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The Prime Minister's Speech

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Having been engaged in the Arab-Israeli conflict as an advocate for peace, interlocutor, a keen observer and a commentator for much of my adult life, I fantasize once in a while about the regional, if not the global, implications of an Arab-Israeli peace. I allow myself to dream what seems to be an impossible dream because I believe in the dynamism and wealth of the human resources and creativity that both Israelis and Palestinians bountifully enjoy. Peace between Israel and the whole Arab world would usher in a renaissance period to the Middle East that history pages have yet to record.

When Prime Minister Netanyahu announced the expansion of his coalition government to include Kadima, which granted him a historic majority in the Israeli Parliament, I found myself fantasizing again about the prospect of such a comprehensive peace. Truthfully, if a coalition government representing three quarters of the Israeli electorates cannot muster the will and the courage to forge peace, who can, and under what conditions? Israeli and Palestinian leaders, regardless of their political coloration, must sooner than later face, under any circumstances, the inevitability of co-existence. Israel, in particular, which is on the defensive for continuing the occupation and the expansion of settlements, must strive to end its increasing isolation.

There are those who understandably argue that this is not the right time for Israel to reach out to the Arab world when Islamists are waging vicious verbal assaults against Israel and even preparing for violent confrontations. Even though this may be the case, is there a better time to diffuse the tension and resolve the conflict with Palestinians, which remains at the very core of the Arabs' resentment of Israel? If from past experiences Israel does not trust the Palestinians, why not shift the onus and let them prove to the entire international community where they really stand? The Prime Minister should reach out to the whole world, especially the Arab and Muslim world, and begin a constructive dialogue with the Palestinians. He should project a vision for the future from strength and conviction that will resonate in every corner of the globe.

I have no illusions that Netanyahu or any current political leader in Israel can, or will, deliver such a speech. And yes, it sounds like a fantasy and it may well tragically remain within the realm of fantasy. But stop and think for a moment. The general framework for peace is not likely to change dramatically over time, so the question is: will Israel improve its position as the months and years pass by, or will that time become its own worst enemy? The imperatives and choices for Israel are clear: Israel must now take the initiative and choose wisely. And yes, Israel can still become a "light onto other nations" as long as it walks the high moral ground with confidence and determination.

And so I envisage a dream speech that Netanyahu or his successor could deliver to the world about Israel's new transformational political horizon to achieve peace, the consequences of which, I believe, would be incomparable to any development in Israel's history other than the very birth of the state itself.

And so here is the Prime Minister of Israel.

I stand before you with pride and humility,
the citizens of Israel,
the citizens of the world, friends and foes alike.
In this momentous hour in our region,
when upheaval is sweeping one country after another,
when young men and women are dying for freedom,
when children perish on the altar of despotism,
when tyrants have their way,
when religion is used to prey,
when extremism is still on the rise,
and when reformers are struggling to stay alive

But when new opportunities appear on the horizon
We must be worthy of rising to the occasion
Now is the time to correct our ways.
It is the hour to redress our mistakes.
It is the moment when we must say
enough is enough.

Enough of agony and pain,
enough to displacement and terror,
enough to bloodshed and suffering,
enough to blaming and recrimination,
and enough to violence and the never ending horror.

We must change course
And we must begin now.

First, I want to extend our hand to the Palestinian people.
We share the same land.
We must now share the same destiny.
Sixty four years of enmity and disdain
must come now to an end.
An end to wanton violence,
an end to hatred and distrust,
an end to displacement and discrimination,
and an end to detention and occupation.
We co-exist and will continue to co-exist;
we must now decide on the quality of our co-existence.
Do we want to continue to hate, conspire, mistrust and slay
or do we want to prosper together?
A two-state solution is not one of many choices,
it is the only viable choice
that will preserve our national identities.
We must avoid unilateral disengagement
and be ready to negotiate a fair solution,
a resolution that answers the yearning
of Israelis and Palestinians alike:
a Jewish state and a Palestinian state,
living side-by-side in peace and harmony.
We have no preconditions and no other stipulations
but permanently forsaking violence
and an irreversible recognition of our right
to a state of our own
by every Palestinian political faction
that seeks to lead a Palestinian state.

We will begin by suspending all settlements' constructions.
Release most Palestinian prisoners
as a gesture of good faith.
Guided by previous negotiations
and the mutuality of agreements
we have reached on several key conflicting issues,
we will be ready to enter immediately into new talks:
starting with the borders' dispute through a land swap.
Seek a fair solution to the Palestinian refugees
with the support of the international community,
through resettlements in their homeland --
the West Bank and Gaza --
or through rehabilitation and compensation
for those who seek to stay
in their current place of residence.
Establish a solid framework for national security arrangements
for all our people
to ensure peace for generations to come.
And most importantly,
we will make Jerusalem the symbol of co-existence,
a capital for a two-state solution,
the microcosm of peace between our people.

True, these conflicting issues have been intractable
and we made them ever more inflexible
with biases and selective perceptions,
perceptions nurtured by historical bitter experiences,
and sealed with deep conviction
about the wrongs that have been done by the other
locking both sides into immobile positions.
The outcome was mutual denial
and delegitimization of the other's rights.
But now, as we commit ourselves to ending the conflict
we must begin by mitigating
the psychological dimension of every conflicting issue.
Instead of publically promoting our differences,
and emphasizing the injustices and wrongdoings
perpetrated by the other
we must now alter our public narratives.
We must speak openly about the inevitability of co-existence,
and express our commitment to reconcile.
Thus, the need to make painful compromises
and allow our respective publics
to live and thrive together in peace.

We do not stretch our hands for peace
out of weakness or fear,
but with confidence in our ability
to defend ourselves and prevail.
Those extremists who will continue to harbor
ill intent against us,
and are bent on our destruction
will do so at their peril first.

Grasp our hands in peace now.
Let us forge a peace with dignity,
equitable peace that will endure.
Peace on the promised land
To which our peoples
have boundless reverence and affinity.

To the whole Arab world we say:
Jews and Arabs have lived for millennia together.
We are ready to rebuild with you the bridges of peace,
ready to embrace the principles of the Arab Peace Initiative,
work with the newly elected democratic governments
regardless of their political or religious leanings.
We will live up to our treaties' obligations,
and honor all previous commitments
as long as all parties concerned adhere to the same.
We are ready to make peace with our remaining neighbors
once a government of the people is established
and demonstrate their commitment to a lasting peace.

We are ready to cooperate
on regional security arrangements,
ready for expansive trade relations,
ready for scientific and technological exchanges,
and ready for tourism and full diplomatic relations.
We know that much of this
must await peace with the Palestinians,
and it is time to build renewed trust.
The whole Arab world
can assist to bring this about.
We ask current and newly emerging Arab governments
to influence extremist Palestinian factions,
to change their attitude toward Israel
and accept our irrevocable reality
as was affirmed by the Arab Peace Initiative.

We know that peace must come.
Extend your hand to us
and peace will be in our grasp.
Now, in our time.

The time has also come to renew our relations with Turkey.
Jews the world over are indebted to the Turkish people
for providing refuge and protection over the centuries,
for being the first Muslim country to recognize our state,
and for the friendship and alliance between us
that has evolved over times of tranquility and turmoil.
We deeply regret the precipitous decline in our relations.
Many mistakes have been made on both sides,
and we have had our share of errors.

With the Middle East in turmoil,
the perilously unfolding crisis in Syria,
and the concerns over Iran's nuclear program,
Turkey and Israel must bond together again.
Our strategic national interests remain intertwined,
we must now put the Marmara episode behind us.
We apologize for the lives that were lost.
Indeed, the death of any one innocent person
at any time, in any place and
under any circumstances is unfortunate.
So we must learn from this sad episode
and look with great anticipation
to renewed vigorous bilateral relations.
Our apology is not a sign of weakness
but one of strength of conviction.
It would not be a victory for Turkey
but a victory for the human spirit
That transcends the hour and brings nations together.

Jews and Persians have had a millennia-long history
of amity and peace.
We wish to enjoy the same relations
for hundreds of years to come.
Yet, we will not engage in wishful thinking,
when we are existentially threatened
by a repugnant regime that has gone mad.
While we extend our hand in peace to the Iranian nation,
we will stop short of nothing to defend our people.
Iran will be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Because Iran with nuclear arsenals
runs the risk of a nuclear conflagration,
the consequences of which
are far more terrifyingly destructive
than obliterating Iran's nuclear facilities.
The Iranian regime should never doubt
our unshakable resolve
to live and persevere by our convictions
fortified by our will and military might.
But peace is what we seek.

We will be ready to discuss
a Middle East as a zone free
of Weapons of Mass Destruction
once a comprehensive and enduring peace
between Israel and the Arab world
and with Iran, in particular, has been achieved.

To our friends and allies in Europe:
We understand your concerns over the region's stability,
your trepidation about new conflicts,
and your vast national interests in our region.
We are most sincere in our efforts
to mitigate any conflict in which we have a say.
We deeply appreciate your support
and are grateful for taking to heart our national concerns.
As much as Israel is and will further be
integrated into the Middle East,
it remains beholden to European values.
Now that you know where we stand,
we welcome your continued involvement in the peace process,
and deeply appreciate your assistance.
We look forward to our continued security collaboration,
to promote further economic and technological cooperation,
and make Israel and Europe
united in their dream of regional peace
and human dignity for all inhabitants.

And finally, I turn to the beloved:
the United States of America.
A trusted friend and a staunch ally.
Throughout our short history,
America stood by us
Never waivered
Never equivocated
Never hesitated
To provide us with the political support
and means to protect ourselves and prosper.
We look up to you America
with praise and respect.
We look up to you America for guidance
to help us navigate through
the hazardous road ahead.

May God bless America,
bless the people of Israel,
bless all peace seekers
and the dreamers of the brotherhood of man.