Netanyahu Addresses the Knesset : The situation in Egypt
“We have two separate worlds here, two opposites, two world views: that of the free, democratic world and that of the radical world. Which one of them will prevail in Egypt?” – Benjamin Netanyahu.
As the violence in Cairo continues for a second day and the death toll rises, opposing factions find themselves in active armed conflict in the city’s streets. The Associated Press has reported the death of at least eight by midday Wednesday, with more than 800 injured. International and domestic journalists have been attacked and injured as anti-government activists.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Knesset regarding the situation in Egypt noting that “Millions of people poured into the streets of Egypt” as western leaders “spoke about the promise of a new day.”
Netanyahu said Israel recognizes the hopes of “all those who cherish human liberty, including the people of Israel, are inspired by genuine calls for reform and by the possibility that it will take place.”
“We know the value of democratic institutions and the significance of liberty. We know the value of independent courts that protect the rights of individuals and the rule of law; we appreciate of the value of a free press, and of a parliamentary system with a coalition and an opposition…an Egypt that is anchored in democratic values, would never be a threat to peace…the stronger the foundations of democracy, the stronger the foundations of peace. Peace among democracies is strong, and democracy strengthens the peace.”
Netanyahu cautioned however that an alternate scenario is, however, possible, recalling that the results of the “popular revolution” against another autocratic leader, the Shah, had given rise to the current regime in Iran. “(I) assure you, that the leaders in Iran are not interested in the genuine desires of Egyptians for freedom, liberalization or reform, any more than they were interested in answering similar calls for freedom by the Iranian people, their own people, only 18 months ago.” “I’m not sure it’s over.”
He continued, saying “the Iranian regime is not interested in seeing an Egypt that protects the rights of individuals, women, and minorities. They are not interested in an enlightened Egypt that embraces the 21st century. They want an Egypt that returns to the Middle Ages. They want Egypt to become another Gaza, run by radical forces that oppose everything that the democratic world stands for….The answer to this question is crucial to the future of Egypt, of the region and to our own future here in Israel.”
Netanyahu assured that Israel “support(s) the forces that promote freedom, progress and peace. We oppose the forces that seek to enforce a dark despotism, terrorism and war. Should the forces that wish to carefully reform and democratize Egypt prevail, I am convinced that such positive change would also buttress a wider Arab-Israeli peace.”
He stressed that preventing the political oppressions that has occurred in Iran, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip must be a priority. “Does Iran enjoy freedom? Is there a real democracy in Gaza? Does Hizbullah promote human rights? We must ensure that this does not happen again. We must do everything in our power to ensure that peace triumphs.”
Noting that Israel had enjoyed peaceful borders with Egypt and Jordan for almost 40 years, he said “preserving the existing peace is vital for us. We expect any government of Egypt to honor the peace. Moreover, we expect the international community to expect any government of Egypt to honor the peace. This must be clear, along with the discussions about reform and democracy.”
Calling for alertness and vigilance, the Prime Minister said “we are in a turbulent situation. In such situations we must look around with our eyes wide open. We must identify things as they are, not as we’d like them to be. We must not try to force reality into a preconceived pattern. We must accept that a huge change is taking place, and while it is happening – keep a watchful eye. The basis for our stability and our future, for preserving or extending the peace, especially during unsteady times, is by reinforcing the might of the State of Israel. That requires security and also for us to be honest with ourselves.”
Netanyahu called on the Palestinians to approach the negotiations for peace with seriousness. “If there is no peace, or peace shatters, because of us, we can do something about it to change the way things are. If it is up to the other party or parties we have less influence over the situation.” “We are willing and we want to promote the peace process with the Palestinians. I have said that the first two components of this peace process are mutual recognition and security. If I may quote myself from upon this platform, I have said numerous times that we need real security arrangements. Not only because they sustain peace, but also because they ensure our security in the event that peace unravels – and in the Middle-East no one can guarantee the survival of any regime. “We have taken great lengths to help the Palestinian economy, not as an alternative to the political peace that we want to negotiate with them, but as a contribution to stability and to help the Palestinian population understand that there is a lot to be gained from peace. Israelis and Palestinians have many differences between them. But there is only one way to resolve those differences – a negotiated settlement, not through unilateral steps.”