The prime minister's speech

Now is the time for Israel to strengthen relations with the Arab world.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Having been engaged in the Arab-Israeli conflict as an advocate for peace, interlocutor, a keen observer and a commentator for much of my adult life, I periodically fantasize about the regional, if not the global, implications of Arab-Israeli peace. I dream what seems to be an impossible dream because I believe in the dynamism and wealth of the human resources and creativity that both Israelis and Palestinians bountifully enjoy. Peace between Israel and the whole Arab world would usher in a renaissance period to the Middle East that history pages have yet to record.
When Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced the expansion of his coalition government to include Kadima, which granted him a historic majority in the Israeli Parliament, I again fantasized about the prospect of such a comprehensive peace. Truthfully, if a coalition government representing three quarters of the Israeli electorates cannot muster the will and the courage to forge peace, who can, and under what conditions? Israeli and Palestinian leaders, regardless of their political coloration, must sooner rather than later confront the inevitability of coexistence, regardless of the circumstances. Israel, in particular, who is on the defensive for continuing the occupation and the expansion of settlements, must strive to end its increasing isolation.
With Islamists waging vicious verbal assaults against Israel and preparing for violent confrontationsm against the Jewish State, there are those who understandably argue that now is not the right time for Israel to reach out to the Arab world. Even though this may be the case, is there a better time to diffuse the tension and resolve the conflict with Palestinians, which remains at the very core of the Arabs resentment of Israel?
If past experience prevents Israel from trusting the Palestinians, then why not shift the onus and let them prove to the entire international community where they really stand? The prime minister should reach out to the whole world, particularly the Arab and Muslim world, and begin a constructive dialogue with the Palestinians. He should project a strong and unified vision for the future that will resonate in every corner of the globe.
I have no illusions that Netanyahu or any current political leader in Israel can, or will, deliver such a speech. And yes, this vision sounds like a fantasy, and it may very well remain a hypothetical. But stop and think for a moment. The general framework for peace is not likely to change dramatically over time so the question is: will Israel improve its position as the months and years pass by? The imperatives and choices for Israel are clear: Israel must now take the initiative and choose wisely. And yes, Israel can still become a “light onto other nations” as long as it walks a high moral ground with confidence and determination.
And so I envisage a dream speech that Netanyahu or his successor could deliver to the world about Israel’s new transformative political vision to achieve peace, the consequences of which, I believe, would be incomparable to any development in Israel’s history other than the very birth of the state itself. 
And so here is, the prime minister of Israel: 
I stand before you with pride and humility, the citizens of Israel, the citizens of the world, friends and foes alike. In this momentous hour in our region, when upheaval is sweeping one country after another,when young men and women are dying for freedom,when children perish on the altar of despotism, when tyrants have their way, when religion is used to prey, when extremism is still on the rise, and when reformers are struggling to stay alive
But when new opportunities appear on the horizon, we must be worthy of rising to the occasion. Now is the time to correct our ways. It is the hour to redress our mistakes.It is the moment when we must say enough is enough.
Enough of agony and pain. Enough to displacement and terror. Enough to bloodshed and suffering. Enough to blaming and recrimination and enough to violence and the never ending horror.
We must change course, and we must begin now.
First, I want to extend our hand to the Palestinian people.
We share the same land. We must now share the same destiny. Sixty four years of enmity and disdain must now come to an end. An end to wanton violence, an end to hatred and distrust,an end to displacement and discrimination, and an end to detention and occupation.
We coexist and will continue to coexist; we must now decide on the quality of our coexistence. Do we want to continue to hate, conspire, mistrust and slay or do we want to prosper together? A two-state solution is not one of many choices, it is the only viable choice that will preserve our national identities. We must avoid unilateral disengagement and be ready to negotiate a fair solution, a resolution that answers the yearning of Israelis and Palestinians alike: a Jewish state and a Palestinian state, living side-by-side in peace and harmony.
We have no preconditions and no other stipulations but permanently forsaking violence  and an irreversible recognition of our right to a state of our own by every Palestinian political faction that seeks to lead a Palestinian state.
We will begin by suspending all settlements’ constructions. Release most Palestinian prisoners as a gesture of good faith. Guided by previous negotiations and the mutuality of agreements we have reached on several key conflicting issues, we will be ready to enter immediately into new talks: starting with the borders’ dispute through a land swap.
Seek a fair solution to the Palestinian refugees with the support of the international community, through resettlements in their homeland-  the West Bank and Gaza- or through rehabilitation and compensation for those who seek to stay in their current place of residence.Establish a solid framework for national security arrangementsfor all our people to ensure peace for generations to come. And most importantly, we will make Jerusalem the symbol of coexistence, a capital for a two-state solution, the microcosm of peace between our people.
True, these conflicting issues have been intractable and we made them ever more inflexible with biases and selective perceptions, perceptions nurtured by historical bitter experiences, and sealed with deep conviction about the wrongs that have been done by the other locking both sides into immobile positions.
The  outcome was mutual denial and delegitimization of the other’s rights.But now, as we commit ourselves to ending the conflict we must begin by mitigating the psychological dimension of every conflicting issue. Instead of publically promoting our differences, and emphasizing the injustices and wrongdoings perpetrated by the other we must now alter our public narratives.We must speak openly about the inevitability of coexistence, and express our commitment to reconcile. Thus, the need to make painful compromises and allow our respective publics to live and thrive together in peace.
We do not stretch our hands for peace out of weakness or fear, but with confidence in our ability to defend ourselves and prevail. Those extremists who will continue to harbor ill intent against us, and are bent on our destruction will do so at their peril first.
Grasp our hands in peace now. Let us forge a peace with dignity, equitable peace that will endure. Peace on the promised land to which our peoples  have boundless reverence and affinity.
To the whole Arab world we say: Jews and Arabs have lived for millennia together. We are ready to rebuild with you the bridges of peace, ready to embrace the principles of the Arab Peace Initiative, work with the newly elected democratic governments regardless of their political or religious leanings.We will live up to our treaties’ obligations, and honor all previous commitments as long as all parties concerned adhere to the same.We are ready to make peace with our remaining neighbors  once a government of the people is established and demonstrate their commitment to a lasting peace.
We are ready to cooperate on regional security arrangements, ready for expansive trade relations,ready for scientific and technological exchanges, and ready for tourism and full diplomatic relations.We know that much of this must await peace with the Palestinians,and time to build renewed trust. The whole Arab world can assist to bring this about.We ask current and newly emerging Arab governments to influence extremist Palestinian factions, to change their attitude toward Israel and accept our irrevocable reality as was affirmed by the Arab Peace Initiative. 
We know that peace must come. Extend your hand to us and peace will be in our grasp. Now, in our time.
The time has also come to renew our relations with Turkey.
Jews the world over are indebted to the Turkish people for providing refuge and protection over the centuries, for being the first Muslim country to recognize our state,and for the friendship and alliance between us that has evolved over times of tranquility and turmoil. We deeply regret the precipitous decline in our relations. Many mistakes have been made on both sides, and we have had our share of errors.
With the Middle East in turmoil, the perilously unfolding crisis in Syria, and the concerns over Iran’s nuclear program, Turkey and Israel must bond together again. Our strategic national interests remain intertwined, we must now put the Marmara episode behind us.We apologize for the lives that were lost.  Indeed, the death of any one innocent person at any time, in any place and  under any circumstances is unfortunate.So we must learn from this sad episode and look with great anticipationto renewed vigorous bilateral relations.Our apology is not a sign of weaknessbut one of strength of conviction. It would not be a victory for Turkey but a victory for the human spirit That transcends the hour and brings nations together.
Jews and Persians have had a millennia-long history of amity and peace. We wish to enjoy the same relations  for hundreds of years to come.Yet, we will not engage in wishful thinking, when we are existentially threatenedby a repugnant regime that has gone mad. While we extend our hand in peace to the Iranian nation, we will stop short of nothing to defend our people. Iran will be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons. Because Iran with nuclear arsenals runs the risk of a nuclear conflagration, the consequences of which  are far more terrifyingly destructive than obliterating Iran’s nuclear facilities. The Iranian regime should never doubtour unshakable resolve to live and persevere by our convictions fortified by our will and military might. But peace is what we seek.
We will be ready to discuss a Middle East as a zone free of weapons of mass destruction once a comprehensive and enduring peace between Israel and the Arab world and with Iran, in particular, has been achieved.
To our friends and allies in Europe: We understand your concerns over the region’s stability,your trepidation about new conflicts,and your vast national interests in our region.We are most sincere in our efforts to mitigate any conflict in which we have a say. We deeply appreciate your support and are grateful for taking to heart our national concerns.As much as Israel is and will further be integrated into the Middle East, it remains beholden to European values.Now that you know where we stand, we welcome your continued involvement in the peace process, and deeply appreciate your assistance.We look forward to our continued security collaboration, to promote further economic and technological cooperation, and make Israel and Europe united in their dream of regional peace and human dignity for all inhabitants.
United States
And finally, I turn to the beloved: the United States of America.
A trusted friend and a staunch ally. Throughout our short history,America stood by us. Never wavered. Never equivocated. Never hesitated to provide us with the political support and means to protect ourselves and prosper. We look up to you America with praise and respect.We look up to you America for guidance to help us navigate through the hazardous road ahead.
May God bless America, bless the people of Israel, bless all peace seekers and the dreamers of the brotherhood of  man.
The writer is professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.