I want to talk about three key steps to secure Israel’s future.
up to Iran.
- Seizing the opportunities presented by the Arab Spring and
the spread of democracy in the wider region.
- And making the hard
choices needed to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians.
Let me take
each in turn. First, Iran.
Let’s be clear about the facts. Iran is
flouting six United Nations resolutions.
The regime’s claim that its
nuclear program is intended purely for civilian purposes is not remotely
And it has shown its violent agenda by exporting terror and
violence to Iraq, to Syria, to Gaza, to Lebanon and to many peace-loving
countries across the world.
Iran is not just a threat to Israel. It is a
threat to the world.
Now there are some who say nothing will work – and
that we have to learn to live with a nuclear armed Iran.
I say we don’t
and we shouldn’t.
But at the same time I also refuse to give in to those
who say that the current policy is fatally flawed, and that we have no choice
but military action. A negotiated settlement remains within Iran’s
But until they change course, we have a strategy of ever-tougher
Just today, Britain has secured a further round of new
sanctions through the EU Foreign Affairs Council. And these relentless sanctions
are having an impact that very few expected a year ago.
They have slowed
the nuclear program.
Iranian oil exports have fallen by 45 percent.
That’s 1 million fewer barrels a day and $8 billion in revenues lost every
The rial has plummeted – losing around half its value between
May and September.
Inflation is soaring – thought to be as much as 50%.
And the Iranian regime has had to establish an economic austerity task force to
manage the pressure they have brought on their own people.
significantly, there are signs that the Iranian people are beginning to question
the regime’s strategy, with even pro-regime groups protesting at the actions of
It’s frankly mind-boggling that the leaders of a nation
so rich in oil have succeeded in turning their country into a banana republic
desperately trying to put rockets into space while their own people
The Iranian regime is under unprecedented pressure and faces an
acute dilemma. They are leading their people to global isolation and an economic
collapse. And they know it.
They know too that there is a simple way to
bring sanctions to an end: By giving the international community the confidence
we need that they are not and will not develop a nuclear weapon.
said to Prime Minister Netanyahu that now is not the time for Israel to resort
to military action.
Beyond the unpredictable dangers inherent in any
conflict, the other reason is this: At the very moment when the regime faces
unprecedented pressure and the people are on the streets, and when Iran’s only
real ally in Syria is losing his grip on power, a foreign military strike is
exactly the chance the regime would look for to unite its people against a
We shouldn’t give them that chance. We need the courage to
give these sanctions time to work.
But let me also say this. In the long
term, if Iran makes the wrong choice, nothing – and I mean nothing – is off the
table. A nuclear-armed Iran is a threat to Israel. And a threat to the
And this country will work unwaveringly to prevent that from
Let me turn to the changing events in the wider region. I have
no illusions about the dangers that political transition can bring in the Arab
And I understand why instability can be a great cause
for concern. I understand how dark things were for Israel when surrounded by
enemies on every border. And I understand how Israelis feel when gas masks are
handed out to families, and car parks are converted into bomb
But I passionately believe that what we are seeing through the
Arab Spring need not be a new threat to Israel’s security. Democracy and open
societies are not the problem – they can be a big part of the
Yes, there are those who believe that in a volatile region only
an authoritarian strongman can maintain stability and security. But when brutal
dictators suppress their people in the name of stability, the end result is a
region that more dangerous – not less.
More dangerous because these
regimes abuse the Palestinian cause to smother their own people’s hopes and
aspirations, dealing with frustration at home by whipping up anger against their
neighbors, Israel and the West. And more dangerous, too, because people denied a
job and a voice are given no alternative but a dead-end choice between
dictatorship or extremism.
Now, of course, many fear that elections can
open the door to Islamist parties whose values are incompatible with truly open
But the answer is not to oppose elections. The answer is to
respect the outcome of elections. And then judge governments by what they
For example, there are big questions facing President Morsi in
We want to know if he will live up to his commitments to protect
the rule of law for all citizens, defend the rights of minorities and allow
women to play a full role in society.
And I challenged him personally on
these points when I met him in New York last month.
But when he
re-launches Operation Eagle to try and do something about the lawlessness in the
Sinai, we should welcome that. And when he goes to Tehran and speaks the truth
to that regime about its despicable actions in Syria in support of Assad, we
should welcome that too.
But if the Islamists attempt to undermine the
stability of other countries or encourage terrorism instead of peace and
conflict instead of partnership then we must and will oppose them. And that is
why we will not waver from our insistence that Hamas gives up violence and that
the rockets from Gaza must stop. Hamas must not be allowed to dictate the way
forwards for Israelis and Palestinians.
Of course, the Arab Spring
presents huge challenges. But if we can show the strength and courage to engage
with new democratic governments, their chance to establish the building blocks
of democracy, fair economies and open societies offers the greatest opportunity
for stability and peace in a generation.
That brings me to the
Palestinian territories and the peace process. We can’t advocate democracy and
open societies in one breath and then cite the need for stability as an excuse
for why the Palestinians shouldn’t renew their democracy too.
seven years since Palestinians voted for a president and six since parliamentary
elections. The Palestinian leadership needs to refresh its mandate and show it
has the consent of its people, starting with municipal elections later this
month. And it needs to resolve the situation in Gaza and restore to Palestinians
a unified leadership able to deliver peaceful resolution of the conflict with
So Palestinian reconciliation and Palestinian elections are key
points on the path to peace – because without consent there can never be
It will require great strength and courage to take
the hard choices needed to resolve the conflict with the
And let me say this: I know it takes two to
So let me tell President Abbas something very clearly: There
is no path to statehood except through talks with Israel.
So if the
Palestinian plan is simply posturing with the UN rather than negotiating with
Israel, Britain will never support it.
And let me say this to the
Palestinians, too. Britain will never support anyone who sponsors a football
tournament named after a suicide bomber who killed 20 Israelis in a restaurant.
We will not tolerate incitement to terrorism.
But in the search for peace
both sides have to make hard choices. And just as President Abbas has followed
through his commitment to nonviolence with real progress on the West Bank, so
Israel needs a real drive to improve life for ordinary Palestinians.
means more support for economic development in the West Bank, relaxing
restrictions on Gaza, ending the demolition of Palestinian homes, and yes, it
means meeting Israel’s obligations under the road map and under international
law to halt settlement building.
Britain’s position will not
Settlements beyond the Green Line are illegal.
I know how
hard the concessions needed for peace can be. But the truth is, I believe that
time is running out for a two-state solution – and with it Israel’s best chance
to live in peace with its neighbors.
For now, Israel will continue to
face acute threats and a hard road to peace. But with strength and courage we
can, together, stand up to Iran.
We can, together, seize the
opportunities presented by the spread of democracy in the wider region. And we
can together take the hard choices needed to resolve the conflict with the
Palestinians.David Cameron is the prime minister of Britain.