… the government's lines of activity, policy and deeds in the areas of security, the economy and policy.
Regarding the area of security, prior to the elections I said and continue to say now, and not only in this forum, that our main problem is the threat which Iran presents for us, for the region and for peace. During the government's tenure, something happened here which in my opinion has long-term significance, and that is the exposure of the Iranian regime's true colors. This is a brutal regime which oppresses the Iranian people. We have no struggle or conflict with the Iranian people, with whom we had deep ties of friendship. I believe that this nation wants to be liberated from the yoke of tyranny, and if it were to be liberated, in turn this would also liberate many forces for development, progress and peace in our region.
Have no doubt: I am aware of who supported this regime. Hardly anyone among the international community supported this regime, but there were exceptions. Incidentally, not in the Arab world – with the exception of one country called Syria and two movements: Hamas and Hizbullah. They sent praise, encouragement and support. One day, I will be able to tell you what else they sent there during the oppression.
This is definitely part of the same method, part of the same tyranny, this is part of the same hypocrisy, which in an instant, unmasked its true nature, and this is a matter of importance.
It is our policy to enlist an international front against Iran in order to increase the sanctions against it, and preserve the State of Israel's uppermost security interests. I sense that there is a certain toughening in the international position, including that of the Americans, against this regime. I think that we need to recognize that they have not changed their intention, their purpose or their plans. I have discussed this topic, and we are in touch with President Obama's Administration and also with the heads of the European states.
During the first few days of this government's tenure, we ratified, or more precisely, America and its President, ratified important strategic understandings which we reached in the area of strategy.
We know that we are not only facing a distant threat, the Iranians, but also face a much closer threat. The policy which we implemented against the firing of missiles, Kassams and any other type of rocket, is that we are not prepared to hold back in such instances. We are not prepared to hold back against a trickle of rockets and missiles. In the past, they didn't react in order not to allow things to deteriorate, so they continued to increase, until you reach a situation where you have no choice but to carry out acts of a much wider scope. This is not the policy of my government.
My government has instituted a different policy, and this different policy states that we are not prepared to tolerate rockets and missiles being fired into Israel's territory. Mr. Speaker, we are not adopting a trickle policy, restraint, an increased trickle, firing upon our communities, and then a response. This is not the policy of my government. We will respond to every firing without fail. Before the elections, there were several without a response, but not since the elections.
Every result has a reaction. From the moment that I became Prime Minister, there has been a reaction to every shooting, which has been and will continue to be our policy. The public can precisely judge the results of the three months or the month prior to the elections and the months which have since passed. I think that this is the correct policy. We cannot take it for granted – I have never thought that we should take the firing of missiles on Israeli cities for granted. I have now outlined the second component.
What has changed is that it is now possible to go to Sderot, Ashkelon and Beersheva, where our Government meeting took place a week ago, and it is possible to see what has changed. I am not taking credit away from anyone. I clarify, everyone here is fighting for credit. Take the credit. I am talking about security. Leave the security as that is what is important. The credit is not interesting. What is interesting is the security. Our policy is that we are not prepared to accept the firing of missiles upon our citizens.
I have visited many countries and many statesmen have visited here and told us that they don't understand how a situation like this could arise, whereby missiles are fired on your cities. The same statesman said: I know what we would have done, and that is what we are doing. If you fire one missile on Israeli communities, there will be a reaction. I am not saying that this is a simple thing – I am not saying that there won't be disagreements. I am simply stating to the Knesset what my government's policy is.
The third component: I heard statements about the security fence. I supported the construction of the fence. As Minister of Finance, I said to the Prime Minister at that time, Ariel Sharon, even though we were in a very difficult financial crisis, I told him: “Arik, there won't be any problems with the budget for the fence, the budget will always precede the construction”. And this is how I acted, I promised and came through.
I also clarified that this is a security partition, it always has been and remains so, but the main thing is that it is of vital importance for maintaining our security. I hear today that there are those who say that because it is quiet, we can remove the fence. My friends, the opposite is true, because there is a fence, there is quiet. This, and of course, the activities of the IDF and other security forces operating on the other side of the fence. I must add, and I say this cautiously and objectively, that there is also an improvement. There is also a certain improvement in the functioning of the Palestinian security forces and we welcome and support this. But the fence is important – the fence is a central component of our security, in our defense against a certain type of terror, and therefore the fence is here to stay, and will not be dismantled.
Still on the topic of security, a clear policy which also has results in the field, which was also instituted by my government, is that of where possible easing the movement of Palestinians. We have removed a large number of roadblocks, check points and dirt barriers. I have instructed to expand or lengthen the crossing hours for goods at the Allenby Bridge. We are doing this in consultation with the security forces, with the aim of easing them, where possible, without taking too great a risk.
I was asked whether this was done as part of a government policy, and the answer is yes. There are always those who will disagree with this. Within the IDF, there are different ranks of command, but gentlemen, we decide on policy. This is the policy of the government – where possible, to ease the movement of people and goods, and this has left its mark, and I think that it is welcomed. It has also made its mark in a fairly impressive economic growth. In my opinion, it has not reached its potential, even though there are international bodies who estimate that growth in the Palestinian Authority in the coming year will be close to 7%, although in my opinion, it could be a lot higher.
I head a committee whose activities are prepared by Minister Silvan Shalom, and we are going through project by project, and removing a lot of obstacles. The project in Bethlehem, the project next to Jenin, the project in Jericho.
So this is our government's policy – clear and immediate security assertiveness in response to missile fire. Activities relating to Iran on which I don't see any point in going into more detail, but I think that we have a certain change in the international climate relating to Iran. Leaving the fence in place and filling up the breaches is of course important, but so is easing the security restrictions or easing movement for the Palestinians where possible, removing blocks in both senses of the word, and this is something that is already having an effect.
I spoke about this with Tony Blair on several occasions before the elections, and I said that people are having a hard time understanding the speed with which the economy responds to the removal of obstacles. This is true in general, and within the Palestinian economy, even more so. The per capita income is not high, and therefore the growth can be very, very impressive. I won't quote him, but I think that he is different from many in that he saw and continues to see the potential, and we are discussing additional topics. We will continue in this direction.
I now wish to relate to the government's policy in the economic field.
Removing obstacles is also our objective in the area of the economy. First of all, I wish to thank the Members of Knesset, even those who voted against, but certainly those who voted for passing the budget. We needed a guiding hand for the budget. We did not have a budget for a long time, which has also left its mark on the economy.
Today, we don't just have any old budget, but a biennial budget, and I must tell you, people are interested in it. Some have suggested that we make this a permanent thing, but I was not pulled into it, or carried away, but only for a year and a half. If we hadn't passed this, Members of Knesset, we would have started in the summer. Member of Knesset Bar-On knows this – he is nodding his head in agreement, we would have started immediately on the budget for 2010.
I think that it is important to know that there is a biennial budget. I congratulate the Minister of Finance for bringing and passing this budget, which is of course, based on agreement within the economy, which is something that we have not had for 25 years. This package deal prevents strikes and also enables us to make progress in the reforms. I know that there are differing opinions on reforms, which I would like to present, because we have already started to make progress in them, within the range of 3-4 months as we said. It takes time. Today, we will decide on one of them.
I want to clearly outline what we are doing and what we are going to do:
The first thing that we are going to do is pass a reform in the Israel Land Administration. First of all, this reform will transfer the ownership of hundreds of thousands of apartments to the citizens of Israel. How can it be that people lease their apartments and need to deal with the Israel Land Administration bureaucracy? We are getting rid of a third of the Israel Land Administration's bureaucracy.
We are going to continue. Firstly, I hope that we will pass this reform today, but within the next two weeks, we are going to assemble the same committee which prepared this reform in order to simplify and reduce the processes of the Planning and Building Committees. We live in one of the last places in the world where it takes years to plan a house, to construct a factory, to pave a road. Too many years. I expect that the Members of Knesset, instead of objecting to these changes that will release the lands, simplify and reduce the planning process, I expect them to support this, as the vast majority will indeed do.
The third component, in addition to reforming the Israel Land Administration and Planning and Building Committees, is of course the paving of transportation routes. The day before yesterday, the Minister of Transportation and I attended the opening of a new interchange, the new section of Highway 6. I have been following this project since the first time I was Prime Minister. I inaugurated the first interchange at the Ben Shemen Junction, and two years later, the interchange at the Kessem Junction. Of course, as Minister of Finance, I allocated funds for this.
Other people have also been involved with this – prime ministers, ministers of finance and transportation, all of whom deserve credit. I must just say that my involvement in this, and I am sure all of your involvement as well, stems from the recognition that we cannot continue living in the State of Hadera – Gadera. We need to break into the transportation routes, both trains and the fast roads to the Galilee and the Negev.
We made the decision to pave the “Fork of the North”, which is two new highways exiting from Yokneam. Highway No. 6 will go up to Nahariya and we will build interchanges on the north-east route at the Golani Junction, at the Amihud Junction, and at upper and lower passages in order to actually enable an express road to Kiryat Shmonah. As soon as the Galilee has these two roads, and one is able to travel north directly to Nahariya, or north-east to Rosh Pinah, and of course to Tiberias and then on to Safed and Kiryat Shmonah, we will change the face of the country.
We are connecting the periphery, and to a large degree abolishing it. I call this the “Connect Israel” road, which is exactly what it will be. However, this will not be the only project. We must “take Israel out of the traffic-jam” which will be carried out with greater vigor during the period of this government, out of a deep commitment to land reforms, to making the building processes more efficient, to paving roads, as this is something which really provides news, provides places to live, reduces the prices of apartments for young couples and soldiers, and simply enables them to live.
I wish to conclude with an outline of the government's policy on the diplomatic front:
In the first 100 days of this government, we formulated national agreement for the foundations of peace. In the speech which I gave at Bar-Ilan University, I outlined the 5 principles which, in my opinion, unite the vast majority of the public in Israel, and I believe, also the vast majority of international organizations who want real peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors.
1. The first one is something which should obvious, but which isn't: that the Palestinians who ask us to recognize a Palestinian state as the nation-state of the Palestinian people recognize the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
2. A derivative of this simple principle is that the refugee problem won't be resolved within the borders of the Jewish state.
3. The third thing derived from this is that when we sign a peace agreement, there will be no further claims against the State of Israel, not regarding the entrance of refugees, nor regarding territory or geographic regions in the State of Israel. An end to the conflict is an end to claims. If these things are so simple and obvious, why do they arouse such opposition, and who can really oppose such a thing. If we truly want peace, we must state these demands, which anchor the State of Israel's permanent legitimacy, in the clearest way possible, and this is exactly what we have done.
4. The fourth and fifth principles relate to security. We don't want to repeat the mistakes and tragedies of Gaza. We don't want another Hamastan and we don't want another Hizbullahstan. The main thing, in addition to questions of legitimacy and recognition, is demilitarization.
The demilitarization which we are seeking is an effective demilitarization: not demilitarization on paper, not a demilitarization which doesn't withstand the test of reality, not demilitarization arrangements which we see collapsing in Lebanon and in Gaza. We want effective demilitarization arrangements, which guarantee that there won't be a foreign army west of the Jordan. The airspace won't be transferred into enemy hands. Rockets and missiles, tanks or any other types of weapon won't penetrate this territory. These are basic tenets which I assume that not everyone, but the vast majority of MKs, almost all the MKs will agree with.
5. Demilitarization consists of two components: one component is effective security arrangements on the ground, and the second component is international recognition for these arrangements. I want to clarify that we are not asking international organizations to carry out these demilitarization arrangements, but we are seeking international recognition for these arrangements because we are being asked to take steps, to make concessions. We want to ensure that the State of Israel will be secure, and such security requires that there will be international recognition for effective demilitarization arrangements. Therefore, in response to the question of what will happen in case of a violation, it will be totally clear who has violated these arrangements, and who has honored them.
I think that it is possible to reach such understandings, or such arrangements if we insist on them. In general, all the things I said are not things which have not been said before. They have been said! But we assembled them and placed them at the front of the stage not as an excuse or trick, but because this is the most fundamental thing to do. Without this, there really can be no peace. I speak differently – I say things as they are.
I wish to reiterate the five principles: recognition of a Jewish state, refugees outside the State of Israel, an end to the conflict, effective demilitarization arrangements, and international recognition of these arrangements. These are the foundations for the national agreement for peace. I welcome the support which I have received from many, many, many citizens of Israel, because they know that this is just, and apart from the momentary polemics, you also know that this is just and necessary.
Mr. Speaker, Members of Knesset,
I thank you for this opportunity to present the principles of our actions and our policies in the first 100 days. Adhering to these principles is important, even if sometimes it is unpleasant to hear.
Certainly, the Palestinians oppose them, but I think that if someone were to objectively examine the principles I raised here, and not only here, if someone were to examine the actions we took to stabilize the economy, to pass the budget, to pass fundamental reforms – if someone were to objectively examine the policies we have adopted in the fields of national security and the State of Israel's continuous security – they can say that this government operates in a clear, vigorous and definite manner to ensure the future of the State of Israel.