Latest update: October 5th, 2012
(The following is adapted from the Israeli prime minister’s address to the United Nations last week.)
Three thousand years ago, King David reigned over the Jewish state in our eternal capital, Jerusalem. I say that to all those who proclaim that the Jewish state has no roots in our region and that it will soon disappear.
The Jewish people have lived in the land of Israel for thousands of years. Even after most of our people were exiled from it, Jews continued to live in the land of Israel throughout the ages. The masses of our people never gave up the dream of returning to our ancient homeland.
Defying the laws of history, we did just that. We ingathered the exiles, restored our independence and rebuilt our national life. The Jewish people have come home. We will never be uprooted again.
In Israel, we walk the same paths tread by our patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But we blaze new trails in science, technology, medicine, agriculture. In Israel, the past and the future find common ground.
Unfortunately, that is not the case in many other countries. For today, a great battle is being waged between the modern and the medieval.
The forces of modernity seek a bright future in which the rights of all are protected, in which an ever-expanding digital library is available in the palm of every child, in which every life is sacred.
The forces of medievalism seek a world in which women and minorities are subjugated, in which knowledge is suppressed, in which not life but death is glorified.
These forces clash around the globe, but nowhere more starkly than in the Middle East.
Israel stands proudly with the forces of modernity. We protect the rights of all our citizens: men and women, Jews and Arabs, Muslims and Christians – all are equal before the law.
Israel is also making the world a better place: our scientists win Nobel Prizes. Our know-how is in every cell-phone and computer that you’re using. We prevent hunger by irrigating arid lands in Africa and Asia.
And Israel’s exceptional creativity is matched by our people’s remarkable compassion. When disaster strikes anywhere in the world – in Haiti, Japan, India, Turkey, Indonesia and elsewhere – Israeli doctors are among the first on the scene, performing life-saving surgeries.
In the past year, I lost both my father and my father-in-law. In the same hospital wards where they were treated, Israeli doctors were treating Palestinian Arabs. In fact, every year, thousands of Arabs from the Palestinian territories and Arabs from throughout the Middle East come to Israel to be treated in Israeli hospitals by Israeli doctors.
It’s because Israel cherishes life that Israel cherishes peace and seeks peace.
We seek to preserve our historic ties and our historic peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. We seek to forge a durable peace with the Palestinians.
Israel wants to see a Middle East of progress and peace. Yet the medieval forces of radical Islam oppose this. They seek supremacy over all Muslims. They are bent on world conquest. They want to extinguish freedom.
Some seventy years ago, the world saw another fanatic ideology bent on world conquest. It went down in flames. But not before it took millions of people with it. Those who opposed that fanaticism waited too long to act. In the end they triumphed, but at an horrific cost.
We cannot let that happen again.
At stake is not merely the future of my own country. At stake is the future of the world. Nothing could imperil our common future more than the arming of Iran with nuclear weapons.
To understand what the world would be like with a nuclear-armed Iran, just imagine the world with a nuclear-armed al-Qaeda.
It makes no difference whether these lethal weapons are in the hands of the world’s most dangerous terrorist regime or the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization. They’re both fired by the same hatred; they’re both driven by the same lust for violence.
Just look at what the Iranian regime has done up till now, without nuclear weapons. In 2009 it brutally put down mass protests for democracy in its own country. Today, its henchmen are participating in the slaughter of tens of thousands of Syrian civilians, including thousands of children, directly participating in this murder.
Iran abetted the killing of American soldiers in Iraq and continues to do so in Afghanistan. Before that, Iranian proxies killed hundreds of American troops in Beirut and in Saudi Arabia. They’ve turned Lebanon and Gaza into terror strongholds, embedding nearly 100,000 missiles and rockets in civilian areas. Thousands of these rockets and missiles have already been fired at Israeli communities by their terrorist proxies.
In the last year, they’ve spread their international terror networks to two dozen countries across five continents – from India and Thailand to Kenya and Bulgaria. They’ve even plotted to blow up a restaurant a few blocks from the White House in order to kill a diplomat.
Given this record of Iranian aggression without nuclear weapons, just imagine Iranian aggression with nuclear weapons. Imagine their long range missiles tipped with nuclear warheads, their terror networks armed with atomic bombs.
There are those who believe a nuclear-armed Iran can be deterred like the Soviet Union. That’s a very dangerous assumption.
Militant jihadists behave very differently from secular Marxists. There were no Soviet suicide bombers. Yet Iran produces hordes of them.
Deterrence worked with the Soviets, because every time the Soviets faced a choice between their ideology and their survival, they chose their survival. But deterrence may not work with the Iranians once they get nuclear weapons.
Iran’s apocalyptic leaders believe that a medieval holy man will reappear in the wake of a devastating Holy War, thereby ensuring that their brand of radical Islam will rule the earth. That’s not just what they believe. That’s what is actually guiding their policies and their actions.
For nearly a decade, the international community has tried to stop the Iranian nuclear program with diplomacy. That hasn’t worked. Iran uses diplomatic negotiations as a means to buy time to advance its nuclear program.
For over seven years, the international community has tried sanctions with Iran. Under the leadership of President Obama, the international community has passed some of the strongest sanctions to date.
It’s had an effect on the economy, but we must face the truth. Sanctions have not stopped Iran’s nuclear program either. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, during the last year alone, Iran has doubled the number of centrifuges in its underground nuclear facility in Qom.
At this late hour, there is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs. That’s by placing a clear red line on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Red lines don’t lead to war; red lines prevent war.
Look at NATO’s charter: it made clear that an attack on one member country would be considered an attack on all. NATO’s red line helped keep the peace in Europe for nearly half a century.
In fact, it’s the failure to place red lines that has often invited aggression. If the Western powers had drawn clear red lines during the 1930s, I believe they would have stopped Nazi aggression and World War II might have been avoided.
In 1990, if Saddam Hussein had been clearly told that his conquest of Kuwait would cross a red line, the first Gulf War might have been avoided.
Clear red lines have also worked with Iran. Earlier this year, Iran threatened to close the Straits of Hormouz. The United States drew a clear red line and Iran backed off.
Red lines could be drawn in different parts of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. But to be credible, a red line must be drawn first and foremost in one vital part of their program: on Iran’s efforts to enrich uranium. Now let me explain why:
Basically, any bomb consists of explosive material and a mechanism to ignite it.
The simplest example is gunpowder and a fuse. That is, you light the fuse and set off the gunpowder.
In the case of Iran’s plans to build a nuclear weapon, the gunpowder is enriched uranium. The fuse is a nuclear detonator.
For Iran, amassing enough enriched uranium is far more difficult than producing the nuclear fuse.
For a country like Iran, it takes many, many years to enrich uranium for a bomb. That requires thousands of centrifuges spinning in tandem in very big industrial plants. Those Iranian plants are visible and they’re still vulnerable.
In contrast, Iran could produce the nuclear detonator – the fuse – in a lot less time, maybe under a year, maybe only a few months.
The detonator can be made in a small workshop the size of a classroom. It may be very difficult to find and target that workshop, especially in Iran. That’s a country that’s bigger than France, Germany, Italy and Britain combined.
The same is true for the small facility in which they could assemble a warhead or a nuclear device that could be placed in a container ship. Chances are you won’t find that facility either.
So in fact the only way that you can credibly prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon is to prevent Iran from amassing enough enriched uranium for a bomb. The red line should be drawn right here — before Iran completes the second stage of nuclear enrichment necessary to make a bomb. Before Iran gets to a point where it’s a few months away or a few weeks away from amassing enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon.
The red line must be drawn on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program because these enrichment facilities are the only nuclear installations that we can definitely see and credibly target.
I believe that faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down.
This will give more time for sanctions and diplomacy to convince Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons program altogether.
President Obama has reiterated that the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran cannot be contained. I very much appreciate the president’s position as does everyone in my country. We share the goal of stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program. This goal unites the people of Israel. It unites Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike and it is shared by important leaders throughout the world.
The traditions of the Jewish people go back thousands of years. They are the source of our collective values and the foundation of our national strength. We heed the words of the Jewish prophets Isaiah, Amos, and Jeremiah to treat all with dignity and compassion, to pursue justice and cherish life and to pray and strive for peace.
These are the timeless values of my people and these are the Jewish people’s greatest gift to mankind.
Let us commit ourselves to defend these values so that we can defend our freedom and protect our common civilization.
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