MARK REGEV SPOKESPERSON FOR THE NETANYAHU GOVERNMENT IN ISRAEL, ADDRESSED THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IN MELBOURNE, 13/10/09.
Mark Regev is an ex-Melbournian who was on a private visit to his family. This was his 3rd consecutive yearly visit and the only speaking engagement while in Australia. Held at the Kew Synagogue with a capacity audience I took some brief notes which are transcribed hereunder. MM.
“What will make a real peace?”
Mark started his topic on the prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians with a question:
"Is it possible,- is it probable,- that if Israel undid everything that happened after the ’67 war,- i.e. removed all West bank settlements, divided Jerusalem, returned borders, refugees, etc.,- that there would still not be peace?"
Given the historical decisions taken to date by the various Governments in order to obtain international legitimacy and in the hope of creating some momentum towards peace,- namely in Southern Lebanon and the Gaza strip, it is obvious that the answer is a resounding yes.
The questions that have to be asked, although it goes against the conventional wisdom of today, is:
concentrating on settlements,- why was there a ’67 war?
Refugees? Why was there a ’48 war?
Are the consequences of conflicts, the root causes of the conflict?
No. The root cause for the initial conflicts is still the cause for conflict today.
The Arabs lost the vote at the UN in ’48 for a two-State solution,- result, resorted to violence. They created their own refugee problem; then,- more violence created the ’67 war. They lost out again and the West Bank and Gaza were occupied and had to be settled to stop violence. Hezbollah in Lebanon created the Lebanon war,- all because of one irrefutable fact which is still the real stumbling block to any meaningful dialogue for peace:
Both sides need to accept the legitimacy of the other, but one side refuses to do so.
The Netanyahu government is prepared and has stated that it is ready to accept a Palestinian State alongside Israel, but not for conflict,- for peace. Given past experience,- it has tried once,- failed; tried a second time,- failed. No one is prepared to make the same mistake a third time. Israel must be accepted as the homeland for the Jewish people first and foremost. All other issues can then be negotiated on an even playing field.
Issues of security. These cannot be dismissed. The West Bank must be demilitarized, not in principle, not by resolutions on paper, but in fact. It is not happening now,- too many arms getting through to Gaza and the West Bank, as well as to Hezbollah in Lebanon, irrespective of Un resolutions and paper agreements.
Economic issues. A prosperous Palestinian society is in Israel’s interest as well as in the Palestinians’ interest. Their economy on the West Bank is set by the IMF to grow by 7%, in spite of the world’s economic crisis. Tourism is up; dozens of minor road-blocks have been taken down for ease of movement of the population and of goods and because their security is better and because of the Israeli security fence.
Re US President Obama. In his speech in Cairo he told his Arab audiences in the middle of the Arab world that the US –Israel linkage will remain unbroken. He is looking for a regional peace, but the Arab nations are just spectators, not players in the region.
There are no new settlements,- there is no ‘settlement growth’,- this is just an excuse for Abu Mazen/Abass to find an excuse not to pursue any peace talks. The closer they get to peace, the more reasons they find to widen the gap. Israel has not set pre-conditions for starting peace- talks, but suddenly the Palestinians have set their own.
This is why the only hope is for their people to want to make peace and then for them to find the leaders who can and want to make real peace. If the Palestinians could only get their act together and start building some proper infrastructures for statehood, perhaps their wish for a peaceful resolution of the conflict might finally result. A recent poll suggested that nearly 70% wished to live in peace with Israel. This is a hopeful sign.
RE ‘concessions’. They always want Israel to make concessions and when they get some,- former PM Olmert offered the most wide-reaching concessions they ever received,- they always turn away. The closer the Palestinians get to peace, the wider they claim the gap to be. Instead of having the guts to accept everything in principle and then get on with further negotiations as real-peace partners would do, they prefer to hang on,- to and for,- what?
RE “the West Bank settlements’. As far as the Palestinians are concerned, all Israel is ‘settlements’.
21 settlements dismantled in Gaza,- where did that get Israel? Severe limitations already on settlement growth, to the extent that the political Settler-Movement is daily demonstrating outside the Knesset and has refused to join the Netanyahu Government.
There is no expansion of the settlements outside their borders, the natural growth in infrastructures will continue inside those settlements,- but which ones will remain in Israel and which will not,- will be part of eventual peace negotiations, if and when they will arise.
RE the Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman: what is not well known outside Israel is the fact that his activities are very interesting. He travels to places where no Israeli FM has ventured since Golda Meir’s days,- in Africa, Latin America, this week to Vienna and Kazakhstan. He is developing some very good relations with many countries.
RE the supporters of a “one State solution”. No serious person supports this concept anywhere, except Ahmadinejad, Ghaddafi and their ilk. If you want to support them, then you can go down that path. One either supports the principle of a Jewish Homeland for Jewish people or one doesn’t. Palestinians are not going to be Israelis and Israelis won’t be Palestinians. Each can or could be citizens of the others’ countries, but nothing else.
Re Iran. The Iranian proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, are reasonably quiet since the fiasco with the false election results and the resulting protests. They are in defensive mode at present in case they get the same treatment from their own people.
However, if the Ahmadinejad forces succeed to make a nuclear-armed Iran a reality, then these extremists will be re-energized and then the whole ME will be in danger. The Europeans also know only too well what it means for them, because Israel is only the first in the line of fire.
Re “speaking to Hamas”. This is a ludicrous suggestion. Why not speak to Al Queda, Taliban or other terrorists who want to kill you? When the Austrians elected a Fascist Party to government, most Western Nations immediately recalled their Ambassadors from Vienna. One look at the Hamas Charter, their public pronouncements (in Arabic) to their people, or to their continued activities, shows you that there is no one to talk to. The European leaders or others don’t make these demands on Israel. (Only old Malcolm Fraser does!)
Re “Goldstone Report”. Why did Goldstone accept to undertake something that 3 others refused, including Mary Robinson,- no friend of Israel,- who refused to do so because the terms of reference were so one-sided? Why would anyone undertake anything for a misnamed group such as the UN-HRC, led by the likes of Nth. Korea, Lybia, Somalia, Syria & Iran, etc., etc.? They have an anti-Israel obsession as though the human rights in their countries are the best, only Israel’s are the worst. They passed 25 Resolutions, 20 about Israel.
Then Goldstone comes in, gets into Gaza and holds public meetings about the war. What sane person would dare to criticize Hamas publicly in Gaza? Who would dare not to criticize Israelis and the IDF there? Then he has the chutzpah to tell Israel not to charge those who spoke up against the IDF. Who spoke up?- Gilad Shalit’s father He thinks Israel will jail him?
The Israeli army has investigated 100 complaints about the war and 21 individuals are being investigated by the civil criminal justice system. One can just see this happening under Hamas. Where was the UN-HRC when Hamas rained their thousands of rockets over many years into Israel, in direct violation of signed armistice agreements?
The inevitability of war as a result, was obviously instigated by Hamas, yet Israel is not classed as a victim but an aggressor.
USA, Canada, UK, Australia and all the coalition anti-terrorist forces in Iraq and Afghanistan had better beware, because a Goldstone report can happen to all of them!
CONCLUSION:If the Gaza response is illegitimate, how can Israel ever take a risk for peace in the future?
Finally, to a questioner about Gilad Shalit, the answer was,-no comment, nothing to discuss!