While strongly advocating a two-state solution for Israel and its Palestinian neighbors, former US president Bill Clinton stressed on Monday night that “preparing for the worst” in an uncertain Middle Eastern climate is a sensible attitude for the Jewish State.
“But if all you do is prepare for the worst and you don’t work for the best then there is no possibility of ever seeing the triumph of creative cooperation,” Clinton said.
Facing a surging Palestinian population in the West Bank, the only choice for Israel to remain a Jewish and democratic nation will be to work toward a two-state solution, Clinton said at an event in Rehovot on Monday night. The former US president was speaking about global cooperation and sustainability at a gala event of the Peres Academic Center, an event also held in the presence of President Shimon Peres in honor of his 90th birthday.
“You have to cobble together some kind of theory of a two-state solution, and the longer you let this go just because of sheer demographics the tougher it’s going to get,” he said. “I don’t see any alternative to a Palestinian state.”
Evaluating the status of the region as a whole, Clinton looked with both caution and hope at the results of Friday’s Iranian election.
“There’s the Iranian issue lurking in the background and there’s the question of whether the new election offers some promise of negotiation which could lead to the fulfillment of Iran’s stated objective without the fulfillment of what we fear is their real objective,” Clinton said.
Although he stressed that Israel is “doing great economically” and enjoys “relative peace and security at the moment,” Clinton pointed out that “everything still seems to be going to hell in a hand basket around” its borders.
That being said, the former US president told his audience that “it is a fascinating time to be alive” as scientific breakthroughs and solutions to global challenges emerge all over the world. In order to “claim the benefits of a global economy” and do so in a way that espouses human equality, governments and businesses must adopt behaviors that are socially and environmentally responsible, according to Clinton.
“Doing what is socially just is also helping to modernize the economy and lift the prospects of businesses,” Clinton said.
Emphasizing the importance of private sector in strengthening society as a whole, Clinton pointed to Israel’s particular expertise in this area, second only to the Silicon Valley in terms of startup success, first among OECD countries in internet penetration and first in the world in desalination technologies. He spoke of the importance of “using less more intelligently” in a manner that Israel has espoused since its founding.
“The Israeli solution is better and the rest of us will have to make the most of it,” he said. “You have a lot to be proud of.”
The world at large is facing the threats of climate change, which could lead to such dramatic events like the North Pole soon becoming ice free in the summer time, Clinton pointed out.
“That’s good news if you want to take a cruise ship,” he said. “But it could be bad news.”
For example, if all the ice on Greenland – about 8 percent of the global water supply – were to melt, the surplus of water could end up flowing into the Gulf Stream, he explained.
“You could have this perverse development that everything within 1,500 miles of the equator is burning up and northern Europe is so cold in the winter …that it would be virtually dysfunctional in the winter,” Clinton said.
Arriving to such a drastic situation, however, is “unnecessary” and very solvable, “but it will require a fundamental embrace of what you take for granted in your current innovation economy,” he continued.
Technologies and innovations that work on the ground, in real life, must be integrated into the political realm, as governments work to pursue positive solutions going forward rather than simply trying to prevent the bad. The air quality in Mexico City, for instance, used to be worse than that of Beijing, but today it’s better than that of Los Angeles “on a clean day” due to policy changes of the city’s government, Clinton said.
“There’s no challenge we have that we don’t have a pretty good idea what to do about it,” Clinton said.
Nonetheless, tackling such challenges requires the cross-border cooperation of multiple peoples as well as the active participation of the business community, he stressed. The private sector, for example, must learn that it can generate profits “by helping society” and keeping its consumers alive and healthy longer, he explained.
“You need cooperation, networks of people who band together to achieve a common cause,” Clinton said.
Clinton decided to donate the $500,000 payment slated to go to the Clinton Foundation for his speech back to the Peres Academic Center, and these funds will be dedicated to scholarships for students of the institution, according to Prof. Ron Shapira, president of the Peres Academic Center. The evening concluded with 90 children from the Neve Oz School in Petah Tivkah singing the Beatles’ Let It Be and Naomi Shemer’s Lu Yehi.