About Us Israel

Statement by H.E. Mr. Shimon Peres

VicePrime Minister, Minister for the Development of the Negev, Galilee and Regional Economy of the State of Israel

Thank you, Mr. President,

Distinguished leaders of important countries,

I think because this was a very unique introduction to the CICA organization and by doing so, President Nazarbayev, you have demonstrated that Asia is not just a geographic continent, but a cultural definition.

This Congress is different from other congresses, because the purpose of it is not to enhance a military alliance, not to foster a political group, not because of religious affinity, not because of political traditions, and not because of a given conflict. This is really an attempt to test the strength of good will, our good will, may be to see if the weight of the good will can outweigh the good of the balance of terror, the strength of the military threats, and to see finally that may be the good will is the most sophisticated form.

And I believe that it is a worthwhile attempt and it can contribute. From my own experience I can say that building confidence is not a simple proposition. It is not easy for any nation, because when you have to go for peace, you have to make concessions, you have to make compromises, and people do not like it. People rather like to win wars than give up land, give up strength and negotiate in good sense.

The process of negotiation is very complicated, because when you negotiate with the other party, you must be careful not to win too much, if you win too much, you will eventually lose the partner, nothing will help. And if you permit me to say almost jokingly that peace is like love: you cannot achieve it unless you do not come closely and you sacrifice the affection for living. And I think all of us need this attempt.

We live among the borders that were born out of political divisions. And political divisions are there because we live on the land and the land has had to be divided. But now we are arriving at the age when we need not only rely on land, but upon science. If the land divides, science unites. We need to respect the call of nature, not just the call of traditions. The call of nature is water and energy, and oil, and science, and tolerance.

I do not suggest that we renegotiate the old borders, which will lead to conflicts. Let us keep the political borders as they are. Let us have another attempt to have borders that are loyal, reasonable, economic and based on good will.

I say it coming from a region, which has not a simple history. But even in our old history one can notice that historically we build walls to defend ourselves, and bridges to reach a new situation. Finally, the walls are destroyed, the bridges are extended.

We are living very close to the Palestinian people. And it is our definite view that the Palestinian people are entitled to have a state on the side of the State of Israel with equal rights, respect and good economy. And from my standpoint the better Palestinians will have it, the better neighbour we shall have. And to build a good neighbourhood is a right thing to do. Actually, we are very close to having peace. The distance between us and peace is closest in the last 50 years. Unfortunately, the closer we come to peace, the shortage of steam to make it is becoming evident. The distance is short, but the speed is slow and we have to try and think and add energy to introduce a real, durable and just peace.

But I can say that may be instead of tackling all the time the political borders, let us try and have a look if we can start a relationship, not based on borders, but based on economic relationship.

May be we can have an economic peace before we shall have a political peace. May be the political peace will come later. And I am not sure that the political peace will bring a better economy, but I do believe that a better economy will really lead to a real and durable peace. Since I mentioned it I want to explain what I mean exactly.

We are going to negotiate with the Palestinians. There is a split among the Palestinians. This split is not about peace. I think most Palestinians, like us, want peace. The Palestinians, like us, have fair ideas of what peace will look like, the differences are minor, they are bridgeable when you measure it by territories and otherwise. But when we look not at the nature of the conflict, but the setup of the borders and the relations, the border between us and the Jordanians and the Palestinians is 400 km long: 220 km with the Jordanians, 180 km with the Palestinians. We do not have a real problem with the Jordanians. Most of the borders are tranquil: no fences, no barriers, no walls, and no terror. We live together. So we ask ourselves, why do the countries act together?

Not just to tolerate each other, but to cooperate among themselves. And I think the Palestinians are beginning to feel the same way. So our ambition right now is to convert the political border – without changing it or whatever the political results will bring – into an ongoing economic park made of whole of 400 km, a garden of industry, for tourism, for the production of water, for the production of energy. I know that this sounds a little visionary, so I want to add straight away that this has met with an agreement from Jordan, Palestine and Israel. While we have certain disagreements, as            I have noted, the agreements do exist. And we are starting to build.

We have, just like Kazakhstan, a problem with a lake, which is losing its waters. And if we do not compensate it for the lake, it may well become an ecological catastrophe. We cannot save the lake, unless the three of us act together. We have to bring water to the lake from the Read Sea to the Dead Sea. We can develop excellent tourism there.

And we see that when we are building an industrial park, it provides a great deal of employment. I think that Palestinians are entitled not only to have financial aid in order to cover the cost of their administration, but economic aid in order to get jobs for their people.

Palestinians are intelligent people and I think that we should create joint or separate industrial parks; it may lead to deeper, meaningful relations between us and them. Now they will not be built by governments. Governments are active in building walls and reluctant to build peace, because basically the governments have the budgets, but not money. The money today is in the hands of global institutions and there is a lot of money waiting for investment, to be invested in emerging markets, in emerging opportunities and emerging technologies.

We want to try to negotiate politically as much as we can in spite of the existing difficulties, building economically without waiting for the results of negotiations.           We started and decided that we should do it not in the form of governmental preparation, but on the basis of global participation.

And I must say that today globality is not just strength economically, but an intelligent system of behaviour. The heads of modern companies are highly intelligent people and they understand that they cannot do the global business without caring for the global situation, introducing confidence and stability and good relations to loyal the borders, to open the skies, to be tolerant to differences, to introduce transparency and really handle the situation like people who belong to the future, not the people who are committed to the past.

Now here are many countries and we should be glad that they will partake in this attempt to build a bridge, to convert a border of hostility into a garden of cooperation.

Thank you very much.