Liberman: Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, now it becomes clear that we are also an island of stability in a chaotic region.

His Excellency the President of the State of Israel Mr. Shimon Peres, 
Heads of Missions and International Organizations, 
Members of the Diplomatic Corps, 
Ladies and gentlemen:

Excellencies, welcome and thank you for being here on this, Israel's 63rd Independence Day.

This year I stand before you with mixed emotions. There are those who have always felt that Israel was the 'black sheep' of the Middle East and international politics. They suggested that Israel was the source for all the wars and challenges in the Middle East. Recent events have certainly ended this fantasy once and for all.

We were always proud to state that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, now it becomes clear that we are also an island of stability in a chaotic region. In fact, Israel's stable democracy can serve as a model for the region. Some suggest that democracy can not flourish in the Middle East, Israel has proven that as a fallacy. Our country and its institutions, 63 years young, created by people from over 130 different countries, few with any experience of democracy and freedom, created one of the most successful and free democracies anywhere.

Our institutions have stood the test of time, especially in this dangerous neighborhood. The bloody reaction to those who seek change in our region has not surprised us.

The repression that has met the demonstrations in Syria, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere in the region can not possibly be justified. However, it remains confusing why the international community intervenes in Libya, but not in Syria or Iran. What conclusions are we to draw from this seeming inconsistency? These inconsistencies send a damaging message to the people of the Middle East and further erode the path to peace, security and democracy for our region.

The recent reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas brings up many questions. First of all, it is clear who are the leaders of Hamas and what are their goals. Also, we heard in the last few days that they are not willing to change the Hamas Charter and to accept the conditions of the Quartet. That an organization with a charter that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel through violent Jihad and aspires to a world without Jews, not just Zionists and Israelis, but Jews, should be thought of as partners to Fatah tells us more about Fatah than it does about Hamas.

The fact that Hamas mourned Bin Laden's death, as much as they celebrated 9/11, condemned America and called him "a Muslim and Arabic warrior" and prays that bin Laden's "soul rests in peace" further demonstrates the kind of people Fatah is now calling its partners and equals in government. In addition, in recent years over 12,000 rockets were fired at Sderot and southern Israel. Ask yourselves how would your countries have reacted to such attacks?

Fatah itself continues to glorify terrorists, including the naming of the Palestinian presidential offices in Ramallah after arch-terrorist Yahya Ayyash, a square in the government compound after Dalal Mughrabi, who participated in the Coastal Road massacre and rewarded the family of the mastermind of the terrorist attack which resulted in the death of dozens of Israelis enjoying a Passover Seder in Netanya.

The day before yesterday we heard Mahmoud Abbas say during a meeting that if Israel will freeze construction in the settlements for two or three months then the Palestinians will be ready to resume talks. This is very interesting and very strange. When the Israeli government decided on a moratorium as a unilateral gesture a year ago Abbas and the Palestinians rejected it completely. However, now they are exerting pressure for a moratorium that they previously rejected. The Palestinians wasted nine months and only during the final month entered into negotiations, not with a genuine intention to reach an agreement but rather because the U.S. imposed the process on them.

At least for me, it is clear that they are only looking for excuses to avoid meaningful talks that will lead to a comprehensive solution. The Palestinians are overly confident and are assuming that they have the complete support of the international community. This allows them to think that they will gain more directly from the international community than through negotiations with Israel. As a result, we have the right to wonder about the real intentions of Fatah.

We are ready for immediate talks without preconditions. However, there will be no new moratorium in Jerusalem or Judea and Samaria. Not for three months, not for three days and not even for three hours. The international community needs to understand that there is only one country in our region that respects international norms while standing against waves of unceasing daily terror attacks and incitement.

The recent killing of Osama Bin Laden should send a message to our enemies, that regardless of time, there is no statute of limitations to bringing justice for those massacred by terror. Our enemies on our northern and southern border who have shed innocent blood should pay attention to this message very clearly.

The State of Israel has always said and I repeat, we are willing to come to the negotiating table immediately to start direct talks with all of our neighbors. We are willing to make a great effort to achieve peace but we will not compromise our vital security interests.

I call on all of our neighbors to look at Israel's achievements in finance, hi-tech, science and industry. We are willing to share this knowledge with you. You have more to gain from cooperating with us than engaging in conflicts. The ball is in your hands.

 

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