Podium: Spirit of Israel is not an extinct fossil

From a speech by the Prime Minister of Israel marking the state's 50th anniversary
Click to follow
PEACE IS something that concerns the very life and future security of the State of Israel. If we are to have peace, then Israel must have secure and defensible boundaries. And these are things that we will never, ever give up.

We know that for there to be any meaning to peace agreements they must be, like all agreements, adhered to by both sides. Hence our insistence, our strong insistence, on Palestinian compliance. It is not enough that Israel fulfil its obligations, which it has. It is prepared to complete the remaining obligations. The gap there, in our discussions with the United States, is small, even very small. But that is not enough. For peace to reign, there must be a similar compliance, an equal compliance, by the Palestinian Authority.

The crucial question is whether the Palestinians themselves are eager to finish the negotiations or to maintain and sustain a climate of crisis without resolution. I remind you that the talks were suspended by the Palestinians 15 months ago, using Har Homa as a pretext. If you are serious about peace, you don't suspend negotiations for more than a year because of a housing project.

The only thing that is holding up the process is the Palestinian refusal to comply with the commitments they have made repeatedly for five years, first under Oslo I five years ago, then under Oslo II three years ago, then in the Hebron agreements a little over one year ago. The Palestinians are obliged to revise their charter, to arrest known terrorist leaders, to disarm the terror groups, to transfer wanted murderers to Israel and, coincidentally, to the United States, to stop poisonous incitement which calls for murder and Jihad.

You should see the kind of incitement that is broadcast on the Palestinian Sesame Street under educational TV, where children as young as three and four get up and speak about shedding their blood and covering the ground, saturating it with the blood of martyrs. They all want to be martyrs or suicide bombers. That is not the way to educate the younger generation of Palestinians towards genuine peace. That has to stop. The incitement, the propaganda, the vitriolic anti-Semitism must stop. And Palestinian television, and radio and press, is controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

There was one historian, Arnold Toynbee, a noted British historian, who said that "the Jewish people are a fossil". But fossils do not come back to life. It might have been possible to think that Toynbee was right after the successive cascade of catastrophes that befell our people in the last 2,000 years, and especially in the last 500 years - from the expulsion of Spain to the mass pogroms and exiles in Europe and, of course, even to the most horrific experience of all - of a displaced, homeless, stateless people. That is the destruction of European Jewry, the loss of one-third, or every third Jew in the world. And after the Holocaust, it might have been possible to think that the Jewish people had succumbed, after 4,000 years of unparalleled struggle under the sun, to the forces of history - to Toynbee's projection to becoming, in fact, an extinct, an impressive, proud, but extinct fossil.

In fact the Jews of the West were rushing headlong into assimilation and loss of identity and intermarriage. And the Jews of the East were facing new and grim threats. Stalin, for example, intended to classify the Jews formally in the former Soviet Union as class enemies - and you know what that means.

And there were, of course, other perils to other imperilled Jewish communities. So it would have been possible to say, 50 years ago, that it was just a question of time before the end came. We know that that has not happened.

And the principal, the central and the indispensable reason why that didn't happen was the founding of the State of Israel and its subsequent successes. I can say confidently that if the State of Israel had existed 10 years earlier, before 1940, then the Holocaust would not have happened. But the corollary to that is this: that if the State of Israel had not been founded after the Holocaust, the Jewish future would have been imperilled. In fact, there wouldn't have been a Jewish future - there would have been one process of continuous disintegration.

Here's what the Jewish people were able to do in the Jewish state. For the first time in thousands of years, the Jews created an instrument for self-defence to repel attacks against them.

As long as we live in this world, the Jews cannot afford to be defenceless. The State of Israel gave the Jewish people a haven and the means to defend themselves.