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"The new security fence is a direct result of Palestinian terror"

Remarks by Giora Eiland, Director of the National Security Council of Israel, at the Security Cenference 2004 in Munich

Im Folgenden dokumentieren wir die Rede des Direktors des Natiopnalen Sicherheitsrats Israels, Giora Eiland, auf der 40. Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz am 8. Februar 2004 im Wortlaut. Sobald eine deutsche Übersetzung vorliegt, werden wir auch sie dokumentieren.

Your Majesty King Abdullah, Senator Lugar, Mr. Shaath, ladies and gentlemen, friends.

Just a few weeks ago, after 33 years of military service, I assumed my first position in civilian life, as Israel's National Security Advisor. I am pleased that the Munich Security Conference has provided me with my first opportunity, outside of Israel, to address the national security challenges we now face. It is thus a particular pleasure to be here today.

This year marks a milestone in the history of Europe and the Trans-Atlantic Alliance, as EU and NATO expansion further promote the formation of the most integrated bloc of nations ever. Six decades after WW II, a decade after the Cold War, former adversaries will realize the fruits of their efforts to guarantee the hard won peace and prosperity of the post-war era. It will constitute a momentous expression of a common commitment to peace.

Indeed, the EU and NATO reflect two of the foremost lessons that Europe derived from decades of conflict: Firstly, the vital importance of democracy and market economies for the development of peace. And secondly, the need for an agreed security regime to ensure its existence; promote the mutual confidence necessary for common institutions and policies; and, no less importantly, provide mechanisms for peaceful resolution of disputes.

The Middle East, unfortunately, has yet to learn these lessons. It continues to suffer the darkness of authoritarian regimes, fundamentalist extremism, terror and armed conflict. Democracy, civil rights, market economies - all these remain rare in our region.

For years, the Arab world has portrayed Israel and the Palestinian issue as the source of all regional ills and yes, the conflict has created great pain for all. But, in truth, the Arab-Israeli conflict has been almost incidental to the region's socio-economic stagnation and its difficulties would not be different, in any significant way, in the absence of this conflict. Indeed, numerous other conflicts, having nothing to do with Israel, continue to plague the region.

Following the war in Iraq, much of the ME is today in a state of flux, giving rise to new hopes for the emergence of a more peaceful regional order. We know that domestic reform takes time, but across the region, tentative signs of change abound. Libya has been convinced to forego WMD and terror completely; Iran to partially and at least temporarily curtail its nuclear program; Iraq is now out of the WMD business; and Syria, too, faces the need to make new choices. As a result, new prospects exist for a positive change in the regional balance of power.

I regret that these signs of change have passed over the Palestinian arena, both in terms of the conflict with Israel and domestically. There are three primary reasons for this.

Firstly, for nearly a century, the Palestinians - and until recent years, much of the Arab world - have consistently taken an all or nothing approach. When faced with the choice of having a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish one, or none at all, they repeatedly chose the latter.

This was the case in 1937, with their rejection of the recommendations of the Peel Commission; in 1947, with their rejection of the UN Partition Plan, which provided for the establishment of both Jewish and Palestinian states. In 1967, with the infamous "three no's" at Khartoum; and in 2000 with their rejection of a deal at Camp David.

If a Palestinian state can be established today in the so-called "occupied territories", why was it not established before 1967? Indeed, why was this possibility never even considered? The PLO was established three years before the 1967 war: which Palestine, did it then wish to liberate, Already then, it's demand was for a state on all of Israel's territory and for its destruction.

Just three and a half years ago, Arafat was faced with dramatic proposals for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, both by the previous Government of Israel and the US Administration. As in the past, he was unwilling to accept less than all of his demands, yet he did not wish to explicitly reject a proposal that former President Clinton considered to be most generous.

As usual, Arafat never bothered to offer a counter proposal; instead he chose to launch a campaign of terror, designed to achieve his goals through violent means. As Abba Eban, Israel's former Foreign Minister once said, "the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity".

Ladies and gentlemen, when a negotiated settlement is truly the desired outcome and you are offered most of your demands - you cut a deal, you do not initiate bloodshed.

King Hussein of Jordan, a leader of great courage, understood this and made peace. Today, I have the honor of sharing this panel with his son, His Majesty, King Abdullah. President Sadat, too, understood this and forged the path to peace.

Terror is the second reason that the Palestinians have not achieved a state. Let there be no mistake: Palestinian terror is not a recent phenomenon, nor does it reflect a lack of will or ability to prevent it.

To the contrary, the root of the problem is the ongoing Palestinian legitimization of terror as a socially and politically accepted norm. This began in the 1920's - two decades before Israel's birth - and continues to this day. In 1996, at the height of the Oslo peace process, suicide terror attacks in Israeli cities derailed the talks.

For the Palestinians, terror is a tool of choice, a means of undermining Israel's national resolve and of achieving political aims through violence. To date (as of 3/2/04), 927 Israelis have been murdered, the vast majority civilians

Over half of those murdered were from suicide bombings in Israeli cities. Many of these atrocities, including the recent attack on a bus in Jerusalem, were perpetrated by so-called Palestinian "police".

The new security fence under construction is a direct result of Palestinian terror. The decision to build the fence was taken in March 2002, in direct response to the horrors of that month. 135 Israelis were murdered in 17 suicide attacks in that one month.

In contrast, in the year since the first part of the fence was completed, only 3 people were murdered in that sector, compared to 58 the previous year. In simple statistical terms, the fence saved the lives of 55 Israelis - in just one sector, in the first year alone.

The fence is a necessary, legitimate and temporary measure. Nevertheless the planning and the implementation of the course of the fence had failed to foresee all the repercussions the fence had on the life of innocent palestians. Israel should now study the full implication of the fence and to take effective steps to improve them, including where necessary changing the original path of the fence.

Thirdly, the Palestinians have failed to achieve a state, because of decades of extremist leadership. Beginning with the infamous Grand Mufti, Hadj Amin el-Husseini, the Palestinian leader in the 30's and 40's, and up to this very day, the Palestinian leadership has remained committed to unacceptable means and unattainable goals. Time after time, Arafat has pursued a radical and ultimately self-destructive strategy of sowing chaos to undermine every possible solution.

He sought to do so in Jordan in the early 70's, later in Lebanon and now in Israel. In each case, this strategy has only served to cause grave harm to all sides and to set the Palestinian cause back by years. Arafat has proved incapable of making the transition, as so many others have done, from head of a terrorist organization to statesman.

Instead, his preferred approach has been to complicate matters to a point where conflicting forces make a settlement impossible. In 1998, for example, he turned the main Palestinian political party into a militant militia, more powerful than his security organizations, which no longer had the ability to enforce order.

In the absence of any real prospect for a negotiated settlement, we face two choices today: we can either permit the current deadlock and bloodshed to continue or take action, unilateral if necessary, to try and produce a new and better reality.

Israel remains committed to President Bush's June 2002 vision of a ME peace, as the preferred basis for negotiations. In the coming months, however, should it prove impossible to implement the Road Map, Israel will simply have no alternative other than to initiate unilateral disengagement. This will reflect a decision on our part to begin a process of separation between our two peoples.

We know that a stable and permanent solution to the conflict will, of course, require bilateral understanding and negotiations. Israel will, therefore, continue to prefer a return to negotiations, if and when circumstances permit.

To this end, the Palestinians will have to make two crucial decisions: firstly, to recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, in peace and prosperity and, secondly, to forego terror completely. If they do so, Israel will be more than ready to do its part and to make big compromises to achieve peace and reconciliation.

It is often claimed that if Israel were just to withdraw from Arab territory, all problems would be resolved. We have some experience with this.

Four years ago, Israel withdrew from Lebanon to an internationally recognized border. UN experts strictly delineated the new line, indeed, so strictly that in some areas we had to move the existing border fence by as little as a few meters - in some cases by just 40 centimeters! Having completely fulfilled international demands, we reasonably expected peace and security on our northern border and for Lebanon to reassert its sovereignty.

Instead, Hizballah, a terrorist organization explicitly committed to Israel's destruction, has gained control over southern Lebanon. From there, it has conducted tens of terrorist attacks against Israel, across the border and through the West Bank.

Furthermore, with Syrian and Iranian assistance, Hizballah has built up an arsenal of over 10,000 rockets and now poses a significant strategic threat to the northern part of Israel. It has thus gained the ability to drag both Syria and Israel into a broad military confrontation, even if neither side so wishes.

Syria, for its part, in addition to supporting Hizballah, continues to provide safe haven, arms and operational guidance to other Palestinian terrorist organizations as well. This was demonstrated, horribly, in the recent attack at the Maxim restaurant in Haifa. 21 Jewish and Arab diners.

Iran remains publicly committed to Israel's destruction - the only case of a UN member that openly calls for another's destruction. Iran's extreme enmity towards Israel is a product of its theology - there is no other basis for conflict: we share no common border and have no territorial or ethnic disputes; we do not compete for resources - indeed, in the past, we had close ties.

Nonetheless, Iran actively supports Hizballah, Hamas, PIJ and other terror organizations, in fact, remains THE state sponsor of terror. At the same time, Iran is developing military capabilities explicitly designed for use against Israel and with a view to its destruction.

Having spoken both about the winds of change in the Middle East, as well as the forces of reaction, let me say a few words about the dimensions of a new, more promising Middle East:
  • Firstly, it would be based on political, socio-economic and educational reform. Only then will the Middle East cease exporting its problems to the world - and being a danger to itself.
  • Secondly, a renewed peace process in which all sides stand ready to compromise in order resolve the outstanding conflicts. Full recognition of Israel's right to exist as Jewish state, in security and prosperity, is essential.
  • Thirdly, radical regimes must be forced to permanently forego terror as an instrument of policy. Militant groups, operating from within their territory, but not subject to their authority, must be prohibited.
  • Fourthly, bilateral and multilateral frameworks for the promotion of regional cooperation and prosperity must be established, much as they have in Europe.
  • Finally, a fundamental normative change is needed, including recognition of the legitimacy of differing national aspirations.
Source: www.securityconference.de

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