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PM Netanyahu's Remarks at the Independence Day Meeting with the Diplomatic Corps

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the occasion of Independence Day at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, made the following remarks to the diplomatic corps:

"I have a special affection for the diplomatic service because I entered public life 34 years ago as Israel's Deputy Chief of Mission in Washington D.C. At the time, the number of states that had formal diplomatic relations with Israel was very small. Today we have full diplomatic relations with 159 states. There are not many left. And those that are left I can count maybe on the fingers of one hand, at a stretch you can go to other hand.

Those that we don't have some kind of active liaison with, there's been a great change in our fortunes in our foreign relations. Scarcely a day passes that we don’t have diplomatic delegations or trade delegations or technological delegations or security delegations not only from our great traditional ally the United States, and of course the European countries but also from Asia, from Africa, from Latin America, from every part of the world.

Countries are coming to Israel for two main reasons: One, they identify that Israel has significant contributions to make in our common battle, the battle of civilized countries against the dark forces of Islamic radicalism, those headed by Iran and Isis as the President correctly said.

They seek our help in intelligence, in logistics, our experience in combatting terrorism, in strengthening security, our common security

The second reason that people are coming here, in a word, technology. The future belongs to those who innovate. Israel is the innovation nation. It is eager to share its contributions, its abilities, and some significant sparks of genius with the rest of mankind and womankind. If you hold a cellphone, a good chunk of it was made in Israel or thought up in Israel. If you eat a salad, and you eat a cherry tomato – Israel. If you have Alzheimer's, I hope you don't, but you have cures that are made in Israel. And if you want to work out a riddle – how to have a water surplus when you have no water? Come to Israel. Or make more milk per cow? Come to Israel.

And many countries are coming for these two reasons – security and technology. Which means fighting the forces of the past and seizing together the opportunities of the future.

This coincides with the consistent attempt to delegitimize Israel but I think that ultimately this trend will overcome and dominate because the future belongs to those who seize the future.

So today I want to tell you why I am hopeful about the future. 68 years ago, the State of Israel was born. It was weak, disorganized. It was isolated and besieged. Today, Israel is strong. It's stable. It's prosperous, it's vibrant.

And many of your nations, those represented here are cooperating in so many ways and you know, sometimes more than we can publish how many ways, how important.

For over a decade, I've been honored to lead the people of Israel as their Prime Minister.

I am hopeful because I have seen with my own eye the common sense and uncommon courage of the Israeli mothers and fathers who send their precious children to defend our country.

In my 66 years, I have traversed the land more times than I can count. I mean traversed it literally with my feet when I was a soldier like the young soldiers who are honored here today at the President's house. But I've traversed it in many other ways – going into communities, going into cities and into farms and to see the life force within our people…

I'm hopeful because the young Israelis I meet are willing, if I can borrow a phrase, are willing to bear any burden and pay any price for bettering our nation.

Most of all, I'm hopeful because I know that we will never give up on peace.

In my lifetime, I have seen Israel make peace…you can applaud, it's fine…in my lifetime I've seen Israel make peace with two Arab states – states that once fought brutal wars against us. And In recent years, I've seen formerly hostile states in the region and beyond, but especially in the region, form new and deep partnerships with us. I think this is a matter of great importance because I think this creates new hope.

We can advance peace with the Palestinians directly and through the support of other nations, including in the region. It was once thought that the only way that we could advance peace with the Arab states was to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That would certainly help enormously. But it's also true that we might solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem by enjoying the support of Arab states who now see Israel more and more not as an enemy, but as an ally against the forces that threaten their own countries as well.

I have a deep and abiding faith that Israel will have peace with many more of our neighbors and that our century-long conflict will end.

How will it end?

I know there is skepticism about my position. You can just repeat it ad nauseam and it becomes…it assumes the cachet of self-evident truth but the facts are important. I have taken steps that no other Prime Minister in Israel's history has taken to advance peace. So far, they've not been answered. But I want to state unequivocally and in front of diplomats from around the world: I continue to support two states for two peoples: a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. It's about time.

That remains the core of this conflict: The persistent refusal to recognize a Jewish state in any boundary. And this is why this conflict preceded the Six-Day war by nearly 50 years. But I don’t believe that any issue is so complex that it cannot be solved. All we ask for is the right to live in peace in our ancestral homeland, the land of Israel.

And my call for peace today is not hypothetical.

I just gave a Twitter conference. It's the sign of the times. I think President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau preceded me. Talk to everyone in the world. And they said, "Are you willing to sit down and talk peace?" and I said, yes. Yes, I am. In fact, I'm willing to do so right now, today. To meet President Abbas today in Jerusalem. If he'd like, in Ramallah. If any of you ladies and gentlemen want to offer a different place that’s fine with me too. I have my preferences; we'll talk about it later. Right now. Today. And not next week. This week.

Because you cannot make peace with somebody who even refuses to sit down with you. And because every minute that President Abbas refuses to accept my call for peace robs Palestinians and Israelis of the opportunity to live without fear. It robs our children and our grandchildren of the opportunity they so richly deserve.

Peace is my vision.

Mutual recognition is my hope.

Security is my duty.

And I will work every day of every week of every month to advance peace and security for our people. I ask all of you to join me in providing hope for a better future. You can encourage President Abbas to accept my offer of direct talks today. Because direct talks are not merely the most likely and best path for peace. Ultimately, it's the only way that you will achieve a peace that will endure. And Israelis and Palestinians deserve no less.

Thank you all for your service. Thank you for coming here to honor Israel's Independence Day."

Israel celebrates 67 years of independence

On May 14, 1948, the day the British Mandate expired, the new Jewish state - the State of Israel - was formally established in parts of what was known as the British Mandate for Palestine. With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Jewish independence was restored after 2,000 years.

Israel Independence Day is celebrated annually on the anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel, according to the Hebrew calendar, on 5 Iyar (this year celebrated one day later because of the Sabbath). The day preceding this celebration is devoted to the memory of those who gave their lives for the achievement of the country's independence and its continued existence.
This proximity is intended to remind people of the heavy price paid for independence. On this day the entire nation remembers its debt and expresses eternal gratitude to its sons and daughters who gave their lives for the achievement of the country's independence and its continued existence.
On May 14, 1948, the day the British Mandate expired, the new Jewish state - the State of Israel - was formally established in parts of what was known as the British Mandate for Palestine. With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Jewish independence was restored after 2,000 years.

Independence Day is a celebration of the renewal of the Jewish state in the Land of Israel, the birthplace of the Jewish people. In this land, the Jewish people began to develop its distinctive religion and culture some 4,000 years ago, and here it has preserved an unbroken physical presence, for centuries as a sovereign state, at other times under foreign domination. Throughout their long history, the yearning to return to the land has been the focus of Jewish life. Theodor Herzl​, the leader and founder of the Zionist movement, increased international recognition for the need of a Jewish state.

Since its establishment, Israel continues to be a homeland to the thousands who make their way to Israel annually. It is home to some of the holiest religious sites of the three major religions, all which enjoy the democratic rights delineated in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel​.

FM Avigdor Liberman addresses the Diplomatic Corps on Independence Day

The State of Israel has proven on numerous occasions that it is willing and ready to reach a permanent accord with the Palestinians. Abbas needs to decide if he is prepared for peace and with whom. It is impossible to have peace with Israel and Hamas.

President of the State of Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres, Ambassadors and Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

I am delighted to be here to celebrate with you Israel’s 66th Independence Day. I am especially delighted because during the years that I have served as Foreign Minister, many of you who serve here have become real friends, both of the State of Israel and myself personally. So it is especially enjoyable to celebrate such an occasion with friends.

On this day, during these many years where I stood here at five o’clock in the afternoon, the President, Shimon Peres, also became an inseparable part of my Independence Day. I am certain that no matter what, next year I will also have reason to spend part of my day with him, if not here, maybe he will join me for the traditional annual barbecue of the Yisrael Beytenu party from where I just arrived.

On my way here from that barbecue, I saw the people of Israel celebrating, and I say with pride that there is much to celebrate.

Even today, 66 years after its establishment, I still consider Israel a miracle. Israel is a small country made up of people who returned after 2,000 years of exile from every corner of the earth to renew our sovereignty, many arriving straight from the hellish Holocaust, who had to fight for its very existence. Moving to the present, it is clear that Israel has become one of the global powerhouses of hi-tech, innovation, energy and agriculture.

Even with the challenges associated with living in a tough neighborhood, it is an enlightened democracy, one of the most advanced in the world.

Ladies and gentlemen.

In English, when one wishes to describe perfect vision, one says the vision is 20:20. However, in Hebrew, we say it is 6:6. So in honor of our 66th Independence Day, please permit me to say that this is an appropriate date to look with great clarity over the political situation here.

While I assume that what occurred during the last few weeks should not have taught anybody anything new about the situation, recent events certainly do not leave any doubt about the principal actors here in the region and their real desires.

It is very clear that regarding the negotiations, there is absolutely no desire on the part of the Palestinians to reach an agreement with Israel. Only a few weeks ago, everything was ready for the signing of a document that would lead to the continuation of negotiations between us and the Palestinians. There were understandings in place between Prime Minister Netanyahu, Chairman Abbas and Secretary of State Kerry.

However, two hours before the convening of the Israeli government to approve the package, Abbas announced the request for the Palestinians to join 15 international treaties and deliberately blew up the negotiations. Subsequently, Abbas threatened to dismantle the Palestinian Authority and cancel the Oslo Accords. After this, he signed a unity agreement with the murderous terrorist organization Hamas - an organization whose charter aspires to a holy genocide against Jews everywhere.

Abbas needs to decide if he is prepared for peace and with whom. It is impossible to have peace with Israel and Hamas. The creation of a Fatah-Hamas unity government will signal the end of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Unfortunately, this is merely following a long-standing and familiar pattern of behavior by Abbas and the Palestinians. Whenever there is progress and a step forward in negotiations, the Palestinians take two steps back. Also, when there was an intention to sign an agreement to give the Palestinians everything they could have dreamed of, like the offers by former Prime Ministers, Olmert at Annapolis in 2009 and Barak at Camp David in 2000, they balked.

The State of Israel has proven on numerous occasions that it is willing and ready to reach a permanent accord with the Palestinians. However, despite great efforts on the Israeli side and a willingness to reach an agreement, it did not happen.

Even during the previous government, a series of confidence-building measures was agreed to, including a difficult and painful decision to freeze building in Judea and Samaria for 10 months. Even so, we did not make a millimeter of progress on any final status issue or towards ending the conflict itself.

Even the evacuation of 21 communities from the Gaza Strip and the transfer of 10,000 Jews, did not move the Palestinians one millimeter towards peace. On the contrary, the response to our return to the pre-1967 lines was 16,000 rockets and missiles sent from Gaza into southern Israel. Therefore, it is clear that the real problem is not settlements in Judea and Samaria but the clear reluctance of the Palestinians time after time to pursue peace.

However, unfortunately, time after time there are those who do not want to admit this. Even after the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority signs an agreement with an organization which openly seeks the destruction of the very state where we are celebrating independence, some, especially in Europe, continue to blame Israel for the deadlock in negotiations.

Even though we are celebrating Independence Day and not Purim, it is time to remove the mask from the face of Mahmoud Abbas and say clearly that he consistently rejects peace.

Abbas acts according to the strategy that he learnt during his time at university in Moscow during the 1970’s of “no war, no peace” adopted by Trotsky at the end of the First World War. The strategy is to wear the opponent down and never to commit to anything. This is exactly what he is doing. Meanwhile he enjoys his status as the leader of a national liberation movement and travels around the world, spending more time in London, New York and Paris than in Tulkarem and Jenin. It is clear that Abbas has no desire to bring peace to the people he supposedly represents.

Ladies and gentlemen.

We expect the international community to stand by its commitments and demand that Hamas abide by the three conditions laid out by the Quartet:

1. The renunciation of violence
2. Recognizing the State of Israel
3. Accept previously signed agreements

Two additional issues that can not be compromised on are a Palestinian recognition of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish People and the abandonment of the so-called Palestinian “right of return”. Any attempt to advance an agreement without an explicit recognition of the State of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people by the Palestinians will be a non-starter.

As many people I greatly respect are confused by this issue, I am happy to explain the significance of this demand for recognition.

While Abbas demands that a Palestinian state will be ‘Judenrein’, without a single Jew, and will not recognize Israel as the Homeland of the Jewish people, it becomes clear that he seeks a 100% homogenous Palestinian state and a binational state in Israel. As many of the Arabs living in Israel identify as Palestinian, it is his intention to create a link between a future Palestinian state with the Palestinians living in Israel in order to undermine it in the future at any time of his choosing. After all, Abbas has said countless times that he is not ready to accept a single Jew under Palestinian control, not even a Jewish soldier as part of a multi-national force, when the idea of such a force was raised.

Furthermore, this lack of recognition undermines the basis of the creation of the State of Israel, and international understandings like the Balfour Declaration, the Peel Commission and the Partition Plan, which consistently called for a Jewish and an Arab state. The term Palestinian State was never used.

As for the so-called “right of return”, we will not agree to even the return of one person to Israel. Those who talk about a “right of return”, knowingly or not, are talking about the destruction of the State of Israel de-facto. If we allow one refugee to come to Israel, a million will follow after him. Furthermore, the meeting yesterday in Qatar between Abbas and Khaled Meshaal and the recent developments in Judea and Samaria demonstrate with certainty that Hamas is on its way to controlling the whole Palestinian Authority.

Regardless of when elections will take place, it is clear that Hamas will win convincingly. This will be the result of the recent agreement signed with Hamas by Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas brought Hamas to power in Gaza and he is now bringing them to power in Judea and Samaria. However, we are determined to prevent Judea and Samaria from becoming the new Gaza.

Ladies and gentlemen.

It is important for me to restate while talking about our challenges that Israel has always been and always will be a peace-seeking nation. Israel seeks peace, Israel wants an agreement, but we will not be fools.

Happy Independence Day and I look forward to seeing you next year.
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