What Netanyahu Really Wants and Never Tells

The prime minister of Israel lays down his vision, the real one, for the first time.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, May 22, 2016.
Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Dear citizens of Israel,

For the most part the Israeli media ignore my achievements in maintaining Israel’s security and economic prosperity, slander me and my wife Sara for trivial matters, and portray me as a politician without any ideology or policy, who is preoccupied solely with his survival. I wanted to explain to you why I insist on remaining in power, even at the unpleasant price of negative media coverage and an oppressive political partnership with people who despise me, vilify me and are trying to replace me.

I am here in order to lead the Jewish people to a decisive victory over the Palestinian national movement. I know that it will sound to many of you like a fantasy, but believe me: Victory is possible and we can achieve it if we act with determination, responsibility and courage. Together we will defeat the evil, incitement and anti-Semitism of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the philosophy of Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, Yasser Arafat, Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas.

I had the privilege of representing the State of Israel in the United States and the United Nations during the term of U.S. President Ronald Reagan, one of our greatest friends in America. Reagan came to power at the height of the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The leaders of the defense establishment, the intelligence community and the foreign policy establishment in Washington believed at the time that they had to compromise with the Soviets and be satisfied with a balance of power. Reagan thought otherwise. “My idea of American policy toward the Soviet Union is simple, and some would say simplistic,” he said at the start of his presidential campaign. “It is this: We win and they lose.” And he proved that it was possible, and within a few years disproved all the intelligence assessments and forecasts of the pundits and experts.

It’s important to remember: Russia was not defeated. It was and still is a great power with a huge nuclear arsenal and great international influence. But the Communist ideology of evil disappeared, and along with it the hostility and danger to the security of the West and Israel. Only two weeks ago I returned from another visit with President Vladimir Putin, which was a badge of honor for the State of Israel, despite the fact that the media deliberately ignored the event.

The Cold War taught us that in relations between countries and nations, the military balance of power is far less important that ideological determination and economic strength. Whoever insists on raising the flag and doesn’t give up even when things are hard for him, will win in the end, if he enjoys internal solidarity and economic endurance.

We are familiar with such an example from our own history: Peace with Egypt became possible only after the elimination of Nasserism, which denied Israel’s right to exist. In the critical conflict between Zionist and pan-Arab nationalism, which was supported by the Soviet Union, Zionism won. The Egyptian leaders who succeeded Nasser, from Anwar Sadat to Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, preferred their country’s strategic interest in peace and stopped calling for Israel’s destruction, and today we are enjoying unprecedented cooperation with our Egyptian neighbors. The Arab League replaced the “three no’s” of Khartoum with a peace initiative, which includes positive elements even if parts of it must be updated to reflect the dramatic changes in the region.

Just as we defeated Nasserism, we can defeat the Palestinian national movement. Let’s put things in proportion: The Jewish people have had a unique historical tie to the Land of Israel for 3,500 years. The claim that there is a separate Palestinian people with a right to national self-determination appeared on the stage of history only a few decades ago, and was accepted as a legitimate viewpoint in Western public opinion only after the massacre of our athletes in Munich by the PLO murderers in 1972. Yes, the same Munich where the leaders of the West surrendered to Hitler and sacrificed Czechoslovakia 34 years earlier.

I want to stress that we don’t hate our neighbors. On the contrary: As I said in the Bar-Ilan speech seven years ago, a large community of Palestinians lives today in the heart of areas of the Jewish homeland. We don’t want to rule over them, we don’t want to run their lives and we don’t want to force our flag or our culture on them. In my vision of peace two free peoples live in our small country side by side, with good neighborly relations and mutual respect. Each has its own flag, its own national anthem and its own government. And neither of them threatens the security and survival of its neighbor.

Why doesn’t the vision come into being? Because the Palestinians are led by a national movement whose basis and raison d’etre is to deny the right of the Jewish people to have its nation state in its historical and eternal homeland. The mufti, founder of Palestinian ultranationalism, incited Hitler to murder the Jews of Europe; Arafat brought about international terror, provoked wars and caused terrible terror attacks. Arafat was succeeded by Hamas, whose convention preaches genocide, and by Mahmoud Abbas, a Holocaust denier who on every international platform incites against Israel, using anti-Semitic images.

That is why my first demand in any negotiations with the Palestinians was to reject their national narrative, demand a change of the Palestinian convention and demand that they recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. If they give up their ultranationalism and unreasonable demands such as the “right of return,” focus on trying to earn a decent living and live a peaceful life, and accept our demands – full security control in Judea and Samaria, deployment of the Israel Defense Forces in the Jordan Valley, leaving all the Jewish settlements in place and allowing their continued development, and a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty – we will be able to progress to a two-state solution. Until that happens, we will stick to the existing situation on the ground, and won’t give up the defensive wall that is vital for our survival and our security: the hills of Judea and Samaria.

They tell me that my vision is not practical, that the Palestinians won’t give up their national narrative and will continue to fight us. I disagree. The Soviet Union and Egypt were far stronger than the PLO or Hamas, and they gave up their ideology and changed.

How will we win? First of all, with patience and determination. The left and the media present me as a weak leader who is deterred by risk and prefers to react rather than be proactive. They’re right: I refrain from hopeless adventures, but that’s an expression of strength, not weakness. We all saw what happened to my predecessors, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, who launched daring diplomatic initiatives. They were applauded for their courage, but their peace initiatives were rejected and the territories they evacuated became bases for terror.

As British military thinker B. H. Liddell Hart said, there is a very thin line between courage and stupidity, or in Israeli parlance, they ended up “freiers” (suckers). I didn’t end up a freier. Since returning to power I haven’t given up a millimeter and I haven’t presented any map or detailed plan for an agreement. And still, during my tenure our side suffered the smallest number of terror attacks, wars and funerals. Like Reagan, I talked tough, increased the security budget and used force sparingly.

Regional and international developments in the past five years provide us with an unprecedented opportunity to achieve our goals. Syria has disintegrated, and with it the military threat of a ground invasion into Israel, and its chemical arsenal has been eliminated. Oil prices have dropped and the U.S. has achieved energy independence. The result is that the Sunni countries under the leadership of Saudi Arabia, along with Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, now see Israel as a partner and a source of strategic support in the face of the disturbing strengthening of Iran and the U.S. withdrawal from its intervention in the Middle East.

This week we signed a reconciliation agreement with Turkey, which reflected the basic interests of both countries. I am now demanding international recognition that the Golan will remain an integral part of Israel in any future arrangement for rehabilitating Syria. And I will achieve that recognition.

The main obstacle that we are confronting today is not Arab armies or terror organizations, but the support of liberal public opinion in the West for Palestinian ultranationalism. Support fueled by the attitude of the Israeli left and its continuing influence in the media, academia, the army and the judicial system. We cannot accept this situation.

The government that I formed last year is working with determination to replace the elites and to change the internal discourse in Israel, from defeatism and concessions to determination and strength. We will end the support by Israelis, both Jews and Arabs, for the legacy of the mufti and Arafat. We will dry up their funding and embarrass their activists, and we will place people who believe in victory in key positions.

Public opinion in the West will also change back in our favor. The leaders of the West looked on from the sidelines when hundreds of thousands were massacred in Syria and millions were uprooted from their homes. The moral stain will haunt U.S. President Barack Obama and his European colleagues, who refused to intervene in the Syrian civil war, and the suffering of the refugees from the inferno in Aleppo, Homs and Daraa will sink the Palestinian refugee problem into the depths of history.

The wholesale murder in Syria, the horrors of Islamic State (ISIS) and the mass terror attacks in Paris, Orlando and Istanbul are making it clear to the Western countries with whom we are dealing in the Middle East and the danger inherent in extremist Islam. President Obama refused to recognize that, but his term will soon come to an end. And we must admit honestly that despite the public disagreements between us, which often deviated from diplomatic protocol, Obama did nothing to endanger our continued control in Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights. Thank you, Mr. President.

In the West there is a growing recognition of the failure of multiculturalism and the policy of reconciliation with extremist Islam, about which I warned many years ago. The new leaders in the West will attempt to defeat the Jihadists, and the Jewish people and Israel will stand alongside them.

Citizens of Israel, in the past seven years you elected me prime minister three times, despite the terrible reports about my wife Sara and about me in the media. You understood what I’ve done to strengthen Israel’s security and economy, and preferred me to any other candidate or competitor. Stay with me until our decisive victory over the Palestinian national movement, which will guarantee the survival of the nation state of the Jewish people in its eternal homeland for the coming generations.

Thank you very much.