Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to US President Donald Trump’s presentation of his administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” vision, in remarks in the East Room of the White House on January 28, 2020. This is the full official text of the Israeli prime minister’s speech.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: In the Middle East, we drink water before a long voyage. This is an extraordinary voyage.
President Trump, Donald: I’m honored to be here today, along with my wife Sara; Minister Yariv Levin; Ambassador Ron Dermer — and, Ron, thank you for everything you’ve been doing — (applause); National Security Advisor Meir Ben Shabbat — thank you too, Meir — (applause); and our entire delegation.
We are honored to be here with you, Mr. President; with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — (applause) — we applaud you, Mike; Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin; National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien; America’s U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft — (applause); Jared Kushner and Ivanka — it’s good to see you both. (Applause.) It’s good to see the unfailingly energetic and optimistic Ambassador David Friedman — (applause) — Jason Greenblatt, Avi Berkowitz, Brian Hook, and the rest of your exceptional peace plan, Mr. President.
It’s good to be here with the other distinguished ladies and gentlemen of your administration, with senators and members of Congress who are Israel’s greatest friends on Capitol Hill. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you.
With the ambassadors of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Oman, what a pleasure to see you here — (applause) — and what a sign it portends — I was going to say “of the future.” What a sign it portends of the present. (Applause.)
To all of you and to the many distinguished — other distinguished guests who are here today: This is a historic day. And it recalls another historic day. We remember May 14th, 1948, because on that day, President Truman became the first world leader to recognize the State of Israel after our first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, declared our independence. That day charted a brilliant future.
Mr. President, I believe that down the decades — and perhaps down the centuries — we will also remember January 28th, 2020, because on this day, you became the first world leader to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over areas in Judea and Samaria that are vital to our security and central to our heritage. (Applause.)
And on this day, you too have charted a brilliant future — a brilliant future for Israelis, Palestinians, and the region — by presenting a realistic path to a durable peace. (Applause.)
Since the moment of its birth, Israel has yearned for peace with our Palestinian neighbors and peace with the broader Arab world. For decades, that peace has proved elusive, despite so many well-intentioned plans. One after the other, they failed. Why did they fail? They failed because they did not strike the right balance between Israel’s vital security and national interests, and the Palestinians’ aspirations for self-determination.
Too many plans tried to pressure Israel to withdraw from vital territory like the Jordan Valley. But you, Mr. President, you recognized that Israel must have sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and the other — (applause) — and other strategic areas of Judea and Samaria.
Rather than pay easy lip service to Israel’s security and simply shut your eyes, hope for the best, you recognized that Israel must have sovereignty in places that enable Israel to defend itself, by itself. (Applause.)
For too long — far too long — the very heart of the Land of Israel where our patriarchs prayed, our prophets preached, and our kings ruled, has been outrageously branded as illegally occupied territory. Well, today, Mr. President, you are puncturing this big lie. (Applause.)
You are recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over all the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, large and small alike. (Applause.)
These, as the distinguished pastors who are here know very well — these are places inscribed in the pages of the Bible. These are places carved into the bedrock of our common civilization: the sacred tomb in Hebron where the fathers and mothers of the Jewish people are buried; Bethel, where Jacob dreamed of a ladder ascending to the heavens; Shiloh, where the Ark of the Covenant that held the Ten Commandments for 10 century — for 10 century. For — sorry, for centuries. That’s what happened in Shiloh.
Thanks to you, Mr. President, these areas and so many others that, for millennia, have been etched in the soul of the Jewish people and have fired the imaginations of millions of people around the world and across the world — these areas will now be recognized by the United States as a permanent part of the Jewish State. (Applause.)
Mr. President, because of this historic recognition, and because I believe your peace plan strikes the right balance where other plans have failed, I’ve agreed to negotiate peace with the Palestinians on the basis of your peace plan. (Applause.)
It’s a great plan for Israel. It’s a great plan for peace. Frankly, Mr. President, given all that you have already done for Israel, I’m not surprised. You have been the greatest friend that Israel has ever had in the White House. (Applause.) Frankly, though we’ve had some great, outstanding friends in these halls, it’s not even close. (Applause.)
Your historic decisions to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights; to reaffirm Israel’s legal claims in Judea and Samaria; to stand up to Iran; to pull out of that dangerous Iran deal; to confront — “confront” is not the word — to eliminate Qasem Soleimani — (applause); to support and encourage unbelievable cooperation between Israel and the United States in the military and strategic and intelligence fields — all this bear testament to the friendship and depth of your leadership and commitment to Israel.
From our very first meeting here in the White House three years ago, you repeatedly made clear your commitment to help Israel achieve peace with the Palestinians and peace with the rest of the Arab world.
Mr. President, I share that commitment, and I look forward to working with you to achieve a peace the will protect Israel’s security, provide the Palestinians with dignity and their own national life, and improve Israel’s relations with the Arab world.
Your peace plan advances all these goals. First, it addresses the root cause of the conflict by insisting that the Palestinians will finally have to recognize Israel as the Jewish State. (Applause.)
Second, it stipulates that Israel will retain security control in the entire area west of the Jordan River, thereby giving Israel a permanent eastern border — a permanent eastern border to defend ourselves across our longest border. This is something we’ve longed to have. (Applause.) We now have such a recognized boundary.
Third, your plan calls for Hamas to be disarmed and for Gaza to be demilitarized. (Applause.)
Fourth, it makes clear that the Palestinian refugee problem must be solved outside the State of Israel. (Applause.)
Fifth, it calls for our ancient capital, Jerusalem, to remain united under Israel’s sovereignty. (Applause.) It, of course, ensures that religious sites remain accessible to all faiths. And it maintains the status quo on the Temple Mount.
Sixth, your plan does not uproot anyone from their homes — Israelis and Palestinians alike. Instead, it proposes innovative solutions whereby Israelis will be connected to Israel and whereby Palestinians will also be connected to one another. This is — it helps if you have these real estate people, you know? (Laughter.) They — they can come up with —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: It’s true.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: — they can come up with things normal human beings don’t think about. (Laughter.) And they have.
Mr. President, Israel wants the Palestinians to have a better life. We want them to have a future of national dignity, prosperity, and hope. Your peace plan offers the Palestinians such a future. Your peace plan offers the Palestinians a pathway to a future state.
I know that it may take them a very long time to reach the end of that path. It may even take them a very long time to get to the beginning of that path. But if the Palestinians are genuinely prepared to take that path, if they’re genuinely prepared to make peace with the Jewish State, and if they agree to abide by all the conditions you have put forward in your plan, Israel will be there. Israel will be prepared to negotiate peace right away. (Applause.)
Regardless of the Palestinian decision, Israel will preserve the path of peace in the coming years. For at least four years, Israel will maintain the status quo in areas that your plan does not designate as being part of Israel in the future.
At the same time, Israel will apply its laws to the Jordan Valley, to all the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and to other areas that your plan designates as part of Israel and which the United States has agreed to recognize as part of Israel. (Applause.) I like that.
This decision will protect Israel’s security, ensure Israel’s national interest, and leave open the possibility of a political settlement with the Palestinians in the coming years.
Mr. President, I hope the Palestinians embrace your vision of peace — embrace the plan that you and your team and us worked so hard to achieve. I hope that they seize the opportunity offered by your sweeping economic plan. I’ve read it. It takes enormous talent to reject $50 billion worth of investment. I know what that does to an economy. I know what it will do to Palestinian lives. I know what it will do to the youth of the region. I hope that the Palestinians embrace this and build, with Israel, a future of prosperity and peace.
I also hope that our other Arab neighbors embrace your vision and forge a path of reconciliation with Israel that can create for all of us a brilliant future.
Mr. President, I want to congratulate your fantastic team — there’s no other word — your fantastic peace team for all their work.
Jason Greenblatt. (Applause.) Thank you, Jason, for the terrific job you did as America’s peace envoy for nearly three years.
Avi Berkowitz, thank you for stepping out — (applause) –- thank you, Avi, for stepping out from your important behind-the-roles scene –- behind-the-scenes role and ably working in those past few months to get this plan done.
Ambassador David Friedman. Thank you, David. (Applause.) Thank you for your essential contribution to this effort and for the terrific job you do every day to strengthen the great alliance between Israel and America. (Applause.)
And, Jared Kushner, without your wisdom, your persistence, your resolve, this day would have never come. (Applause.) I know how much the Jewish future means to you and to your family. Well, Jared, today you have helped secure that future. The Jewish State owes you and it owes President Trump an eternal debt of gratitude. (Applause.)
Mr. President, on that historic day of May 14th, 1948, both David Ben-Gurion and President Truman had a fateful decision to make. Many argued that Ben-Gurion should not declare Israel’s independence. Many argued that President Truman should not recognize the Jewish State. But both leaders understood the magnitude of the hour. They seized the moment and they changed history.
Like you, Mr. President, I understand the magnitude of this moment. With you, Mr. President, I am prepared to seize the moment and change history. I know that there will be opposition; there’s always opposition. I know there will be many obstacles along the way — much criticism. But we have an old Jewish saying: “If not now, when? And if not us, who?” (Speaks Hebrew.)
Mr. President, your deal of the century is the opportunity of the century. And rest assured Israel will not miss this opportunity.
Mr. President, Donald: Israel is blessed to have your friendship and your powerful leadership. And Israel is blessed to have the friendship of the greatest power on Earth, the United States of America.
May God bless America. (Applause.) May God bless Israel. (Applause.) And may God bless us all with security, prosperity, and peace. Thank you. (Applause.)