‘We need a daring peace initiative’

‘We need a daring peace initiative’

It is no secret, and I’ll repeat it again, that we live in a tough neighborhood, where there is no mercy for the weak. And no second chance for those who cannot defend themselves.

Israel is the strongest country in the region and the only genuinely open democracy.

An unprecedented geopolitical earthquake in the last three years has shattered the generations’ old regional order.…

Look at Syria — you don’t need classified intelligence; it’s on your screens. Assad’s jet fighters, tanks, and artillery are slaughtering his own citizens. Over 70,000 Syrians killed.

Yet still, there is no sense of direction and no political will to act.

There is an extremely relevant lesson here, especially for all of us in Israel, and an insight.

Many believe that the root cause for all the problems in the Middle East is our inability to solve the conflict with the Palestinians. Well, I say, that’s not true. Recent developments in the Middle East have been far beyond our control, and independent of our deeds.

Even if a peace agreement with the Palestinians had been signed and sealed a long time ago, the Muslim Brotherhood would still have come to power in Egypt; Syria would still be mired in a bloody civil war; and Iran would still be pursuing nuclear capabilities and a hegemonic role in the Gulf.

It is Iran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities which is the greatest challenge facing Israel, the region, and the world today. A nuclear Iran spells the end of any conceivable non-proliferation regime. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and later Egypt will follow suit. In the future, even terrorist groups may try.

Diplomatic efforts continue. Sanctions are unprecedented and hurting, but frankly, while exhausting all diplomatic means is understandable, I do not believe it will lead to a “moment of truth,” where the ayatollahs will give up their nuclear aspirations.

Therefore, all options must remain on the table.

We have stated this time and again. And we expect all those who say it, to mean it.

A nuclear Iran is the most imminent and acute danger to the stability of the entire region. But it is not the only one:

Radical Islamist terror is spreading rapidly.

And the accumulation of missiles and rockets will necessitate regional missile defense.

So what is to be done?

It is an interregnum right now in Israel, and the new Netanyahu government will have to shape its approach.

But allow me, just before I leave my post, to share with you my positions:

The Middle East is a gestalt — everything depends on everything else.

Facing this array of threats, we have to:

Firstly, start building a “Regional Security Framework.” This should be built around the common challenges of radical Islamist terror, border security, missile defense — and, of course, Iran. And being led by the United States, it could provide a variety of synergies for all its regional participants.

Secondly, we need a daring peace initiative vis-a-vis the Palestinians. A two-state solution is the only viable long-term solution. It is a compelling imperative for us, in order to secure our identity and our future as a Jewish and democratic state; it’s not a favor for the Palestinians.

Believe me, I tried hard as prime minister, together with President Clinton. So I know, from personal experience, that the Palestinians are not easy partners for peace.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has taken courageous steps to renew the process including an unprecedented settlement freeze.

But still — from the Palestinian side…no proper response. They clearly bear most of the responsibility for past failures. And I know, a fully fledged agreement is probably not feasible today. But if this is the case — and only a sincere effort can determine this — we have to try and achieve a reasonable, fair, interim agreement.

I strongly believe this is possible, while guaranteeing all our security and vital interests.

But if even an interim agreement is unobtainable, then we should consider unilateral steps, in order to place a wedge on this extremely dangerous slippery slope toward a binational state.

It involves demarcating a line within the land of Israel, within which we will have the settlement blocs and a solid Jewish majority for generations to come, as well as setting security arrangements, and a solid Israeli, long-term military presence along the River Jordan.

Rest assured: Our security should not — and will not — be compromised under any of these alternatives.

Tough decisions must be taken; but it is possible.

And as our sages teach us: “If not now, when?”

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