím not taking this
MR. NETANYAHU: Well, they want to
have dinner, but I want to tell you about that. So these economic reforms, the
most difficult problem, a country where people think, itís actually
conceptual, itís getting the concept right, getting the idea right especially
if you can borrow it from others and see where it worked, OK? Then you just have
to fit it to your own country.
And then you have the battle with
all the vested interests and so on, but I find that particularly boring. Itís
the first part, deciding what is the right thing to do, that always takes the
largest effort and also the greatest intellectual investment. And itís pretty
easy to do in economics. Itís pretty easy to do in education. Itís pretty
easy to do in other things.
If I see a situation where I
donít have a clear concept, I donít charge in. In Syria, I do not see a
simple concept because you choose here between a horrible secular dictatorship
or the two other prospects that would be buttressed by Iran, and you would have
Iran run Syria, a horrible prospect for us, or Daíish, which is also touching
our borders on the Golan. When two of your enemies are fighting each other, I
donít say strengthen one or the other. I say weaken both, or at least donít
intervene, which is what Iíve done. Iíve not intervened.
I have acted several years ago,
and I think I was the first country to do that, to put a military hospital 10
yards away from our border with the Golan, with Syria, and weíve taken in
thousands of Syrians Ė children, women, men amputated, horrible conditions Ė
given them treatment in Israeli hospitals. We never showed their pictures
because if their photograph is seen and theyíre then rehabilitated and they go
back to their villages or towns, theyíll be executed on the spot.
But, other than that, Iíve left
the internal battle in Syria untouched because Iím not sure what to choose and
you have to openly admit it. But here is what I do define in Syria. I donít
want Syria to be used as a launching ground for attacks against us.
And I have said this to Vladimir
Putin when I flew to Moscow to see him. I went to see him first to make sure
that our planes donít crash at each other. Itís not a good idea.
But I told him, hereís what we
do in Syria. We will not allow Iran to set up a second front in the Golan, and
we will act forcefully and have acted forcefully to prevent that. (Applause.) We
will not allow the use of Syrian territory from which weíd be attacked by the
Syrian army or anyone else. And we have acted forcefully against that.
And, third, we will not allow the
use of Syrian territory for the transfer of game-changing weapons into Lebanon,
into Hezbollahís hands. And we have acted forcefully on that. I made it clear
that we will continue to act that way. I explained that to Putin. I said,
whatever your goals are in Syria, these are our goals and we will continue to
act that way. And I think that message was received.
Now, there is talk now of an
arrangement in Syria, and I spoke about it today in a very good conversation I
had with President Obama. And I said that any arrangement that is struck in
Syria, if one is achievable Ė Iím not sure Ė Iím not sure Humpty Dumpty
can be put back together again. I have strong doubts.
Iím not sure Syria as a state
can be reconstituted. But whatever arrangements are made in Syria that do not
preclude Iran from continuing its aggression against us directly or by
transferring weapons to Hezbollah, that doesnít oblige us. We have very clear
policy demands in Syria. We keep them, and weíll continue to keep them. The
defense of Israel is what concerns me in Syria first and foremost, and on that
weíll continue to act forcefully. (Applause.)
MS. PLETKA: I know you want to
talk about the economy, but let me ask you quickly about Iran, otherwise the
audience wonít forgive me. The Iranians certainly are embroiled in Syria, but
these have been pretty good times for them actually. We see them interfering in
Yemen without too much pushback, in Bahrain, in Lebanon, of course. Theyíre
still active in the West Bank and Gaza. They are everywhere without very
Do you see Iran as being
constrained or in some way moderating its action because of the Joint
Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran deal? How do you see
Iranís ambitious playing out?
MR. NETANYAHU: Itís no secret we
had a disagreement, President Obama and myself, on the nuclear issue. That deal
was signed. I think right now we have to concentrate on three things.
The first is to prevent Iran from
violating the deal. I was concerned with two things about the deal: one that
Iran violates the deal; the other, that Iran keeps the deal and within 15 years,
they have a clear path to producing the enriched uranium for a massive nuclear
arsenal. I thought and Iím still concerned with that aspect of it.
But, right now, we are in
agreement that we want to keep Iranís feet to the fire. We want to make sure
they donít violate the deal. And the president and I spoke about that today at
some length. So weíll cooperate, first of all, to make sure that Iran
doesnít cheat. And, believe me, it has a proclivity for cheating. So thatís
the first thing.
The second thing is we have a
vested interest Ė and by we, I mean the United States and Israel, not only
Israel Ė to prevent Iranís conventional aggression. Remember that Iran is
not only arming Hezbollah as I described, trying to build a second front in the
Golan supplying Hamas in Gaza and Islamic Jihad with a technology of attack
drones acting in Yemen, trying to undermine Jordan, you name it. Also building
an arms industry, 50,000 men strong, that produces submarines, satellites,
precision rocketry, and many other advanced weapons. And Iran could pursue this
aggression if itís not met with countervailing force.
So I think the second thing other
than keeping their feet to the fire is supporting your allies. And the most
important ally and the most important countervailing force for Iran is the state
of Israel. Support Israel. (Applause.)
If I can be subtle enough, and the
president and I discussed today an MOU, a memorandum of understanding for
American military support for Israel for the next 10 years, imagine Ė imagine
the Middle East without Israel. What do you think would happen in our immediate
vicinity? Iím the foreign minister, so I have to be diplomatic. Iíll leave
it to your imagination.
Now imagine a Middle East with
three Israels, one in Afghanistan, one in Libya, one near Yemen. It would be a
far different situation. The support for Israel that Iím talking about Ė
well, the United States supports Israel to the tune of $3 billion a year, OK?
You spent on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq $1.5 trillion. So thatís five
centuries worth of support for Israel. I think [Defense] Secretary [Ash] Carter
and the president today said that supporting Israel is not just important for
Israel. Itís something that we deeply appreciate.
But itís also a very solid
investment in American security as well. We are an ally that doesnít ask for
any American troops. We never have, and we donít intend to. We can defend
ourselves. We just want to have the tools.
So I think the second thing in
fighting Iran is giving Israel the tools to defend itself and deter Iran.
Thereís a third item that I think is essential. Iran is not merely practicing
aggression in the Middle East. Iran is building a terror network in both
hemispheres, adding a new terror cell roughly every four weeks. When I say both
hemispheres, that obviously includes the Western Hemisphere, this hemisphere.
And I think this terror network that is growing rapidly should be torn apart.
So three things: keep their feet
the fire; support your allies, this ally first; and, third, bring down that
terror network. I think thatís what I can say about Iran. It will be left to
history to see if Iran will modernize and reform under this clique. I have my
doubts. I hope Iím wrong. I suspect Iíll be proved right. But Iíll be
delighted, Iíll be delighted if the Google kids take over Tehran. That has not
MS. PLETKA: I think weíll all be
delighted. Now, normally, I would cut things off because weíre about to run
out of time, but I want to press you on an issue that I know youíre very
reluctant to talk about, and that is Israelís economy.
MR. NETANYAHU: I love that one.
MS. PLETKA: You said, ask me about
Israelís economy. You tell us: what do you want people to know? What do you
want people to take away? Thatís going to be my last question. So go for it.
MR. NETANYAHU: I think the
supremacy of free markets is not self-evident. I think it has to be explained. I
think the task of leaders is first of all to get things conceptually right. But
the second is to communicate it effectively.
When I became finance minister in
the midst of a crisis in 2003, we were in a horrible crisis. Our economy was
shrinking. Our GDP per capita was shrinking. We had terrible unemployment and so
on. And most people thought it was because of the Intifada that we had at the
time or the collapse Ė remember, the NASDAQ bubble bursting and so on that had
an effect on us. And I thought that certainly contributed to it, but I didnít
think that was the major problem.
And so I had about three weeks to
come up with an economic plan that ultimately made many, many changes in Israel,
but I thought no less intensely about ďHow do I communicate this to a country
that doesnít have lemonade stands when youíre a kid?Ē You know, you have
little cards when I was a child, and you could see this was a MiG fighter and
this was a Mystere fighter. Thatís what we traded as cards. We didnít have
lemonade stands. We had a fairly semi-socialist economy.
So how do I explain the idea of
free markets and their centrality in todayís world? And so, three weeks later,
I did a press conference and I said, I want to fall back on my first day in
basic training in the Israeli paratroops.
The commander put us in a straight
line and he said, you are now going to take a race. But itís a special kind of
race. Each man looked to his right; you are the first man, he pointed to me. Put
the guy to your right on your shoulders, and the next guy did that, and then the
guy after him did that. And I got a pretty big guy. He was heavy. The next guy
was the smallest guy in the platoon, and he got the biggest guy on his
shoulders. And the third guy was a big guy, and he got a small guy, and so on.
And then the commander blew the whistle. I barely managed to move forward. The
next guy, the guy next to me, the small guy with the big guy on his shoulders,
collapsed. And the third guy took off like a rocket and won the race.
And I said, in the modern
economies, all national economies are pairs of a public sector sitting on the
shoulder of the private sector. In our case, the public sector became too big,
too fat. (Applause.) And weíre about to collapse. So we have to put the fat
man on a diet and we have to strengthen the guy at the bottom, give him a lot of
oxygen in his lungs. That means lowering tax rates. And, third, we have to
remove the obstacles, the barriers to the race, barriers to competition.
By the way, this became known as
the fat man/thin man thing, and taxi drivers could repeat it. But, effectively,
we ended up doing exactly that.
We constrained the growth of
public spending. We lowered tax rates. I had a big argument about that. They
said whoís this guy ďLauferĒ? I said, no, no, itís not ďLaufer.Ē His
name is Laffer. And we actually tried it. And it works. It worked for us, big
And we instituted a lot, a lot of
reforms. I mean, even earlier, as prime minister in my first term, I removed,
you know, all constraints on foreign currency exchange. And that was supposed to
collapse our economy. And, of course, everybody was warning me that a mountain
of money will move. It did Ė into the country, you know.
And so we did all these reforms.
And the consequence of that is that we grew at 5 percent a year for a decade
with the exception of 2008. We still grew, but we grew at 5 percent per decade.
And we have now overcome Ė you know, passed many leading economies in the
And if we continue to adhere to
free market principles and encourage innovation, and open new markets to the
east, new products, new markets, deregulation, and infrastructure, which weíre
investing in mightily, then I think Israel has a brilliant economic future.
The thing that I have to tell you,
though, is that although our GDP per capita is rising rapidly, we have a small
GDP. We have eight million people. We can be number one in cyber. We are. We can
be number one in many other things. But weíre small and, therefore, we have to
compensate that with other means, among others, the American military assistance
which is invaluable.
But I think that the race that I
described, the thin man/fat man race, is ongoing. You always have to improve the
performance of your economy. You have to make sure that government does not
interfere with ingenuity but actually promotes it.
And you can never rest on your
laurels, never rest on your laurels. Life is competitive. The life of nations is
competitive. You should always hone your competitive edge. This is not something
that consultants tell you. Itís some things that leaders have to do. You have
to hone the competitive edge of your people. And you should have as much
alliances as you can with other like-minded states like the United States of
MS. PLETKA: Amen. Let me say Ė
MR. NETANYAHU: I think Mr. George
Priest asked me to explain why we donít have peace. You have until tomorrow?
(Laughter.) Hereís my short answer.
I have two rules when Iím in a
press conference when I have journalists. I put a board on, and they ask me the
questions, I write all the questions. I write all the questions. And then I go
through each one. And hereís my answer to that, hereís my answer to that,
hereís my answer to that. And this one, Iím fudging. I donít want to
fudge. I actually tell them that I fudge. I donít want to fudge. I want to
tell you what the answer is.
The reason, first of all, the
conflict that we have in the Middle East is multiple. It used to be said that
the core of the conflict, in the singular, in the Middle East is the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Well, that went by the window. When you see Iraq
collapsing, Syria collapsing, Yemen collapsing, Libya collapsing and everything
else in turmoil, nothing to do with us.
The core of the conflicts in the
Middle East is the battle between modernity and early, primitive medievalism.
Thatís the core of the conflicts. (Applause.) The core of the specific
conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is the persistent Palestinian
refusal to recognize a Jewish state in any boundary. This is why this conflict
persisted for 50 years before there was a state, before there were territories,
before there were settlements.
If that were the core of the
conflict, the settlements, why did it take place when my grandfather landed in
Jaffa in 1920? Jews were murdered then for what? There was no West Bank. There
were no settlements. Now, that continued in 1921, 1929, 1936, 1939, 1948. What
was that all about? Nineteen sixty-seven, for nearly half a century we were
being attacked because there was a persistent refusal to accept us in any
boundary. Well, we got into these territories as a result of the conflict. And
what Arab propaganda has done by endless repetition is to turn the result of the
conflict into its cause.
Now, how do you know that thatís
the case? Because we left Gaza completely, every last centimeter, and theyíre
still firing rockets at us from Gaza. And when you ask them, why are you doing
this? Is it to liberate the West Bank? And they say, yeah, sure. That too, but
no. Itís to liberate Palestine, you know, Acre, Haifa, Jaffa. They always get
back to Jaffa.
So now I turn to the other guys,
to the Palestinian Authority and not to Hamas. At least they donít practice
violence, which is important. And I say, well, what about you? Are you willing
to recognize the Jewish state? Are you willing to recognize the fact Ė
youíll have a nation-state for the Palestinian people.
How about a nation-state for the
Jewish people? I mean, after all, weíve only been there almost 4,000 years,
and we recognize thereís two peoples there. Weíre willing to make the deal.
Are you willing to make the deal? Are you willing to recognize the Jewish state?
Because thereís no point in making another Palestinian state, another Arab
state that will continue the battle from improved lines against the Jewish
state. Are you willing to end the conflict, give up the claim of the so-called
right of return? Make peace.
And you know what happens when you
ask them that? They move. They say, oh, weíre willing to recognize Israel. I
didnít ask Israel. I said are you willing to terminate all claims to the
Jewish state? You wonít get Jaffa. You wonít flood us with refugees. Are you
willing to do that? And the answer is theyíre not. We will have peace when the
Palestinians will accord us what they ask us to accord them.
Weíre willing to have Ė let
them have a state of their own. They have to reconcile themselves to the fact
that we have a state of our own and itís here to stay. That is the core of the
problem. (Applause.) In the Middle East, modernity against medievalism, Israel
and the Palestinians, the persistent refusal to recognize a Jewish state in any
boundary. I hope that changes.
But I have my mind on making sure
that until it changes that, yes, we work Ė we work up the economies to create
at least an economic vested hope in the future. If the Palestinians follow the
prescriptions Iíve given here for market development, theyíll be better off
economically, and weíll move two steps closer to peace, too.
Thank you very much. Thank you.
MS. PLETKA: Thank you.