On the State of the Nation—and what is to be done? By Ehud Barak

Sep 22, 2016 Published under Global, Leadership, Middle East

I just recently had a chance to read Ehud Barak’s speech from earlier this summer in full and I truly consider it to be one of the most important commentaries in years on the challenges Israel faces.

On the State of the Nation—and what is to be done?

A speech at the IDC, Herzliya, June 16, 2016


This year, we mark 120 years since the First Zionist Congress in Basel. Next year, we will mark 70 years since the UN resolution that led to the establishment of the State of Israel and 50 years since the Six-Day War. This is undoubtedly an appropriate time for introspection.

We have had great achievements. Zionism is the most successful national project of the 20th century. It is the shared project of a bold and far-reaching leadership and a nation that stood on the brink of disaster, defied it, and survived.

Three years after the fires in the crematoria were extinguished, the State of Israel, led by David Ben-Gurion, was born into war. Despite the difficulties—seven wars, two (or perhaps three) intifadas, countless operations in between, and quite a bit of other kinds of trouble—Israel could look back at its history with contentment and pride.

The population grew twelvefold, and a majority of the Jewish people worldwide live here with us. Our GNP increased 60 times over; the shekel is one of the strongest currencies in the world; we are a high-tech superpower; we’re members in the OECD; we have an advanced military equipped with state-of-the-art systems; we boast Nobel Prize laureates in science who reflect our scientific potential; we have a rich cultural life; and the quality of our infrastructure is undergoing a positive revolution. Israel is the most powerful nation in the region, from Benghazi to Tehran, and will remain so in every possible aspect—militarily, strategically, economically and, if we conduct ourselves properly with the United States, diplomatically and politically as well.

There were also hard times. But along the way, when put to the test in the moment of truth—inspirational unity and healthy national pride prevailed among the people.

And yet, the shadows on the edges of our lives are lengthening, and a storm is gathering on the horizon. Many have a nagging feeling that, despite the tangible achievements we’ve had, we’re on a collision course with reality and facing significant threats.

The ever-lengthening shadows are numerous: terrorism within; ISIS, Hamas, and Hezbollah threatening from without; an impasse with the Palestinians; friction with the US; increasing international isolation; rising anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli sentiment; the BDS movement; a loss of support from Jewish communities worldwide and university students in the US; internal tensions and the weakening of cohesion and solidarity in society; the high cost of living; ever rising housing prices; the weakening of the middle class; injustice in the distribution of wealth; unequal opportunities for children in the center compared to those in the periphery; injustice in the treatment of Israeli Arabs; and the inequality in carrying the burden of service to the country.

On top of that, our national discourse has taken a turn, becoming more vitriolic, violent, obstinate, inciting, and divisive. At the extremist margins of this internal discourse come serious and outrageous incidents that tarnish us all.

And so on and so forth.

The difficulties are immense, but there are also opportunities—perhaps for a regional agreement, in light of the pressure our moderate neighbors are facing. There is certainly an opportunity to repair our relations with the US. And there are also many opportunities for Israel in the global techno-scientific revolution that is taking place before our very eyes.

The nation—both on the left and right side of the political map—are good people. They are dynamic, creative, adaptable, direct, blunt, and still thoughtful and ready to sacrifice and act.

Look to the periphery, to the units of the IDF, and to the colleges, and you shall find an Israel that is more patriotic, prouder, more optimistic, and more trusting than what the media portrays.

Out on the Israeli streets—in cafés, community centers, schools—there is an expectation for a strong and involved leadership that sets a good example. Among the people, you will find willingness to act and sacrifice, in addition to pride in the State, the IDF, the flag, and the national anthem.

The problem is, however, that there is no public discourse over goals, the future, where we want to go, and how we intend to get there. We don’t have a ‘shared vision.’ Where is Israel heading? As you know, ‘Where there is no vision, the people shall perish.’

A shared vision, by its very nature, is drawn from the nation’s history, the Bible, the Declaration of Independence, Theodor Herzl, David Ben-Gurion and Ze’ev Jabotinsky—from the example set by the leaders of the past and from an understanding of the challenges in the present and in the future.

This shared vision was shaped by the memory of those who prayed for ‘Next year in Jerusalem,’ those who died for Kiddush HaShem throughout the generations, the souls reduced to ashes in the crematoria, the sweat, toil and tears of the pioneers and the blood and dreams of our fallen fighters.

This vision is what propelled the achievements of Zionism over the past 120 and 70 years. At the very core of this vision was the renewal of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel, the cradle of our civilization.

This vision had three characteristics: Israel is a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state; Israel is strong, confident, and prosperous; and Israel is an Exemplary Society.

This vision, which we’ve been able to successfully realize in many concrete ways, is yet to reach its full potential:

  • A strong Israel—in all aspects: militarily, strategically, economically, internationally, and internally united.
  • A confident Israel—in itself, in its accomplishments, in its strength, and in its ability to take a sober look at reality, as cruel as that reality might be, and act both to defeat any enemy that provokes it and to make the necessary diplomatic and political decisions, however painful.
  • A prosperous Israel—in education, culture, science, sports, economics, infrastructure, and in quality of life.
  • Israel as an Exemplary Society—a leading society in its domestic solidarity, in closing social and economic gaps, in its inclusion of all sectors. All of this has to be done in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, in providing equal opportunities to every child, and in demanding responsibility from every citizen and group. A society whose citizens can fulfill their potential, whose sons and daughters choose to live and raise their children and grandchildren in it. A society that every young Jew worldwide would be proud of being affiliated with.

The realization of this vision is in our hands. Within 10 to 15 years, we could put Israel at the cutting edge of the world’s nations—and be proud of our achievements. We know that we have a wonderful, creative, dynamic, and fierce nation. There is nothing that the Swedes, the Finns, the Danes, the Singaporeans or the Dutch can do that we cannot do just as well—or even better.

There are also hardships. We are surrounded by dangers, and while it is true these threats must not be disregarded or ignored, there is also nothing to be afraid of. As President Roosevelt said, ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’ We successfully faced much greater challenges before, and together we can deal with the challenges currently on our doorstep.

But ‘where there is no vision, the people shall perish’ is not just an observation on the nature of history. This is a call for concrete action and for a formative leadership—accompanied by a note of caution regarding the consequences of failure.

How are we dealing with this test today?

All of us—left and right, religious and secular, and so forth—understand, and expect the national leadership to also understand that the important elements to realizing this vision are:

  • Audacity—not fear
  • Pride—not victimhood
  • Unity—not tribalism
  • The individual citizen and his family—not the Big Money
  • Tolerance—not incitement.

But where did that leadership disappear to? What happened to our leadership? Why is it leading us in the complete opposite direction? Why do we see—day after day—in the government and in its Prime Minister:

  • Pessimism, passivity, fear and paralysis—instead of self-confidence, courage and the strength to take decisions and act upon them.
  • Whiny victimhood mixed with self-pity—instead of the instinctive feeling of pride in every Israeli heart.
  • Discord and dissension, the incitement of one against another, the policy of ‘divide and rule’—instead of promoting unity among the people alongside the right to disagree with one another and the simple recognition that, at the end of the day, ‘What unites us is greater than what divides us.’
  • The preferential treatment of tycoons at the expense of the rank-and-file citizens, their family, and their right to make an honest living and ensure the future of their children.
  • Incitement and brutality, a discourse of hatred, and the silencing of other voices, instead of a tolerant and attentive discourse that recognizes the many nuances and cultures among us.

And how is it possible that all of this is happening, day after day, conflicting with the national interest, at the expense of all citizens, in contradiction even to the interests of Likud and right-wing voters, in contradiction to our security needs, all the while Israel’s international status continues to deteriorate?

My answer is as follows: A ‘hostile takeover’ had occurred. The right-wing government, especially in the past year, is no longer walking in the footsteps of Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin. A fanatic core with radical ideology has taken over the Likud, while exploiting loopholes in the primary election laws to purge the Likud leadership of all of those who care more about democratic values than populism or momentary, petty political victories. Later on, those extremists repeatedly took advantage of the fears and weaknesses of the Likud leader, Netanyahu, and eventually, their agenda won. The extremists set the agenda, while the formal leadership is being dragged behind them.

Make no mistake: Netanyahu bears the responsibility for the actions of his ‘hijacked’ government and its failures—and it doesn’t matter if he allowed it to happen because of weakness of mind or character, Stockholm Syndrome, or a belated ‘revelation’ of his genuine positions, inspired by his family and close confidants.

The reality in the region and in the world is indeed difficult and challenging, and that is not the government’s fault. The regional order has collapsed, while the world order is unstable. Muslims slaughter other Muslims (in much higher numbers than ‘infidels’) at an unprecedented scale.

Terrorism spreads throughout the world. Israel is not, and never has been, the ‘root cause’ for jihadist terrorism and the upheavals of the ‘Arab Spring.’ America is seen as a weakening power, Europe is shaken by a multi-dimensional crisis that brings with it terrorism and a flood of refugees. The Palestinians are far from being ideal partners. And the answer to terrorism emanating from hostile populations living alongside each other is not a simple one at all.

The government’s diagnoses are mostly true. Their prognoses, meanwhile, are almost all wrong. ‘What is going on?’ is being rightly perceived, but ‘What needs to be done?’ is being wrongly concluded. It is here that, from behind the smokescreen and deception spread by the government, answers emerge, born of a radical, dangerous agenda that could push Israel down a ‘slippery slope,’ leading us to the ‘point of no return,’ the crossing of which would endanger the future of the entire Zionist project.

Unfortunately—as I already warned a year ago from this very podium—Netanyahu and his government have sunk into pessimism, passivity, fear and victimhood. This is the complete opposite of the Zionist ethos, which was and remains about taking our fate into our own hands through defiant action ready to take risks in the face of the chaotic stream of history.

At first, I naively thought this was a government that did not know where it was leading us. But many of our closest friends in the world think, or otherwise suspect, that the Netanyahu government knows very well what it wants, that the opposite is true.

That there is a hidden agenda—perhaps not that hidden anymore—whose contours are deliberately blurred, due to the realization that explicitly stating it would lead to a head-on collision with Israeli law, the Declaration of Independence, the values of the IDF, international law, and common sense.

This agenda will turn the entire world against us. It will shake and shatter Israeli society from within and drive the younger generation of Jews from the US and the rest of the free world away from us.

What is this agenda? Our strongest supporters in the world’s capitals suspect that:

  1. Israel plans to continue controlling all of the territories captured/liberated in 1967—forever.
  2. Israel is not interested in the two-state solution, nor does it want a Palestinian state right next door.
  3. Israel is waiting for the world to adapt to/reconcile with this reality, and hoping that serious events—like terrorism in Europe, the situation in Syria and so on—divert attention away from the situation here.
  4. Israel would agree to ‘autonomy’ with limited rights for the Palestinians, but not to an independent state.
  5. Israel will cautiously continue building in all settlements and beyond them to gradually establish irreversible facts on the ground.

It is true that the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister have recently been saying the complete opposite of that. And they do so all the more emphatically the more the government appears to be trapped in the clutches of fanaticism. The trouble is that in the world’s capitals—London, Washington, Berlin, Paris, Moscow and Beijing—not a single leader believes a word coming from Netanyahu and his government anymore.

This agenda, which first took root in the exultation that followed victory in the Six-Day War, grows stronger as the Judea and Samaria settlement enterprise grows larger, while at the same time also strengthening that enterprise. An agenda that, at its very core, when you ignore for a moment (if that were even possible) all of its other consequences, powerfully touches upon our deepest sentiments and appeals to Israelis of all walks of life—certainly to those who grew up in the heart of the pioneer Kibbutzim movement or in traditional Judaism.

But that very same agenda, under an honest and sober examination, reveals itself to be carrying a serious risk with it to our future, our identity, and the very continuation of the Zionist enterprise.

The implementation of this agenda will inevitably—and that is the key word here—lead to a ‘one-state solution,’ which will either be an ‘apartheid state,’ challenged by the active resistance of those ‘subjugated,’ a state excommunicated by the whole world and destined to fall apart. Or a ‘bi-national state,’ in which Jews will become a minority within a generation or two and which will highly likely be embroiled in a constant state of civil war between its two peoples. Both possibilities would mark the end of the Zionist dream and enterprise. There are no other possibilities, perhaps with an exception for those waiting for divine/apocalyptic intervention.

We are on the verge of this ‘slippery slope,’ and our generation faces no greater or more urgent task than that of putting a wedge in it to stop this downward spiral—before it is too late.

The fundamental error encompassed in this agenda is the blatant disregard of the ‘reality principle,’ which has always guided Zionism, especially under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion.

Surely we know that in either of the two scenarios I’ve described, living ‘at each other’s throat’ with the Palestinians will lead to bloodshed for generations to come. Such things have, indeed, happened before. For example, in the conflict between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon, or in Bosnia, or in Belfast.

We’re at the beginning of this road, whose inevitable end is similar to that of Belfast and Bosnia or old Johannesburg—perhaps all three of them—in blindness, self hatred, and stupor that can only be compared to the millennia old tragedies that we uncover in archeological findings, the pages of the Talmud, and Josephus Flavius’ ‘The Wars of the Jews.’ Who among us—be they rightists or leftists, religious or secular, and so on—desires this result?

And to those who were reared on Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s ‘principle of truth,’ allow me to just add: Who, for Heaven’s sake, authorized Netanyahu and this ‘hijacked’ government to lead us all to the edge of the abyss while constantly mumbling calming and deceitful messages whose content tries to convey the opposite?

Wishful thinking cannot be a national strategy, and we must not delude ourselves. In the 21st century, the entire world—not just the US and Europe, but also the rising powers China, India, and Russia—will not accept this ‘autonomy’ or the thesis of a ‘one Jewish state’ from the Jordan River to the Sea under any circumstances. They will only accept a ‘one-state solution’ if it is a Jewish/Arab state of ‘all its citizens,’ operating on the premise of ‘one person one vote.’ And who among us really wants that?

It is the hidden agenda of the government to prefer, despite its official claims, the ‘integrity of the land’ over the ‘integrity of the people’ and to continue holding all of the area between the Jordan River and the Sea. This agenda necessarily leads to a conflict with Israeli and international law, with civil society and with the values of democracy. Furthermore, this agenda also necessarily means the fostering of fear, anxiety, and the perpetuation of a never-ending ‘state of emergency’ in the face of an ‘existential threat.’

This ‘hijacked’ government, headed by Netanyahu, understands that in a healthy society, the steps required to realize this agenda would cause outrage at the Supreme Court, which would declare them illegal, and among the citizenry, who would go out on the streets en masse to thwart it. Therefore, the government understands, it is essential to act in advance, gradually, and over time to weaken the Supreme Court, limit its powers, and diminish its status; undermine civil society’s confidence; and threaten and silence critical voices. All of these actions are done in front of our very eyes every day.

Furthermore, those who push the agenda of ‘One Jewish State’ from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea—their leader being Netanyahu—understand very well that some of the concrete measures that will be required in the future to achieve their goals could be perceived as ‘off limits’ and therefore, heaven forbid, be met with refusal of IDF commanders and Shin Bet officials to carry them out. Therefore, they understand that it is essential to gradually undermine the sanctity of the IDF’s values, its ethical code, and the healthy instincts of so many of our best commanders and fighters, and lead—while playing on primal fears, xenophobia, silencing discourse, racism, populism and extreme nationalism—a broad process of ‘re-education’ of the entire public, and mainly the IDF and its commanders, in the spirit of the more extremist and reckless social media discourse, such as: ‘We’re all Elor Azaria, the hero,’ referring to the soldier currently standing trial for killing a wounded terrorist, who the IDF claims posed no danger.

Even more so, facing the expected reality deteriorating towards that of Johannesburg, Bosnia and Belfast, there is only one thing that could justify to any Israeli every position and action the government might take: the near certainty of an immediate threat to our very existence. Because under an immediate threat of the ‘existential’ variety, every measure—as severe as it may be—is justified!! This explains the obsessive need of the ‘hijacked’ right-wing government and Netanyahu who leads it (or gets dragged behind it) to announce, time and again, the ‘Existential Threat’ du jour.

Make no mistake; we are indeed living amidst threats, the likes of which only few countries, if any, are exposed to. The Middle East is a harsh and cruel neighborhood. And Israel could exist only if its security serves as the ultimate factor in all it does. Only the ‘Iron Wall’ could convince Israel’s rivals to accept its existence. And the sheer protection of life, the very reason we need security, is more important and takes precedence over the quality of life or any other aspect of it.

However, as a former IDF Chief of Staff and Prime Minister, and as someone who stood at the helm of our defense establishment for many years, I want to state an unequivocal fact: None of the threats we’ve mentioned—which must nevertheless not be disregarded or ignored—is, at present or in the foreseeable future, an existential threat to Israel.

Know this: We are the strong ones. We’re not dismantling the IDF or conceding our strategic capabilities. Israel’s strength and its accomplishments over the past 70 years have made us the strongest nation in the region. The only true existential threat to our beloved Israel, which we have dreamed of and fought for, is the ‘One State’ agenda. This threat is immeasurably more serious, in its immediacy and severity, than all other threats we have mentioned today, against all of which we should of course fight as a determined ‘villa in the jungle.’

But let us return to the logic behind the actions of the right-wing government and its leader. The fanatics understand that their hidden agenda will, in the future, require extreme measures, which only the threat of destruction could justify. This in turn leads the government, headed by Netanyahu, to pour a real and immediate existential fear, as it were, into the consciousness of the masses.

From my experience, I know that ignorance, stupidity, and the limitations of human nature can explain humanity’s ‘march of folly’ better than any conspiracy theory. I am most certainly not claiming that anyone in the ‘hijacked’ government planned, analyzed or was ‘the first to identify’ the need and consequently derived from it the actions we see before us. It is the nature of such in-depth processes to take place—just as water inevitably flows towards the lowest points—even if they took place subconsciously.

And so, our Prime Minister has deemed, each in turn: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and military leader Mohammed al-Deif, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and the ‘wild beasts’ lurking at every corner, and of course al-Qaeda and ISIL—as the current ‘Hitler’ for a certain period of time.

Above all of them, in a public speech that he had prepared in advance, Netanyahu crowned Haj Amin al-Husseini, ‘the Mufti’ (a Palestinian leader in the 30s and 40s) as the visionary behind the extermination of the Jews, with Hitler himself merely falling under his spell.

The ‘Hitlerization’ of present regional threats—as serious as those threats may be—cheapens the Holocaust. This, more than anything else.

Our situation is serious even without Hitler. But Israel, due to its proven strength, can act out of self confidence to solve the security and diplomatic problems it faces, even if it takes time. Solve these problems through actions—both diplomatic and security-related in nature—without fear or apprehension. Instead, solve these problems with a vision and daring.

I will not list, on this occasion, all of the different attacks on our democracy: on the Supreme Court, civil society, the freedom of expression, the media’s independence, the professional integrity and independence of the State Comptroller, Attorney General, senior officers in the IDF, the Shin Bet and the Israel Police, as well as on the anti-trust regulator, the Electricity Authority, and so on. And, unfortunately, even on school principals and educators who demonstrate ‘excessive independence’ in thought.

The Suspension Law, the NGO Law, the ‘Limitations Clause,’ separate transportation for Jews and Arabs in Judea and Samaria, and applying Israeli law to the Jewish settlers in Judea and Samaria—all should not have come to pass.

Only a person who is blind, playing dumb, an ignoramus, or a ‘silent sheep,’ will not be able to see the erosion of democracy in all of these attacks and the ‘budding fascism’ that has stuck to this government. Of course, I’m not comparing it to what happened in Germany 70 or 80 years ago, rather to what happened 90 years ago in other European countries and in South America.

But if it looks like ‘budding fascism,’ walks like ‘budding fascism’ and quacks like ‘budding fascism’—then it is budding fascism. That’s the situation. It really is.

And we have yet to mention the very serious extreme incidents—the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir and of the Dawabsheh family in Duma; settlers uprooting olive trees; those preaching ‘Torat HaMelech’; those who tried to smuggle young goats onto the Temple Mount to reinstate sacrificial worship.

And I haven’t yet mentioned the soldier who shot the neutralized terrorist in Hebron (Sgt. Elor Azaria); posters showing the IDF Chief of Staff and Defense Minister wearing kaffiyahs; the attacks against Defense Minister Ya’alon and his reprehensible ouster; the pep talk from the ‘fellow father of a soldier’ Netanyahu to the parents of the Hebron soldier; and the appearance of future Defense Minister Lieberman at court, undoubtedly to show his support for the judges who are facing ‘negative winds’ blowing from the Israeli street. Also: Netanyahu’s post about the ‘nationalistically motivated rape’; groups of young Jews who shattered glass windows of Arab shops in mixed cities just because they’re Arabs; and the fact twisted individuals like rapper ‘The Shadow’ and the violent football fan group La Familia are treated by many as cultural heroes.

As I’ve already said—only a person who is blind, playing dumb, an ignoramus, or a ‘silent sheep’ would not be able to see what we’re seeing.

An enlightened society that, upon witnessing such a steep moral deterioration, is unable to identify this threat to its very nature and future and actively fight to stop it—will pay a great price for this failure. Reckless extremism, hubris and blindness have taken control of the Prime Minister and the Israeli government, and in the name of an agenda—however disguised—with a messianic tinge, they are dragging all of us into this moral and functional abyss, the bottom of which no one can fathom.

But let’s talk about security: Israel is surrounded by the enemies we’ve already listed and others, such as anti-Semitism, the efforts of the BDS movement, and all those who reject Israel’s right to exist.

These latter enemies cannot be fought off with whining victimhood, but rather with hard work and facts and counterarguments presented to our detractors. These enemies should also be fought off with the ability to differentiate, without stereotyping, between Israel’s haters and everyone else. The claim that ‘the entire world is against us’ is simply not true.

The most effective response to the voices of dissent is in a decisive effort to uphold an open democracy, even in the hardest of circumstances. An open democracy is the best weapon used against all of Israel’s haters and detractors.

By the way, even in the current climate, a different government in Jerusalem, acting determinedly to bolster Israel’s security while tenaciously safeguarding democracy, would have encountered much greater sympathy, cooperation and open doors in the world’s capitals—and in some of the regional capitals as well.

For years now, the public has been exposed to false propaganda that claims there is a deep-rooted contradiction—unbridgeable—between Israel’s vital security needs and the ‘two-state solution.’

This is a blatant lie. There is no such contradiction. I’ve already commented in the past that if you gathered in one room all the former IDF Chiefs of Staff, the Shin Bet’s directors, the heads of Military Intelligences, and the directors of the Mossad, 90 percent of them would tell you that it is way simpler to defend Israel from within borders that reflect its security interests, with a solid Jewish majority for generations, alongside a Palestinian state, than to defend a ‘one Jewish state’ stretching from the Jordan River to the Sea, with millions of Palestinians within its borders.

And there are other ‘little lies’ fed to the public to blind it from seeing what needs and should be done to protect the security of Israel and its citizens rather than the capricious agendas being pushed by the fanatics. Here are just a handful of examples:

Those who most endanger the future of 80 percent of the settlers who live in the ‘settlement blocs’ and in Jerusalem are the extremist ministers who keep insisting on building in isolated settlements, in the sense of ‘Grasp all, lose all.’

The ones responsible for the recent wave of knife (and shooting) attacks are the terrorists themselves and those who send them, and handling this spate of violence is indeed complicated. But those who do not close the wide breaches in the ‘Security Fence’ in Judea and Samaria and around Jerusalem, fearing the creation of a border-like line, suitable of becoming a ‘disengagement line,’ are indirectly helping the terrorists carry out their attacks.

For decades, Israel’s governments have been working to reduce the conflict to only the Palestinian aspect, to avoid it becoming a ‘religious war’ against the entire Muslim world. Those who blur the lines of the status quo in the holy sites are doing the opposite of that objective and playing with a fire much too hot to handle.

Those bringing Hamas and ISIL closer to Jerusalem and Kfar Saba are those who strive to bring about the collapse of the Palestinian Authority and to perpetuate the split between Gaza and Ramallah, while ignoring the recommendations of the Shin Bet, Military Intelligence, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and the IDF. This is instead of strengthening the PA.

The government is reporting on spectacular successes, when in reality it completely failed in its conduct with the United States after the signing of the nuclear agreement with Iran. The agreement was and remains a bad one, and the opposition to it was justified. But from the moment it became a done deal, the Prime Minister personally, with no reason and with inexplicable recklessness, managed to miss a rare opportunity to obtain a generous and long-term military financial support agreement with the US, as well as future understandings about how to handle the Iranian challenge going forward, both in the intelligence and operational aspects.

In my best judgment, over the next decade we will receive somewhere between $7-10 billion less than what we could’ve secured a year ago. Most of these lost funds will be at the expense of investment in Israeli developments and our own industry. That is a direct damage, and not the only damage, from the said lack of consideration.

The pronouncement that ‘the Arabs are still the same Arabs’ is also simply not true. We can all still remember ‘the three ‘No’s of Khartoum’ in 1967. Now we have peace with Egypt, lasting almost 40 years, and peace with Jordan, lasting over 20 years, and for 15 years now there has been a proposal on the table, the Arab League and Saudi peace initiative, which may be far from perfect but also very far from ‘the three ‘No’s of Khartoum.’

This is not an ideal proposal, but together with our reservations, it is definitely a basis for negotiations. And who can truly pretend to know what tomorrow brings? It could even bring an accord. And, in general, what exactly could Israel lose, in our current situation, from a determined and generous effort to examine this proposal with substantial negotiations?

The International Summit, or Regional Conference of Moderates, remains a unique opportunity that will sooner or later dissipate due to other developments. Failing to take advantage of it will constitute one more failure on the long list of failures established by this government.

What is to be done?

We need to right the wrongs. Namely, to return to the main Zionist themes and objectives:

Firstly, ‘Security First’, literally. Deal with what truly increases security, rather than feeding the public ‘white lies’ in the service of a different agenda while damaging security under smokescreens accompanied by brainwashing.

Secondly, the ‘integrity of the people’ comes before the ‘integrity of the land.’ We can all agree on that. So why does a healthy nation like ours accept a deceitful government that does—every day under false pretenses—the complete opposite?

Thirdly, Democracy as a precious way of life, worth being defended. This is the air we breathe. And it is particularly vital in a society as multi-faceted, multi-cultural, energetic, and diverse as the Israeli society.

Fourthly, leading the vision of being an Exemplary Society. It was not for nothing that Israel’s ‘Founding Fathers’ sought to make Israeli society a model one. You cannot overestimate the formative and uniting power of this vision, the inspiration it projects onto individuals in service of the society and to society as a whole, the universal meaning it gives to Zionism—our national project of revival. This vision acts as a sort of archetypal story, which allows the story of Israel, its heritage, and the prophets’ morality to resonate deeply with the fundamental values and stories of the United States of America and the rest of the advanced world and with what unites us—Mankind—altogether.

None of this can take place if we don’t awaken within us the inner strength and energy to change course and bring Israel back onto the right tracks. A change based on unity under the flag of the ‘four principles’: ‘Security First,’ the ‘integrity of the people,’ Democracy, and being an Exemplary Society.

This is urgently needed to stop the descent of the government and Prime Minister—narrow-minded and short-sighted as they are—and all of us after them, down the ‘slippery slope’ of the ‘one-state’ agenda, while continuously hurting Israel’s security interests and its future, in the direction of a moral and functional abyss, to the sound of the tempting ‘sirens’ song’ of a ‘messianic tinge’ and the imagined signs of a coming redemption.

We have a good and strong people. And the IDF is stronger than ever. Insofar as Israel or Israelis have a part in the bind we find ourselves in, it is not the citizens’ fault. The ‘hijacked’ government and its leader are the ones inciting groups in the public against each other and diverting all of us away from the path laid out by our most vital values and interests.

We must return to the Zionist way: Put the emphasis on actions rather than words, the content and not the packaging. Zionism was founded so we could take our fate into our own hands and act, even if it’s never free of risks. We must get rid of the ‘Four Distresses Syndrome’: pessimism, passivity, fear, and victimhood. And act. Yes, simply act.

And what are the issues we must tackle immediately?

Regarding the United States:

(I am concerned by the fact that I already used these very words, here, a year ago, even before the agreement with Iran was signed. And? Did the world freeze over? No. The Israeli government and its leader froze. Why is that?)

We must immediately reestablish a working relationship with the United States and an atmosphere of trust with the White House to achieve the following objectives:

  • Maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge (aka QME) by securing the military aid deal for the next ten years
  • On Iran: intelligence cooperation; agreement on what constitutes a violation of the nuclear deal, what are the grounds for imposing new sanctions, what could put the military option back on the table, as well as other operational understandings
  • The continued cooperation and financial aid to establish a multi-layered missile-defense system (Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and the Arrow systems)
  • Close cooperation in the domain of the ‘Future Battlefield’

Regarding the Arab world:

We must immediately examine the feasibility of a Regional/ International Moderates Summit.

Regarding the Palestinians:

Adopt the Commanders’ Plan ‘Security First,’ which was formulated by a group of over 200 of the most senior defense/security officials, led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Amnon Reshef, one of the heroes of the Yom Kippur War. The plan must be adopted irrespective of progress towards a Regional/ International Conference.

The Commanders’ Plan’s key points are:

  • An independent Israeli initiative, not contingent upon a negotiating partner (similar to the unilateral disengagement plan I proposed in 2000 after Camp David)
  • Continued IDF control over all the territory between the Jordan River and the ‘Security Fence’ until such time as a peace agreement is effectuated
  • Physical and administrative unilateral separation from the Palestinians, with the backing of the United States, so we can live beside the Palestinians, rather than ‘at each other’s throat.’
  • Reiterating Israel’s commitment to the ‘two-state solution,’ while clarifying that Israel’s presence in Palestinian territory—including villages and neighborhoods in East Jerusalem—is temporary.
  • A series of economic, civil and security measures aimed at normalizing relations and reducing friction in Judea and Samaria, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Among them is the completion of the ‘Security Fence,’ a rigorous border control regime, stopping the infiltration of illegal aliens, and uncompromising law enforcement in the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.

In the diplomatic field, the plan calls for an unequivocal Israeli declaration that includes:

  • The adoption of the Arab peace initiative—subject to Israeli reservations on issues of security and demography—as a basis for discussion and negotiations.
  • Reiterate Israel’s commitment to resolving the conflict through negotiations aimed at establishing ‘two states for two nations.’
  • Renounce any claims to sovereignty over Judea and Samaria territory beyond the ‘Security Fence’ (and agreed Israeli military presence along the Jordan River), subject to agreement that Israel will retain overall security control in the entire area until a permanent status agreement (PSA), which includes security arrangements acceptable to Israel, is put into effect
  • Freeze on new constructions in isolated settlements.
  • Restate Israel’s commitment to maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount and the holy places.
  • Make it clear that Israel sees the Palestinian areas in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as one political unit for the purpose of the negotiations over the permanent status agreement (PSA).


The plan also calls for civil and economic measures:

  • In Judea and Samaria: take measures to strengthen the Palestinian Authority.
  • In Jerusalem: establish an ‘Administrative Municipal Council for the Palestinian Villages and Neighborhoods of East Jerusalem,’ to be funded by the international community, while ensuring the status quo on the Temple Mount and in other places holy to the different religious.
  • In Gaza: act to prevent the collapse of the ceasefire and forestall a humanitarian crisis by means of reconstruction and development—subject to Israeli security considerations.
  • Settlements outside the main blocs: legislate an ‘Absorption, Compensation and Voluntary Evacuation Law,’ allowing those who choose to relocate a fair opportunity to move to the settlement blocs or to Israel proper.

In conclusion:

For over a year, we have been led by the Prime Minister and his weak, feeble, strident (even according to some of its most senior members), deceitful, and extremist government, which fails over and over again in guaranteeing security, undermines the fabric of democracy in Israel, fails in managing its ties with the US and in stabilizing Israel’s status in the world, squanders diplomatic opportunities over and over again, and suffers from paralysis when it comes to effectively managing the conflict, even when facing the absence of a ‘partner.’ Because what is really at the top of Netanyahu and his government’s priorities is not Israel’s security, not preserving democracy, and not internal unity among the people, but a slow and cunning advancement—without admitting it—of the ‘one-state agenda’ from the Jordan River to the Sea. This agenda constitutes a direct threat on the very identity and future of Israel and the entire Zionist project.

This is an elected government, but as I said here a year ago—it should also be the one held accountable. The balance so far is off, and it’s only becoming more so, and the bottom line is very concerning—both in content and in direction.

Israel needs a different leadership, which holds onto a compass, not a weather vane, and has the Declaration of Independence in its toolbox and not, heaven forbid, ‘Torat Hamelech.’

I call upon the government to come to its senses and get back on track. If not, all of us—yes, all of us—must get out of our seats and replace it by a better one, through grassroots protest  and the ballot box—before it’s too late.

Thank you.


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