Speaking on Thursday by videoconference to the President’s conference “Facing Tomorrow,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that Israel and its Western allies must “continue the proliferation of freedom” and “stop the proliferation of deadly weapons.”
Netanyahu said he was very optimistic about the long-term future, calling our era the “knowledge century.” However, he expressed deep skepticism that what he dubbed the Arab, Muslim and Iranian world were ready to benefit fully from the Western notion of freedom and the newest technological discoveries.
The prime minister said that he did not believe a major mature change could occur in the Arab-Muslim world for “several decades.” Although by the end of the century, Netanyahu was confident that “militant Islam would be defeated” and that even these nations would turn towards democracy and Western values, he described the central question as being what to do until then.
Despite the near term challenges, the prime minister said that Israel was the leading nation in bringing forth new concepts and ideas in relative terms, and one of the leading nations even in absolute terms.
Netanyahu also complimented President Shimon Peres on leading a successful confernce. He noted that Peres had received nearly every prize, including the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Nobel Peace Prize, and jokingly remarked that Peres was only missing an Olympic medal.
He called Peres a leading advocate of peace who has “dreamed, yearned and worked” for peace.
Following immediately after Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said that the Arab Spring is a “protest again poverty” and has disproved the leftwing’s focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the building of Israeli settlements as the sources of the Middle East’s problems.
Liberman said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has nothing to do with the revolts and turmoil taking place in Bahrain, Tunisia, Syria and Egypt.
He also noted that Israel had signed a peace agreement with Jordan despite continuing to build settlements as proof that peace could be made without giving up on the settlement enterprise.
On the flip side, the foreign minister stated that attempts to make peace with people who were not ready had backfired. The major 2005 disengagement from Gaza, according to Liberman, led to 12,000 rockets being fired on Israel by Hamas, including a number of rockets today during the conference.
Rather than signing what he called mere pieces of paper about peace, Liberman stated that Israel should be working with its neighbors on helping them improve their economies and education systems. According to Liberman, only after Israel’s neighbors were more stable economically and had vibrant middle classes’ could the harder issues in the Arab-Israeli conflict truly be solved.
Peres ended the conference on a different note from Netanyahu and Liberman, calling for disregarding skepticism about what Israel’s neighbors were capable of and embracing an enduring innocence and focusing on the dream of what could be possible. Only then, said Peres, could one transform the current circumstances.
Peres noted that all major jumps in human history were brought about by such innocence and dreaming, not skepticism.