Netanyahu: Israel Prepared to Make Peace, but Abbas Must Recognize Jewish State

Millions in the Arab world could benefit from Israeli technology and innovation, prime minister tells AIPAC conference.

Barak Ravid
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Barak Ravid

WASHINGTON - In a strongly-pro-American speech to the AIPAC annual policy conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that "no country on earth is more pro-America than Israel" and described the partnership between the two countries as the "most precious alliance on earth."

Both the U.S. and Israel "stand for life" and stand together "on the right side of the moral divide and of history," Netanyahu said, in a speech that was interrupted repeatedly by applause from the very receptive audience.

Saying that he was "prepared to make historic peace with our Palestinian neighbors," Netanyahu painted a picture of a thriving, peaceful Middle East in which the lives of millions were bettered by the technology and innovation that Israel could provide to its Arab neighbors.

A "combination of Israeli innovation and Gulf entrepreneurship could catapult the entire region forward," Netanyahu said.

But first there needed to be peace between Israel and the Palestinians and he made it clear that "it's time for the Palestinians to stop denying history." Just as Israel is prepared to recognize a Palestinian state, Netanyahu said, the Palestinian must be prepared to recognize the Jewish state.

"President Abbas, recognize the Jewish state," Netanyahu declared. "In doing so you will tell your people that, though we have a territorial dispute, Israel's right to exist is beyond dispute. You would finally make it clear that you are truly prepared to end the conflict."

Even if a peace agreement is signed, Netanyahu asserted, "it may take years or decades for formal acceptance of Israel to filter through to all layers of Palestinian society." Therefore, he said, Israel needs long-term security on the ground to protect both the peace and Israel – security which cannot be provided by international peace-keeping forces "who go home when peace comes under attack."

"I will never gamble with the security of the one and only Jewish state," the prime minister proclaimed. "The only force that can defend it is its own army – the brave soldiers of the IDF."

Describing Iran as an "outlaw state," the prime minister called on the U.S. and the Geneva negotiating powers to insist that it destroy all its centrifuges and halt the enrichment of uranium. Iranian enrichment, he said, endangers not only Israel, but the U.S. and the entire world. Allowing it to continue "will open a Pandora's box in the Middle East and around the world."

A nuclear-armed Iran is the greatest threat facing the world today, Netanyahu said. It was necessary not only to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons, but from "having the capability to make nuclear weapons."

The four necessary conditions for a non-nuclear Iran were dismantling its heavy water reactor, dismantling its underground nuclear facilities, dismantling its centrifuges and insisting on full disclosure of all Iran's nuclear capabilities, the premier stated.

"Seventeen countries around the world have peaceful nuclear programs, without centrifuges and heavy water reactors," Netanyahu said. "Iran persists on having those things because it doesn't want a peaceful program; it wants a military program."

"Seventy years ago, Jews were left for dead," Netanyahu declared. "But we came back to life and we will never allow ourselves to face extinction again."

Netanyahu saved some of his harshest words for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which he described as the "latest chapter in the long, dark history of anti-Semitism." In fact, he quipped, the letters BDS actually stand for "bigotry, dishonesty and shame."

Noting that countries from every continent and the world's leading high-tech companies were "flocking to Israel" for its technology and expertise, Netanyahu asserted that "Israel's best economic days are still ahead of it."

Nevertheless, he said, BDS is "morally wrong, bad for peace and must be opposed." The supporters of a boycott "don't seek a solution with two states, but the dissolution of the only state of the Jewish people," the premier said. BDS sets back the chances for peace by "hardening Palestinian positions and making compromise difficult."

Netanyahu acknowledges applause as he arrives to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), in Washington, March 4, 2014. Credit: Reuters
Netanyahu addresses the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, DC. March 4, 2014. Credit: AFP