Address to the U.S. Senate
delivered 10 April 2002
Thank you. I want to thank Senators Kyl and Lieberman for hosting this gathering, and for my many friends, the distinguished senators who are here, and Senator Helms, who have all been stalwart supporters of the State of Israel and the excellent relationship between our two countries. It is for the sake of our common values that I have come here today. I have come here to voice what I believe is an urgently needed reminder that the war on terror can be won with clarity and courage or lost with confusion and vacillation.
Seven months ago, on a clear day, in this capitol of freedom, I was given the opportunity to address you, the guardians of liberty. And I will never forget that day -- a day when words that will echo for ages pierced the conscience of the free world. These were words that lifted the spirits of an American nation that had been savagely attacked by evil, words that looked that evil straight in the eye and boldly declared that it would be utterly destroyed. And most important, words that charted a bold course for victory.
Now, these words were not mine. They were the words of the president of the United States. In an historic speech to the world that September, and with determined action in the crucial months that followed, President Bush and his administration outlined a vision that had the moral and strategic clarity necessary to win the war on terror.
The moral clarity emanated from an ironclad definition of terror and from an impregnable moral truth. Terrorism was understood to be the deliberate targeting of civilians in order to achieve political ends, and it was always unjustifiable. With a few powerful words, President Bush said all that was needed to be said. Terrorism, he said, is never, ever justified.
And the strategic clarity emanated from the recognition that international terrorism depends on the support of sovereign states, and that fighting it depends -- demands that these regimes be either deterred or dismantled. In one clear sentence, President Bush expressed this principle. He said, "No distinction will be made between the terrorists and the regimes that harbor them."
This moral and strategic clarity was applied with devastating force to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that supported al Qaeda terrorism. No forced moral equivalence was drawn between the thousands of Afghan civilians who are the unintentional and unfortunate casualties of America's just war, and the thousands of American civilians deliberately murdered on September 11th. No strategic confusion led America to pursue al Qaeda terrorism while leaving the Taliban regime in place.
Soon after the war began, the American victory over the forces of terror in Afghanistan brought to light the third principle in this war on terror -- namely, the imperative for victory, the understanding that the best way to defeat terror is to defeat it. Now, I know this sounds to you tautologous and it must have seen at first to be a trite observation, it wasn't fully understood, but contrary to popular belief, the motivating force behind terror is neither desperation nor destitution. It is, in fact, hope -- the hope of terrorists, systematically brainwashed by the ideologues who manipulate them, that their savagery will break the will of their enemies and help them achieve their objective. Now, if you defeat this hope, you defeat terrorism. Convince terrorists, convince their sponsors and their potential new recruits that terrorism will be thoroughly uprooted and severely punished, and you will stop terrorism in its tracks.
By adhering to these three principles -- moral clarity, strategic clarity, and the imperative for victory -- the forces of freedom, led by America, are well on their way to victory against terror from Afghanistan. But that is only the first step in dismantling the global terror network. The other terrorist regimes must now be dealt with rapidly in similar fashion.
And yet today, just seven months into the war, it is far from certain that this will be done. Faced with the quintessential terrorist regime of our time, a regime that both harbors and perpetrates terror on an unimaginable scale, the free world is muddling its principles, losing its nerve, and thereby endangering the successful prosecution of this war.
The question many in my country are now asking is this: Will America apply its principles consistently and win this war, or will it selectively abandon these principles and thereby ultimately risk losing the war? My countrymen ask this question because they believe that terrorism is an indivisible evil that must be fought indivisibly. They believe that if moral clarity is obfuscated, that if you allow one part of the terror network to survive, much less be rewarded for its crimes, then the forces of terror will regroup and rise again.
Until last week, I was absolutely certain that the United States would adhere to its principles and lead the free world to a decisive victory. Today, I too have my concerns. I am concerned that when it comes to terror directed against Israel, the moral and strategic clarity that is so crucial for victory is being lost. I am concerned that the imperative of defeating terror everywhere is being ignored when the main engine of Palestinian terror is allowed to remain intact. I'm concerned that the State of Israel, that has for decades bravely manned the front lines against terror, is being pressed to back down just when it is on the verge of uprooting Palestinian terror.
These concerns first surfaced with the appearance of a reprehensible moral symmetry that equates Israel, a democracy that is defending itself against terror, with a Palestinian dictatorship that is perpetrating it. The deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians has been shamefully equated with the unintentional loss of Palestinian life that is the tragic but unavoidable consequence of legitimate warfare. Worse, since Palestinian terrorists both deliberately target civilians, and deliberately hide behind civilians, Israel is cast as the guilty party because more Palestinians have been killed by Arafat's terrorist war than Israelis have been killed.
No one, of course, would dare suggest that the United States was the guilty party in World War II because German casualties, which, by the way, included millions of civilians, were 20 times higher than American casualties. So too, only a twisted and corrupt logic would paint America and Britain as the aggressors in the current war because Afghan casualties are reported by some -- I don't have conclusive figures -- to have well exceeded the death toll of September 11th.
The responsibility for civilian deaths in the U.S. on September 11th and in America's subsequent military actions lies squarely with the Taliban's chief, Mullah Omar, and with Osama Bin Laden. And similarly, the responsibility for civilian deaths in Israel, and in Israel's subsequent military action in Palestinian-controlled areas, lies squarely with Yasser Arafat, who has actually the dubious distinction of being the world's only terrorist chieftain who both harbors and perpetrates terrorism.
Now, my concern was sparked not only by this specious allocation of blame for civilian casualties, it deepened when, incredibly, Israel was asked to stop fighting terror and return to a negotiating table with a regime that is committed to the destruction of the Jewish state and openly embraces terror. Yasser Arafat brazenly pursues an ideology of "poliscide" -- I think I coined this phase -- "poliscide," which is the destruction of a state, and he meticulously pursues it by promoting a cult of suicide, and with total control of the media, the schools, the ghoulish kindergarten camps for children that glorify suicide martyrdom -- for God's sake, this is a man who signs the checks for the explosives for the suicide bombs. Arafat's dictatorships has indoctrinated a generation of Palestinians in a culture of death, producing waves of human bombs that massacre Jews in busses, discos, supermarkets, pizza shops, cafes -- everywhere and anywhere.
Israel has not experienced a terrorist attack on the scale that you have witnessed on that horrific day in September. That unprecedented act of barbarism will never be forgotten. It too will live in infamy. In my judgment, it will surpass in infamy the other great attack on America. But in the last 18 months, Israel's six million citizens have buried over 400 victims of terror -- a per capital total equal to half-a-dozen September 11ths. This daily -- indeed, hourly carnage, is also unprecedented, even in terrorism's long and bloody history. Yet, at the very moment when support for Israel's war against terror should be stronger than ever, my nation is being asked to stop fighting. And though we are assured by friends that we have the right to defend ourselves, we are effectively asked to suspend -- not to exercise that right.
But our friends should have no illusions. With or without international support, the government of Israel must fight, not only to defend its people and to restore a dangerously eroded deterrence to secure the Jewish state, but also to ensure that the free world wins the war against terror in this pivotal arena in the heart of the Middle East.
I think that Israel must now do three things. First, it must dismantle Arafat's terrorist regime and expel Arafat from the region. As long as the engineer of Palestinian terror remains in the territories, terrorism will not stop and the promise of peace will never be realized. Second, Israel must clean out the terrorists, the weapons, the explosives from all the Palestinian-controlled areas. We have uncovered just in Jenin about 1,400 Kalashnikov rifles, 12 laboratories for explosives, for TNT explosives, and hundreds -- hundreds of front-line terrorists. No place, whether it is a refugee camp in Gaza or an office in Ramallah, can be allowed to remain a haven for terror. And third, Israel must establish physical barriers separating the main Palestinian population centers from Israel's towns and its cities. And this will prevent any residual terrorists from reaching Israel. We have such a barrier around Gaza in the form of a fence, and hardly any -- not even a single terrorist suicide bomber has crossed from Gaza in recent months. Done together, these three measures will dramatically reduced terrorism. They will bring security to the people of Israel, and they will restore stability to the region.
Last week, the government of Israel began to take the second of these vital steps. Rather than bomb Palestinian-populated cities and towns from the air -- an operation that would have claimed thousands of civilian casualties -- the Israeli army is taking on a much greater risk by using ground forces that painstakingly make their way through the hornet's nest of Palestinian terror. But instead of praising Israel for seeking to minimize civilian casualties through careful and deliberate action, most of the world's governments shamelessly condemn it. For seven months, many of these governments have rightly supported the war against Afghan terror, yet after only seven days, their patience for Israel's war against terror has run out.
Now, the explanations that are offered for this double standard are not convincing. Actually, it's a triple standard. There is a standard for the dictatorships in the world. There is a standard for the democracies. And there is still a third standard for Israel. But none of the explanations for this double or triple standard are convincing.
First, it is said that the war on terror is different because the political process exists that can restore security and advance peace. This is simply not so. There can never be a political solution for terror. There can never be a political solution for terror for a simple reason. The grievance of terrorists can never be addressed through political concessions. If you offer terrorists political concessions, you encourage them to engage in more terror, which is more or less the process that Israel just went through. It offered Arafat's terror enormous concessions under a previous prime minister, and the terror catapulted to impossible heights. There is no political solution to terror. You have to defeat terror militarily in order to have a political process. Yasser Arafat's terrorist regime must be toppled, not courted.
The Oslo agreements, unfortunately, are dead. Arafat killed them. He tore it to shreds, soaked it in Jewish blood by violating every single one of the provisions of Oslo, including the two core commitments he made to recognize the state of Israel and to permanently renounce terrorism. With such a regime, with such a failure of leadership, no political process is possible. In fact, the political process can only begin when the terrorist regime is dismantled.
Second, it is said that waging war on Palestinian terror today will destabilize the region and cripple the imminent war against Saddam Hussein. This concern, my friends, is also misplaced. First, I must state clearly that the need to topple Saddam is paramount. I think the commitment of America and Britain to dismantle this terrorist dictatorship before it obtains atomic bombs, before it develops nuclear weapons, deserves the unconditional support of all sane governments and all sane people around the world.
But contrary to conventional wisdom, what has destabilized the region is not Israeli actions against Palestinian terror but rather the constant pressure exerted on Israel to show restraint. It is precisely the exceptional restraint shown by Israel for over a year and a half that has unwittingly emboldened its enemies and inadvertently increased the threat of a wider conflict. If Israeli restraint were to continue, the many thousands that are now clamoring for war in Arab capitols will turn into millions, and an unavoidable -- and an avoidable war will become inevitable. Half measures against terrorists will leave their grievances intact, fueled by the hope of future victory. Full measures may not redress these grievances, but it will convince them that the pursuit of terror will bring certain defeat.
America must now show that it will not heed the international call to stop Israel from exercising its right to self defense, for if the world begins to believe that America may deviate from its principles, then terrorist regimes that might have otherwise been deterred will not be deterred. Those that might have crumbled under the weight of American resolve, will not crumble. As a result, winning the war against terror will prove far more difficult, and perhaps impossible.
I must tell you that the charge that Israel, of all countries, is hindering the war against Saddam, is woefully unjust, because I think that my country, more than any other, has done more to make victory over Saddam possible. Twenty-one years ago, Prime Minister Menachem Begin sent the Israeli Air Force on a pre-dawn raid hundreds of miles away on one of the boldest military missions in our nation's history. When our pilots returned, we had successfully destroyed Sadaam's atomic bomb factory and crippled his capacity to build nuclear weapons. Israel was safer, and so was the world. But rather than thanking us for safeguarding freedom, the entire world condemned us. Ten years later, when American troops expelled Iraqis forces in the Gulf War, then Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney expressed a debt of gratitude to Israel for the bold and determined action a decade earlier that had made victory possible.
Indeed, I am confident that in time those who would question Israel's actions now will understand that rooting out Palestinian terror today will also make Israel and the world safer tomorrow. And there is a reason why I am saying that. If we do not shut down the terror factories that Arafat is hosting -- those terror factories that are producing human bombs -- it is only a matter of time before suicide bombers will terrorize your cities here in America. If not destroyed, this madness will strike in your busses, in your supermarkets, in your pizza parlors, in your cafes. Eventually, it is not impossible that those human bombs will supplement their murderous force with suitcases equipped with devices of mass death that could make the horrors of September 11th seem pale by comparison.
Arafat pioneered the art of airline hijacking. It was used against us, and very quickly spread to the entire world. It took us 20 years to put this demon back in the box. If we do not shut down the human bomb terror factories that Arafat is pioneering today, they will surely as the light of day reach the United States with greater and greater devastating force.
This is why there is no alternative to winning this war without delay. No part of the terror network can be left intact, for if not fully eradicated, like the most malignant cancer, it will regroup and attack again, with even greater ferocity. Only by dismantling the entire terror network will we be assured a victory.
But to assure that this evil does not re-emerge a decade or two from now, we must not merely uproot terror but also plant the seeds of freedom. If we win against Arafat, as I know we will -- if you win against Saddam and Iraq -- what will prevent a new Saddam or a new Arafat from coming back 10 years or 20 years from now? It is important to understand that only under tyranny can a diseased, totalitarian mindset be widely cultivated. And this totalitarian mindset, which is essential for terrorists to suspend the normal rules that govern human beings´ conscious behavior -- the behavior that prevents them from committing grisly acts, from blowing up babies, or a bus full of innocent people -- you have to brainwash people systematically under a tyrannical system in order to get them to make these acts, these suicide acts.
Well, it is impossible to produce such a mindset in a climate of democracy and freedom, because the open debate and plurality of ideas that buttresses all genuine democracies and the respect for human rights and the sanctity of life that are the shared values of all free societies, these are, at the end of the day, the permanent antidote to the poison that the sponsors of terror seek to inject into the minds of their recruits. And that is why it is also imperative that once the terror regimes in the Middle East are swept away, the free world, led by America, must begin to build democracy in their place. This will not happen overnight, and these will not become western democracies overnight or ever.
But we simply can no longer afford to allow this region to remain cloistered by a fanatic militancy. We must let the winds of freedom and independence finally penetrate the one region in the world that clings to unreformed tyranny. I have thought many times about Israel's position in the world, having led Israel and having represented it in the forum of public opinion and leadership such as this one. I have to tell you, my friends, that I'm not surprised that in exercising our basic right to defend ourselves, Israel, my country, is condemned by Arab dictatorships. This is predictable.
That today it is condemned by Europe may not be predictable, but it is a difficult thought. Europe, which 60 years ago refused to lift a finger to save millions of Jews on whose soil they were annihilated, Israel is now turning -- or rather Europe is now turning its collective backs on a Jewish state that is trying to ward off mass killers with legitimate military action. I think this is downright shameful. But I have to admit that I didn't expect much better from any of these European governments.
Yet the America I know and have come to deeply respect has always been different. History has entrusted upon this nation the task of carrying the torch of freedom. And time and again, through both war and peace, America has carried that torch with courage and with honor, combining a might the world has never known with a sense of justice that no power in history has possessed.
I have come before you today to ask you to courageously continue to carry this torch with courage, with honor, by standing by an outpost of freedom that is resisting an unprecedented terrorist assault. I ask you to stand by Israel's side in its fight against Arafat's tyranny of terror, and thereby help defeat an evil that threatens all of us, that threatens all of mankind. And, knowing you, I'm sure that you will respond.
Thank you very much.
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Benjamin Netanyahu: 9/11 Address to the U.S. Government Reform Committee Copyright Status:
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Also in this database: Benjamin Netanyahu: 9/11 Address to the U.S. Government Reform Committee
Copyright Status: Text, Image = Restricted, seek permission.