JPEG - 21.8 kb

Thank you very much, George. Ladies and gentlemen, if I had received this invitation to speak before Chatham House 60 years ago, it would be for me an awesome challenge. Today I feel relaxed. The reason is that Great Britain was one thing in history and Great Britain is another thing when you judge her by heritage. I think the heritage is a more important contribution to the greatness of Britain than the fact that she ruled many countries.

Looking around, I think your contribution to India is unbelievable. I don’t believe that India would be democratic without the British experience. And they became the largest democracy in our time. I think without the English language, India wouldn’t be able to unite. It was made of hundreds of sects and languages. What really unites India is your language.

Furthermore, I think it would be very difficult for India to enter the global economy without the English language. The advantage of India over China is the language. India could have connected itself far earlier in these years than the Chinese with their language.

The same goes for Israel. When you were in Israel on a British mandate, we were against you. The moment you left, we admire you. It’s one thing to be for democracy; it’s another thing to be democratic. Those are two different things.

In all of my talks with Arafat, he made the following remarks, ‘My God. Democracy – who has invented it? It is so tiring.’ Well, I think it’s better to be tired by freedom than to be fresh by violence.

And we learn from you what democracy is in real terms, in spite of the fatigue it creates and the problems it introduces. Also something which served us a great deal, the founder of Israel, Ben Gurion, was in London during the bombardment of this great city. He was so impressed by the behaviour of the British people under bombs, under shortages, under poor news.

I think it helped us to remain democratic while at war, not only at peace. In our 63 years of existence, we have had to go through seven wars without giving up a day of democracy. And without giving up the hope for peace. So that’s the reason I feel so relaxed and it is a good occasion for me to express our thanks for this heritage of Great Britain and the impact it made upon the history of our country.

Now again there is a storm, but a very different nature. I mean the revolt, if I may call it so, was not organized. Neither by party nor by an army nor by religion. It’s actually a revolt without organizers. Nobody knows who organized it. It arrived from an unknown combination of sentiments and knowledge introduced to the younger generation by modern communication, the internet, smartphones, Facebook.

For the first time, young people in the Arab world could have seen with their own eyes the ugly face of dictatorship, of corruption, of want. And they could have compared their lot with the lot of other young people in the world. And ask themselves why they’re not here. And actually, it is really a revolt, unorganized, spontaneous, against autocracy, against oppression, against starvation, against discrimination.

In my eyes, it’s a great event. And I pray for their success. I think time has arrived that this great bloc of human fate, the Arab bloc, will enter the 21st century. It’s not easy because the vote is not open. The old rulers and the old prejudices are using fire against these uprisings of young people who did it without any violence. I feel they will win.

I don’t have the slightest doubt, because actually what is more than communication and what is science? It’s a fight against blindness. It’s opening your eyes. Once you open your eyes, it’s very hard to force them to close again. But in the meantime, there may be a lot of confrontations and even of blood and disappointment.

I’m asking myself, what can we contribute to help the positive and right nature of this revolve to become successful? We are not running their life. You cannot give orders to anybody. We shouldn’t do it either. But there are two important contributions I believe that can help.

One is really to use the short time of the open window to bring an end to the conflict between us and the Palestinians. It so happened that the forces against this awakening in the Arab world are using the conflict as an excuse for their own policies – the Iranians, Hezbollah, Hamas. There are some others, I won’t mention all the names.

And I think we have to take away this excuse from their midst. This pretence to say that they don’t fight for themselves, they fight for the Palestinian people. It’s wrong because the way to make peace between the Palestinians and ourselves is really between the two of us. I think it can be done. I believe it can be done in a short while. I think the psychological gaps are greater than the material ones.

I do believe that what’s happening now, what’s taking place now, in the West Bank is a real precedent, because the Palestinians never have had a state in their history. They didn’t have to try and build a city or to plant a tree on the land. Now they started. The economy in West Bank is growing, 10 percent this year. For the first time, the Palestinians can sense the taste of tangible peace, not just a rhetorical one. And there is a different mood in the West Bank. I do believe that the remaining problems can be solved. What I want to emphasise, that we have to do it, as promptly as we may.

I want to say a word about the negotiations which are now taking place, or should take place, between us and the Palestinians. You know, history is like a galloping horse. When the horse passes nearby your home, you’d better mount the horse and gallop with it. Otherwise the horse will gallop without you and you will remain at home.

I’m trying to tell our Palestinian friends, look, the horse is galloping. Let’s mount it. And they suggest let’s postpone the horse riding. Let’s follow the gallop of the horse and let’s stop the horse trading of details. It shall start again with the horse trading, we may waste opportunities and we shall hardly arrive to the conclusions.

You know, negotiations for peace is not a simple proposition. I felt it, I learned it myself. It begins with the problem at your own home. When you have to make peace, you have to make concessions. You have to compromise. And your people say yes, we are for peace. Yes, we know that you have to compromise. But why so much? Why do you give away so fast? Why do you trust other people? Now there is no way to measure. You see a poor negotiator.

And it’s not simple. On the two sides, to convince your people that you’re a great negotiator, that you achieve the maximum, that you gave away the minimum. It doesn’t happen. And that’s one of the reasons why it is so difficult. Not because of peace but because the cost of the peace and because the appreciation of your own people about your negotiations. I paid quite heavily in elections because of that.

And for leaders it is very difficult. To be a modern leader, [you] must be elected every morning anew over television. And if he doesn’t appear as a great hero that every day has solved the world, he has a problem with the audience. And that’s from both sides. The only way to overcome it is really to handle the negotiations away from public eye in a discreet manner. No other way. We have to open it publicly and negotiate discreetly. That’s what we did in Oslo. In a way, it was done also with the Egyptians and also with the Jordanians.

I know people are criticising Israel about peace and at that time, they pressed upon Israel long for peace. Once we made peace with Egypt, we gave back all the land and all the water. Once we made peace with Jordan, we gave them back all the land and all the water. It’s rare in history to win wars, gain assets, and give it away for an intangible promise of peace and what you’re giving back is tangible – land and resources.

Actually we offer to the Palestinians the same things. There is no argument today in Israel that the solution should be based on a two-state solution, which means a partition, which means that we have to give back land, and water.

So that’s number one and I think we have to bring the parties together with great patience to overcome the prejudices of the past. If our memory is very strong and you may forget a lot of things, one thing is never forgettable. And that is prejudices. They live longer than anything else I can think of, unnecessarily.

The other point that should and can be done is behind this revolt in the Arab midst, there are some very serious questions, problems. And the most important one is poverty. If you’ll take the case of Egypt, in 1952, during the military revolt in Egypt, there were 18 million Egyptians. Today there are 81 million Egyptians, which means that Egypt grew four times in 50 years. Nothing else in Egypt has grown the same way. And Egypt is not a country that has a river; Egypt is a country that the river is a country. The Nile controls the fate of Egypt. And the Nile didn’t gain a drop of water.

Furthermore, the nine countries alongside the Nile, all of them have grown in size and grown in their demand of distribution of water, which is a real problem. So the issue is how can Egypt be saved? Egypt, at 80 million and next, another 80 million. And next, Sudan another 50 million. How can they be saved from poverty?

Well, one can say aid of foreign governments. But nowadays, I don’t know any foreign government, rich as they may be, that doesn’t have a deficit. And I do not see the foreign governments open their pockets and say, ‘Gentlemen, have the money.’ Neither am I convinced that you need the money for it. What you need is to introduce the real solution to escape poverty, and that is, in my judgement, the science and technology.

We saw it with our own eye. Fifty years ago, China was poorer than Egypt. Mao co-opted, Mao divided. And how did they escape the poverty? I think in China there were two revolutions, one by Mao Zedong, who provided the Chinese with the vision and the leadership. But then he went astray, once he became the head of China he became a different person.

And then there was a second revolution in China by Deng, 30 years ago, who introduced the market economy brought in science and technology and look what happened. Over a billion and a half people went out of poverty. I don’t say they solved the problem and everything is perfect. But this is a real performance.

The same happened to India. Indians were poor, divided, not without corruption. And I think India too went through two revolutions. One introduced by Gandhi, the other introduced by Nehru. Gandhi has the genial idea, he says, ‘I have 750 million poor Indians who live in the villages. They don’t have food, they don’t have water. They are short of material things.’ And Gandhi told them, ‘You know what? I am not sure I can save you from your material poverty, but I can offer you spiritual wealth. If you give up your desires, you change your life, then you’ll be happy people.’

It’s not a bad idea. But then Nehru says, “I’m not sure that this is sufficient.” And Nehru decided to modernise India. He did it by inviting at the same time two five-year plans. One from the Politburo in Russia and the other from the MIT in America. He tried to introduce the two of them, well, it was partly successful. Anyway, India escaped, too, poverty. Three billion people.

And if I can say the last example, it’s Korea. Korea gained its independence in 1948. They were poor. Short of land. Short of industry. And they sent thousands of their youngsters to study abroad technology, came back, and they changed Korea. Korea is divided like the Palestinians. They have North Korea and South Korea. South Korea is a success, North Korea is a scandal of poverty.

And I say that that should be done in the Arab world as well. Now I don’t believe the governments have the money, but the non-governmental sector has it. I must say that the heads of modern companies are educated and intelligent people. They are not all barons. And they have decided out of their own free will to give back money to their communities. Look at Buffett, look at Gates, other large companies. Because they reached a conclusion that you cannot keep your market just by selling good products. You must selfestablish good relations. And they do not want to be accused as they are profiteering from the poor people.

So they have established foundations which are louder than the foreign aid of many countries. What I would recommend to them is to use these foundations not for charity or for philanthropy, but for destiny. Instead of giving it to sick people, let them give it to sick countries. Let them enable the countries to cure themselves and it will eventually be a world market.

Here comes Israel as an example. We don’t have land. We don’t have water. Until now, we were the only country in an oily surrounding. I heard that we may discover oil and I’m a little bit worried. I think again, make a living without oil, quite successfully. And without land and water, we built a very successful agriculture, based 95 percent on high-tech. We are not superior people. What we did, everybody can do. And our lessons are available to whomever may want.

I believe that this double effort to bring peace right away, not to postpone, and postpone the trading of houses for a later date, and at the same time to give vision and hope to the people, is what should be done right away. It’s a winwin situation. And in spite of the rifles that are shooting at the young people, I think a right spirit is stronger than the best rifle in the world.

This I believe in the shortest way I can explain should be, and is, I believe the policy of our country. Thank you.