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Monday, January 22, 2007

The 7th Herzliya Conference > Lecture Summaries - Amir Peretz, Minister of Defense

The 7th Herzliya Conference > Lecture Summaries
Amir Peretz, Minister of Defense

   2006 was a year of unexpected occurrences.  A year ago I presented on  this stage my political plans.  At the time, talk was of continued withdrawal from the territories, after the successful disengagement of Gaza, with an optimistic road map.

Since then the situation has dramatically changed.  The rise of Hamas to power in the Palestinian Authority, the "Big Bang" in Israeli politics, and the war of this past summer.

I received the position of Minister of Defense out of complete dedication and out of the desire to implement an outlook that was civil, social, and secure.

This creates a predominantly wide outlook through which political processes and peace arrangements can be made.  I lead an outlook that combines military strength and social security alongside each other.  The war
strengthened this as my outlook.

This is a very important period where we are standing before external threats and an internal situation full of social disparity and racism.  New tools will allow us to successfully manage both of these fronts.  Today, we
are prisoners of the war after the war: the challenges are keeping and developing our achievements from the war and countering the attempts of Hezbollah to return and expand.

With this, there were important achievements made in the war: the change in the reality of South Lebanon, the weakening ofthe Hezbollah, the deployment of the Lebanese army and UNIFIL forces.  We proved that the threat of rockets, kidnappings, and terror will not leave us helpless.

Unfortunately, we have not yet returned our sons to their homes; this important issue is being dealt with in every  possible way, known and unknown.  There is no doubt that the fact that the war ended without the return of these sons cast a shadow on our accomplishments in the war.

Israel is acting on multiple fronts: Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, Iran; at the same time, the potential for escalation and deterioration of all the parties is rising because of the Hezbollah and Syria.

Israel must utilize its meeting of interests with the moderate actors in the region to cope with the strategic threat and to show weight against Iran and other extreme factors.

We must prepare methods to contend with military actions so that we will be victorious over any future conflict, and to assure that we will have a response to Iranian efforts.

On the other hand, regional opportunities must be exploited.  Time is running out and this time must be utilized to strengthen moderate actors.  I am of the opinion that in the current situation emphasis should be placed on the Palestinians.  This will influence the balance and strengthen the moderates, and will challenge extreme Iran.

When Hamas is strengthened and the moderates are weakened, it is necessary to integrate the cease-fire into a political accord. We cannot be drawn into a situation where the military is dragged into Gaza without political advances being made. I say this as a resident of Sderot whose security has been infringed and my neighbors hurt from the fall of Qassam rockets. I stand before you and say that the extent of protests will not determine the extent of action. However, as a result of intelligent and unequivocal policy; we are combating terror, but not the Palestinian people. The security system has realized that as the Palestinian's distress grows, so does the potential for terror. I have adopted significant actions, among them easing of checkpoints, enlargement of passageways, and the opening of new passageways. This influences the feeling of cooperation. The inspection policy at checkpoints has also been changed.

However, these advances are dwarfed by the scene of a female settler who curses at and humiliates a Palestinian family. This discredits the advancement of our values as a state and such scenes serve as tools for incitement against Israel.

The government established a staff, overseen by me, whose members include the Foreign Minister, Interior Minister and Minister of Internal Security. This staff understands that it is impossible to explain to the world how a soldier, as a result of legalities, stands helpless in the background while an Israeli woman torments a Palestinians. Throughout the world this is conceived as events that have the sponsorship of the government and I do not plan to allow such incidents to continue. Parallel to this, it is obvious that a new policy plan must be commanded. A new process is necessary because the current freeze works against us. I will put forth a new that will be presented to the government.

This plan presents the purpose of a permanent arrangement on the basis of two states. This is a culmination of the Road Map with the Saudi Initiative. It is important that moderate Arab states feel a part of the plan.

There are three parts to the plan:

1. The redesign of the security and economic reality. The return of the soldier Gilad Shalit, release of Palestinian prisoners, all-encompassing cease-fire, a security arrangement that prevents the rise of terror, the acceleration of economic activities, and the taking down of illegal settlements that were established after March 2001.

2. Negotiations for a permanent arrangement. This stage will happen over 6 months. Negotiations with the Palestinian President representing the Palestinian people. Any authority that acknowledges the state of Israel and accepts the decisions of the Quartet I see as a partner for negotiations; if Hamas recognizes Israel I see them as a partner for negotiations. No authority or actor should be negated. Conditions that create merit for negotiations must be highlighted.

Within this framework, negotiations should transpire over security arrangements on customs and the future of the port in Gaza. This will be presented to a multi-national committee. The purpose of these negotiations will be to achieve a solution to Bush's vision and the Saudi Initiative. The process will include the opening of an airport in Dahanya, a controlled passageway between Gaza and the West Bank, and the transfer of Area B to Area A.

We may be confused when there are too many plans. These two steps are an attempt to neutralize the two issues that put us in a situation from which we cannot advance.

The dismantling of terror occurs in the second step; obviously we must first give the Palestinian Authority the ability to strengthen their security forces. Only this way can they tear down terrorist infrastructure.

3. Detailed negotiations for a permanent agreement that will continue from stage two and will continue for at least 18 months.

I am of the opinion that this initiative presents a gradual process that allows for the examination of results at each stage. An additional advantage in this plan is the creation of a realistic perspective that will raise trust in the process, and this is how we will overcome the obstacle of the Palestinian state. This idea of a Palestinian state within temporary borders will not be easily accepted by the Palestinian people. There is a large concern within major groups that attempt to influence the public, extremists claim that this is a permanent arrangement and there will be no further advances. Therefore, I transferred Area B to A; this is the transfer of additional responsibility without the definition of a state with temporary borders.

In the northern area, we must prepare for any potential deterioration with Hezbollah. We must read the actions from Damascus.

The I.D.F. is undergoing a process of learning lessons; this is an important process.

Unfortunately, The Chief of Staff decided to abandon his position before the stage of the implementation of lessons learned. I respect his decision and thank him for his contribution of many years to the state of Israel. We have one army and many challenges. It is essential to guard the IDF and its status. Those looking from the outside mistakenly explain the internal Israeli criticism as a sign of weakness. The appointment of Chief of Staff will be done as fast as possible as a national matter can be handled. After consulting and meeting with the Prime Minister I will present my decision before a committee, and after that I will bring it to the certification of the government.

I see in the actualizing of the committee's conclusions as a personal obligation, stemming from the purpose of preparing the IDF for any possible conflict via a fully-invested plan, in equipping, in training, and in the establishment of a set of priorities.

This is the place to learn lessons:

1. The outlook of managing national threats. The order of actions. Influence on the market. Immunizing the home front. National moral, etc. I requested Amos Milkha to guide a staff on these subjects. Transformation of the home front to be secure must be the focus. This is a national, central goal. National security must be related to as a whole entity. Another element must be adopted to the known outlook on security (deterrence, warning, declaration) that of active and passive resistance. I turned to Dan Meridor and asked him to complete his work on the investigation. It is imperative to find an answer to high trajectory shooting. Since entering my position and before the war I changed the decision to continue the project of shooting down short-range missiles. If such a system had not been operational, the past war would have looked completely different.

It is obvious that was will not be. This year everything is different: more reservists, more equipping. We will change our relationship towards the reservists and we will strengthen them, including complete compensation. We must better prepare the reservists. The IDF is one army and is not separated between compulsory servicemen and reservists.

Regarding the budget, this is connected to all the lessons from the war. We received additional funds for the compensation of reservists. We enlarged the security budget for the first time in years.

I must remind you that before the war the security budget was reduced by 510 million shekel.

I opposed the budget cut, but it was hard to find support. I was attacked; I made headlines on the basis of my social beliefs. However, I did say that before we reduce the budget, a budget covering many years must be decided upon, and we must examine the options. I support this position again. It is imperative that we become more efficient. So there is no misunderstanding, I plan on examining every way and every place that can be reduced and reduce it, but the version Israel presents of tanks being prioritized over the hungry and planes prioritized over the disable is incorrect.

The expenditures of the war reduce investment in other areas. You must propose and not just request. The constraints of spending should be changed. Senior workers are about to receive an increase. It is clear to me that most senior workers are unaware of this and most would be willing to give up this increase to create a healthier balance.

The state of Israel must connect between its economic strength and its internal gaps.

I see these gaps, corruption, and racism as threats to Israel and heading my road map is educational reform, strengthening workers via the minimum wage, raising pensions, all this while pursuing peace with our neighbors. There was an addition to the basket of medications, a committee of ministers was established under my authority, pensions were legislated, the human resource law was implemented, and I will continue many other parliamentary developments. A committee was established to take care of the non-Jewish sector; infrastructure was reinforced, and focus was given to the population of young academics who finish their studies but cannot integrate into the workforce. Their integration will bridge gaps between the populace. I made the decision to appoint an Arab minister. This stems from my world outlook. I know there are those who attempt to tie this achievement to political connections. Even if I appointed a Jewish minister, they would arise and claim this appointment political

From time and beyond, political constellations created huge political revolutions. The appointment of an Arab minister could create a change that might enhance leverage in our relations with our neighbors.

I am sure that I stand here today and say with a whole heart that we are going in the right direction. I hope that we have succeeded in stopping the social deterioration, the security, and the social justice. I would like to send from here a supporting hand to all the bereaved families, a speedy recovery to the hurt, and a speedy return of the captives and missing.

I wish you all peace, security, prosperity, and social justice.



IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis Website


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