A partial draft of the prime minister's Sunday speech... maybe.
Honorable guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Since it's the series of statements emanating from inside his administration, culminating in his speech in Cairo on June 4, that played a major part in prompting me to make this address, I'd like to begin with some remarks directed to President Barack Obama.
Mr. President, we here in Israel watched your astonishing, improbable long haul to victory in last year's elections with admiration, even awe. You energized your nation. You created a sense of hope and optimism at a particularly unpromising juncture. You enfranchised a portion of your populace that had never believed it would find authentic representation at the highest level of government. You resonated integrity and a determination to institute real, constructive change at home and abroad.
Observing from so many miles away, yet sharing so many of your goals, we felt - and we feel - an immense stake in your success. Most importantly, if you can, somehow, manage to create an atmosphere in which Muslims in our region and beyond can find the strength and conviction to marginalize the extremists who emblemize Islam's most radical and ungodly aspects - well, we need hardly tell you how utterly this would change every aspect of our reality.
But since you are a politician determined to speak the truth in all your dealings, and anxious to hear back honestly, too, it would be wrong for me not to highlight to you some heartfelt concerns about your approach, several of which emerged from your Cairo "outreach" address, and others which became clear in our White House meeting last month and subsequent contacts.
I cannot overstress how important it is that you first internalize and then make clear, in your dealings with the Muslim world over the coming weeks and months, that the legitimacy of our Jewish homeland does not derive from the centuries of persecution of Jews worldwide that culminated in the murder of six million of our people during the Holocaust. This was the narrative you adopted in your June 4 address - and it is wrong, dangerously so.
Our shared foe, Iran, strategically peddles precisely such a narrative in order to delegitimize Israel, insisting that our country is a colonial intruder unjustly imposed upon the blameless Palestinians as a consequence of European guilt. The Jews may well have the right to live in security, this foul argument continues, perhaps even in a country of their own... somewhere or other. But not in the Middle East, at the ostensible expense of the Palestinians.
The truth, however, Mr. President, is that the establishment of Israel in 1948 was not a birth but a rebirth - the belated revival of Jewish sovereignty in the one place where the Jews seek, and have the undeniable right, to maintain statehood. For this is our biblical, historical homeland, a land in which we have lived whenever we have mustered the strength to do so, and nobody can stake a more legitimate claim to it.
And yet, when the international community belatedly relegitimized Jewish sovereignty here, we reluctantly accepted that others had claims, too, and agreed to share Palestine, in peace - a Jewish entity alongside an Arab entity - even at the cost of disconnection from many of the most resonant places in our history in Judea and Samaria.
Here, I must say with the honesty of a troubled friend, lies the second of the apparent misconceptions or misreadings that so trouble me and many of my people in your summations and outlook. You appeared to imply in your June 4 remarks a parallel of sorts between the Nazis' effort to wipe out the entire Jewish nation in the Holocaust and Palestinian suffering through the decades. And you then exacerbated the misrepresentation with your depiction of the causes of Palestinian suffering.
I would not be so bold as to claim that Israel's efforts at reconciliation with the Palestinians have always been as astute as they could have been. But a fair reading of recent history can allow for no other conclusion but that the Palestinians would have been living in peace alongside Israel for decades, in a viable realization of that international vision for post-Mandate Palestine, if only they and those who spoke for them had wished it.
It was they who rejected the partition of Palestine more than 60 years ago, and my predecessors who accepted it. It was they who sought to kill my nascent country as it began to draw breath, rejecting its legitimacy and relentlessly seeking its destruction in the first two decades of our statehood, before there was any "occupation," any "illegal West Bank settlement." It was they and their successors who, principally, condemned the Palestinians to the suffering you so eloquently detailed. While we absorbed our Jewish refugees and built a thriving country, they fostered violence and victimhood, and insist until today on cynically keeping their refugee wound open even in the uncontested, Jew-free Gaza Strip.
Unfortunately, this rejection of viable partition is not a function of the precise demarcation of contested borders, requiring a little more flexibility from one side or another, but rather a fundamental, abiding refusal on the part of the Palestinians and most of the wider Arab world to genuinely reconcile to the fact of our existence here.
Hence what may seem to you to be my bizarre insistence that, at some stage or other of any negotiating process, the Palestinians formally acknowledge Israel as the state of the Jewish people. This is not an obstacle placed by Israel on the road to peace. This is an essential component of peace. Achieve that, Mr. President, help overcome that fundamental Arab resistance to the very fact of Jewish Israel, and the hard part of the peace process is done.
SINCE I have no desire to gift our enemies the capacity to depict Israel as an obstacle to peace, I hereby declare from this podium that I am more than ready to discuss the Arab League's peace overtures as a constructive aspect of normalization - though emphatically not the last word. Neither my government nor any Israeli government, I should stress in this respect, intends to commit national suicide by countenancing an influx of Palestinians that would alter the demographic balance of the world's only Jewish state.
I further make plain that Israel under my government will honor all agreements approved by previous governments, including the diplomatic "road map" and the path to Palestinian statehood that it sets out. But I stress that our support for a new "Palestine" stands in principle only. The familiar model of sovereignty simply cannot work in this context at this time. Our country, nine miles wide at its narrowest point, dwarfed territorially and demographically by neighbors once or still avowedly hostile to us, dare not and will not sanction on its borders a sovereign entity that would legally acquire the means to achieve our destruction.
If we can together encourage the emergence of a Palestinian leadership that does acknowledge Israel's right to exist as an overwhelmingly Jewish entity, if we can together create the circumstances in which truly viable terms for reconciliation can be found, Mr. President, you will find me driving a hard territorial bargain but not an impossible one. Already, in 2005, one of my predecessors demonstrated, wrong-headedly in my opinion, a readiness to dismantle an entire settlement community in a bid to achieve calm for my country. I will not be found wanting, even at the expense of confrontation with my beloved colleagues resettling the biblical lands of Judea and Samaria, in the cause of true peace. But I will be leonine in defending our security in its absence.
Our caveat about Palestinian statehood, in short, is that their independence and future must not be shaped and realized at the expense of ours. By way of one small example, short-range rocket fire, salvoes far more rudimentary than those that have been fired against us in recent years from Gaza and from southern Lebanon, would make daily life in my country impossible if directed at us from the West Bank. You yourself, who showed such sympathy with the people of Sderot when you visited us as a presidential candidate last year, would not have been permitted by your security detail to fly into our airport if such an untenable reality prevailed.
MR. PRESIDENT, I have much that I want to say to the Palestinians, to the Arab world, and to my own people in this address. But to you, finally, let me stress again my support for your attempt at fostering "a new beginning" with the Muslim world, even as I seek to underline the urgency of the moment.
Many, I hope most of us seek to live in a climate where the divine gift of life is universally appreciated. We want to live in a climate in which the quotation you cited from the Koran on June 4, and which I find in the Talmud, in Sanhedrin - that he who saves one life saves the world - is fully internalized. A world of "live, and let live."
Sadly, terribly, however, the Muslim fundamentalists you seek to shift toward moderation, or to marginalize, are insistent that their god requires them to kill and be killed - that paradise awaits those who murder the unbelievers and die themselves in the process. It is the combination of this deathly ambition with the weaponry to achieve it on an apocalyptic scale that so worries us when we look to Iran. That regime, with that weaponry, constitutes an unbearable threat to our lives - and by "our," Mr. President, I mean mine and yours, my people's and your people's.
So even as I commend your readiness to go the extra mile and seek, however improbably, to defuse the zealotry of the Iranian regime, I implore you not to be distracted by the pretexts so conveniently invoked to falsely justify Islamic grievance. Muslim extremist aggression is driven not by the unsolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by your troops' presence in Iraq, by anger at Western liberalism or any other purported cause, but, rather, by a perverted sense of religious imperative.
I urge you, too, not to wait too long to draw your conclusions about Iran; I must tell you that I have long since drawn mine.
And I beseech you, finally, for the sake of the whole free world, and those who long to be free and look to you as freedom's shining, powerful new exemplar, not to underestimate man's capacity to do the unthinkable against his fellow man. You are a good man, Mr. President - of that, your people, and mine, have no doubt. But as many wise men have rightly observed, all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.