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S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace

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The S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace is an American non-profit advocacy group that works with leaders and policymakers in the United States and the Middle East to help reach a just and comprehensive peace that will bring an end to the Arab–Israeli conflict. To further this mission, the Center's activities include meetings with government officials, travel in the region, diplomatic exchanges, conferences, and workshops. The Center also supports negotiations through its exhaustive database of maps and geographical data, often used by decision makers in the region, as well as regular polling of public opinion.

The Center was established in 1989 by U.S. Congressman Wayne Owens (D-Utah) and then-Slim Fast Foods Chairman S. Daniel Abraham.[1] A World War II combat veteran, Abraham had experienced the horrors of war and committed himself to the prevention of future conflicts. When he met Congressman Owens, who served on the House Foreign Affairs and Select Intelligence Committees, the two men recognized that they shared a determination to achieve a peaceful resolution to the Arab–Israeli conflict.

Since its founding, the Center's officers have traveled extensively and regularly throughout the Middle East. The Center has also sponsored numerous fact-finding missions to the region for members of Congress, government officials, and private citizens to meet with Middle East leaders. Through visits to Israel and more than 20 Arab countries, the Center has enabled American decision-makers to witness first hand the challenges facing leaders who seek peace in the region.

In 2009, it was announced that U.S. Congressman Robert Wexler (D-Florida) would become president of the Center after resigning from the House of Representatives.[2][3]

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  • ✪ Dickey Center at Dartmouth - Ehud Olmert: Former Prime Minister of the State of Israel


>> Good afternoon. I'm Daniel Benjamin. I'm the Director of the Dickey Center and it's a great pleasure to welcome you all to this event where Ehud Olmert, the 12th Prime Minister of the State of Israel, will speak to us about the Search for Peace, the Arab Spring, and the challenge of Iran. And let me at the outset thank the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace for giving critical support to make this possible and I also want to extend a heartfelt thanks to Prof. Bernard Avishai for doing so much to make this come to pass. The scion of a family that escaped persecution in Europe and became part of the Israeli political elite, Ehud Olmert is the son of a man who served two terms in the Israeli Knesset. And after his own military service and studies were completed, he was himself elected to the Knesset in 1973 as part of the Likud Bloc. He was the youngest person elected to the Israeli parliament and was reelected no fewer than seven times in a row, serving as minister without portfolio and Minister of Health. From 1993 to 2003, he was mayor of Jerusalem, certainly one of the most contested, discussed, and vexed cities on Earth. In 2003, he returned to national politics after Ariel Sharon formed the centrist Kadima party and he served as ministry -- Minister of Industry, Trade, and Labor, Minister for Communications, and eventually Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister. When Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke, Ehud Olmert became acting prime minister, and two months later he led the Kadima party to victory. And when Sharon was declared incapacitated, he became prime minister in his own right. Well, there are never any quiet years in the Middle East, but Prime Minister Olmert's three years in office were especially tumultuous. He came in to office having already declared against all political council, his intention to forge peace with the Palestinians or disengage from the West Bank as Ariel Sharon had disengaged from Gaza. Only months after coming into office, however, Lebanese Hezbollah carried out a raid in northern Israel that left several Israeli soldiers dead and two more taken hostage. That attack led to the punishing 34-day conflict known as the Second Lebanon War. Nonetheless, he stayed on course, declaring that Israel was prepared to make painful concessions to achieve peace with the Palestinians, he participated in the 2007 Annapolis Conference. And in the course of negotiations with the Palestinians and with -- in particular, Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Olmert agreed to share Jerusalem with the Palestinians, arrange multinational control of the Holy Basin, accept a limited number of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel and promise compensation for others. The parties were perhaps closer than they had ever been, tantalizingly close, but because of uncertainties on the Palestinian side, investigations at home, and a new round of fighting with Hamas in Gaza, the talks failed. In 2009, Ehud Olmert left office, succeeded by Benjamin Netanyahu. Before I ask him to take the microphone, I just want to say two -- make two observations. The first is that the -- is that Israel and the Middle East are places of constant conflict and about which everyone has very strong views and very strong feelings. I hope if anyone feels the need to object today or to protest that they will do so in the appropriate way, which is to ask a question, a question with a question mark at the end of it, and make it as pointed [laughter] as possible and that they will wait and hear for the response from our speaker who has shown an ability to deal with the harshest of critics. And as he reminded us just a moment ago, there are no harsher critics than there are outside -- inside the Israeli Knesset. If you feel a need to do anything else, though, I would ask that you do it very quickly and be done with it because we feel very strongly about freedom of speech here, but we also feel that it should be a freedom that is exercised in accord with the values of the university. That's to say we should accord respect and civility to our guests. And before you do anything, I would just ask that you keep this in mind. Ehud Olmert has had an extraordinary political career, and no mention -- no introduction of him would be complete without a mention of how he, like so many of the remarkable leaders of the last century has traveled a great ideological distance in his career. In his youth, Ehud Olmert was well to the right of Likud's founding figure, Menachem Begin, and in fact, he voted against the 1979 Camp David Accords and opposed Israel's withdrawal from the Sinai. Much later, as prime minister when he addressed the Knesset, he said, "Like Menachem Begin, of blessed memory, our great leader, who set a marvelous example which will forever illuminate our historic horizon, I prefer the risks of taking peace over the agonies of war. Prime Minister Olmert? >> Thank you very much. Mr. Benjamin, Mr. Avishai, the Honorable Consul General of the State of Israel, [inaudible] who is with us here. She made all the way from Boston just to hear a former Prime Minister of Israel and I'm very flattered. And distinguished guests from Dartmouth University. The fact is that when Bernie heard that I was about to come to America for a series of speeches, he called me and he said, "Why won't you come to Dartmouth?" I couldn't tell him then that one of the dreams of my life was to be a guest in Dartmouth [laughter]. Strangely enough, I have to say, for a university of your caliber, which is considered to be one of the greatest universities not just in America, but world class. Dartmouth is not that famous and not too many people know that there is a place in America, not in Germany which is called Hanover, which hosts one of the best universities in the world. I know and I just tried to check before with Daniel Benjamin that maybe 10, 15 years ago, 20 years ago, I met the president of Dartmouth. And while we spend dinner together with our wives and some other guests, he told me about the university and he told me about his family and I told him about my family. And I, of course, as a typical Israeli and a typical Jew, I was very modest about my children [laughter]. And I told him about my eldest daughter who at that time was admitted to almost every university in Israel because she had very high marks and then president said, "Why won't she actually come and study in Dartmouth and she can make her PhD in Dartmouth? So, I talked to my daughter and I said, "Look. I understand that Dartmouth is one of the best universities in America. And who knows, maybe you would qualify for a scholarship. So, you know, why not try?" And she said, [inaudible] in Israel [inaudible] the Hebrew University, which is great -- a great school. And so for 20 years, I was waiting than an Olmert will do something in Dartmouth University. Finally, you know, after all these years, I had the opportunity and I thank you guys for being so gracious and inviting me to speak here now that you warned me in advance that there's some people here want to express a particular love and support for me. At the end of the event, I am even more thrilled than I was before. I will not be long. There is always a danger when you start to speak about the Middle East, there is no end to what you can say. And there are almost unlimited number of different subjects which are always on the agenda which are always part of the international discussion at a particular time. I heard today that the Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry dared to disagree with the prime minister of Israel, the poor guy. I hope he will do all right. And so there is always something. I want to focus on one thing that I think is very important, perhaps more important than most people thought it would be, and which is also a signal for something that is, I think interesting for us in the context of what is the Middle East and what is expected, what may be expected for -- if there will be a political development which I'm very much in favor of between Israel and the Palestinians. A few years ago started a phenomenon which was called the Arab Spring. If you'll go today, to the average person in any Western country, and, of course, the State of Israel, anyone here, I'm sure, and you will ask, "What do you think of the Arab Spring?" First of all, the name, the Arab Spring is a name, which, by nature, is positive. Spring is positive; it's something new; it's something lighter; it's something shinier; it's something with great, you know, expectations. And the phenomenon which started in Tunisia a few years ago was called an "Arab Spring" because the assumption was that this is going to start something different that will sweep the Arab countries and hopefully will help establish that which is missing in all of these countries, unfortunately, which is democracy. And, of course, if there is democracy, there is peace. If there is democracy, there is cooperation. If there is democracy, there are many opportunities that all of us -- no, we don't have to spend any more words on these. It started in Tunisia, it then followed in Libya and it reached Egypt. And the pattern was that the forces that took over in each one of these countries subsequent to the revolution which kicked out the former leadership was the takeover by more Islamic fundamentalist forces. And immediately afterwards, people started to speak rather than about the Arab Spring, they spoke about the "Arab winter." Now, we have a certain perspective of time, three years, four years, and we have to ask ourselves -- is it an Arab Spring or is it an "Arab winter"? And I want to say something which is maybe against the common wisdom. I think that this is an Arab Spring and I think that we have to look at it with a certain patience and a broader perspective and understanding about the dynamics of changes which take place in such countries. The idea was that either was a revolution and if the forces that created these revolutions where positive, then overnight a country which never exercised democracy which ever never exercised the freedom of speech, which was overly influenced by radical forces because of different circumstances which have characterized the Islamic countries for many, many years, will overnight become democracies as we are familiar with. And if they didn't, then something terrible has happened. And I suggest that it's not entirely so. And perhaps the best example for this is Egypt. Now, I have to say -- I have to share with you something personal. I liked -- I hope that they will not start to protest right now [laughter]. I liked Hosni Mubarak -- for two reasons. Number one, because when he took over after President Sadat was assassinated, he was loyal to the peace that was recently signed between the State of Israel and Egypt. And he used all the power of his position in order to protect this peace for so many years. The other reason was that he always knew to draw the line between his position as the most important powerful Islamic nation in the region, certainly politically and militarily; and yet at the same time, to keep a relatively high profile for the relations with the State of Israel. I can say that, with the exception of King Abdullah, I think I spoke more with Hosni Mubarak and met more with him than with any leader, including the President of the United States, with whom I met maybe 12 times in a period of three years, which is not also -- not insignificant. Sometimes, by the way, I found out that it's not so bad to be a good friend of the President of the United States [laughter], you know, if you can, if you can, I mean, if you are capable of making friends with the President of the United States, you don't have to look for a reason to alienate him, or to provoke against him, or to insult him. I just give it as a general advice to everyone who is interested in being a prime minister of a country which is not America, you know, if you can rather be friend with the President of the United States of America. So, I was a friend also of Hosni Mubarak and I met with him many times and he was warm, and friendly, and supportive, and absolutely loyal to the peace treaty with Israel, which is not insignificant considering the circumstances of the Middle East. One thing which he used to say to me however was, "When you meet your friend, Bush, you tell him he wants democracy. He wants democracy in Egypt. He will get the Muslim brothers in Egypt just as he got democracy in Gaza when he insisted that the Hamas will participate in the elections. What did he get there? Democracy he got there. He got there terrorists, so he should be careful about Egypt." American president may have not been that careful just as Obama was not because Americans can't speak in such countries without talking about the need for democracy. I don't think that it has brought the downfall of Mubarak, I don't think so. I think that the downfall of Mubarak was a result of the special circumstances that were at that time in Egypt. But, the most important thing is that the revolution in Egypt was not a result of an organized calculated operation by established political bodies behind the scenes. To the best of our knowledge, and we have some knowledge about it, you can imagine, it was a spontaneous expression of discontent by grassroot. People just felt that they are unhappy and they can't tolerate any further the lack of democracy, the lack of freedom, the lack of freedom of speech, the lack of basic civil liberties which they were urging for. And they swept the government off and they created a turmoil which resulted in elections. Now, the elections, quite obviously, as anticipated, were won by the Muslim brothers. Why? Because they were the most organized political body behind the scenes, so once there were elections, they were ready and spread all across Egypt to be able to win the elections. I remember myself speaking in New York and the only reason I say it is not because I want to convince you how smart I am only because I think it may have been obvious to those who understand the dynamics of the Middle East. I said, "Look, the Muslim brothers will not dare touch the peace treaty with Israel. Why? Because they know that they didn't organize the revolution. They know that 80 million Egyptians are waiting for someone that will take care that they will prove that he takes care of how to feed 80 million people in Egypt, and they know very well that if the Muslim brothers will break or will change the nature of the relations with Israel, this will be a turning point that will destroy the chance of Egypt to overcome these difficulties." And indeed, they didn't touch the agreement. Then, I added one more observation. I said and they also know that the same crowd which kicked off Mubarak -- the same crowd, the same people, the same sites, the same places, the same squares -- are capable of doing it to them just as well. As the army and the Mukhabarat refuse to take part in the riots against Mubarak, even though they were his people for so many years, they will refrain from doing anything to save the Muslim brothers if the streets will go against them. And this also happened. Egypt will become a democracy. When? I don't know. Maybe it will take another 10 years. It's a process. One must understand it. It's a process that takes time because of the tradition, because of the legacies, because of the need to get rid of all these biases and prejudices which characterize certain parts of the population, or the radical part of the population which are very unsympathetic to some of these ideas. But the forces that created the revolutions are stronger and will be stronger, and therefore this is an Arab Spring. Syria is not an example not because I like what happens there, as you can imagine, I don't. But, this is a confrontation not just between the government and the rebels, this is a confrontation between the West and the need of Russia to emphasize that they are a player as important as the others. And therefore in this clash, it is not just how you can get rid of Bashar Assad, but how you can keep the balance between the more important nations, and therefore we should wait and see how it works out, but in the meantime a cooperation between America and Russia helped remove the chemical weapons from Syria. No one deserves a medal of honor here, by the way, because these two forces, for whatever reasons were not active when a 125,000 Syrians, innocent civilians were butchered to death without any reaction. You know, a 135,000 people killed is nothing. A thousand people killed by chemicals is a big deal. I don't know. For me, the killing of a 135,000 is just as bad as by ordinary measures as the killing of others by extraordinary measures -- it doesn't make a difference. It has to be prevented. It ought to have been prevented. It ought to have forced and the different powers to intervene earlier. But that will not stop the desire of the Arabs in the Arab countries to change the nature of their countries. I firmly believe in it. Now I come to what some of you may want to hear. There is one thing which can help moving forward more rapidly, more consistently and more successfully, and this is peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This is the one thing which is missing in this equation. This Arab Spring is not dependent or did not arise because of this conflict, it can be strengthened, it can get a lot of support, a backwind by an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. This agreement is essential for the State of Israel. By the way, just to make it clear, I don't think that Israeli leaders should be measured or judged by the international community as to how much they love the Palestinians because their duties and the responsibilities of the leadership of the State of Israel is not to take care of the Palestinians, it's to take care of the State of Israel. And there is nothing which is more important, more urgent, more essential and more significant for the future existence of the State of Israel than to have peace with the Palestinians than to get rid of this cloud that rests over our shoulders and our heads, over an occupied power, the deprived millions of people over basic fundamental human civil rights as they are part of the occupation of the State of Israel as they were since 1967. This is not the need of the Palestinians [applause]. Of course, the Palestinians have to right to exercise self-determination and to have their own separate state. There is no question about it. And this is the core of their effort in their campaign. But when I talk about the need to make peace, I talk about this need not from their point of view, not because I pretend that my primary responsibility, or the primary responsibility of an Israeli leader is to take care of the Palestinians -- not at all. The primary responsibility of the prime minister or the leadership of the State of Israel is to do what is good for the State of Israel and there can be nothing better than to make peace with the Palestinians today, not tomorrow. Now, can it be done? I have no doubt in my mind that it can be done. We are now -- and with this, I will conclude my preliminary remarks and I'll allow you to ask me the most provocative questions [laughter] and make sure that they will be. Look, strategic position of the State of Israel today is the best it ever was. There is no enemy in the south, and in the near future, and in the foreseeable future, there will not be. Whatever will happen in Egypt, and I think that the process will still have its ups and downs but at the end of the day it will be much better, will require the utmost focus of all the Egyptians' energies, power and resources, to deal with the growing population with poverty and with a need to change the internals, domestic situation in Egypt. The last thing that they need is a new war with the State of Israel. They know it. We know it. There is cooperation. The relations are not yet as warm as we want them to be, but there are relations, there is peace and it will continue. We have no enemy that creates a danger for the State of Israel in the south. There is no eastern front. Iraq doesn't have an army. Jordan is an ally of Israel. The Palestinians in the West Bank, not in Gaza, I will mention that. The Palestinians in the West Bank have established over the last five, six years effective administration much better than anyone had anticipated that they can years ago. It works. Does it work like it is in the most advanced countries in Europe or in north America? Not yet. It works much better than in most Arab countries, surprisingly, especially for those who say they will never be able to run their own country -- they can. So, there is no eastern front. In the north, Syria also is engaging its own internal wars which I don't know how longer it will last. I know one thing that Syria will wait years, and years, and years before they will be able to recuperate to what they were. And the last thing that they can think of is to engage in a confrontation with Israel which may destroy Syria completely. So, what is left, Hamas and Hezbollah. I will say one word about Iran. Hezbollah -- Hamas is in its weakest position ever because for the first time, not only that the moderate Palestinians are against them, but Egypt is against them, the Egyptians are fighting Hamas now. Hamas doesn't have the freedom to go back to Egypt back and forth as they used to have in the past and the Egyptians are destroying now their tunnels through which they can smuggle the weapons to Hamas because the leadership of Egypt today understands that Hamas is a bad story for Egypt, not only for Israel. And therefore, it has strengthened Abu Mazen much more than ever before in comparison. So, the Hamas may try every now and then to shoot a rocket into the State of Israel. Israel knows how to deal with it and we know how to deal with it effectively, particularly when we deal with it from inside borders which are considered to be part of the State of Israel by the international community, as the borders are today because we pulled out from Gaza. Hezbollah, they are very well equipped, there is no question about it. If they will start a new exchange with Israel, it may be unpleasant for a period of time, but it will be devastating for the Hezbollah. And the fact is that since the end of the Second Lebanese War, for seven years there was not one bullet shot from the north part of Israel. And I will remind you that while I can go everywhere I want, and I can speak in every state in the world, and even in some important and prestigious American universities, Nasrallah still lives in a bunker, and believe me, he knows why. So, this is the best time that Israel had in generations. We are much less under the risk of attack from any side. We have the power. We have the stability and we have a partner. We do have Iran. Thank God, America is now in the process of examining is there a change in Iran. I don't know. I don't know. I want to be very clear. Israel will not tolerate a nucleared Iran. But, to ignore the signs that we have started to detect that there may be some changes which I'm not certain about -- I don't know yet. But to ignore it, not to relate to it, not to see that the president of Iran talks about having peace with the West rather than attacking the West all the time as Ahmadinejad did and to continue with the same rhetoric of confrontation and war as some do, I think it's not smart. I entirely subscribe to the attempt made by President Obama to find out, is -- are they serious or not. If they are, we'll know. If they are not, we'll know also. If they are serious, then why not end up this conflict by an agreement rather than by a use of force which may not necessarily be the solution? I don't say that we may not come at the end of the day to the inevitable conclusion that nothing else will help. But until then, we owe ourselves and we owe our people, we owe the stability of the world a serious genuine attempt to find out what happens with the Iranians and how serious they are. And if they are prepared to change the strategy and policies and refrain from creating a nuclear capacity which we will not tolerate and the West will not tolerate and America will not tolerate, and therefore it's better for them not try us and to see what will happen. Under these circumstances, the one event which can change the face of the Middle East, which can dramatically create a new reality is peace between Israel and the Palestinians. That peace will almost automatically create a new reality of relationships between Israel and all the Muslim countries and the moderate Arab countries -- Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, or the others. It will provide the Middle East with the necessary base upon which a progress can be made and with all the revenues that this part of the world possess, there is no end to what we can do in order to make the Middle East from a region of turbulence, of confrontations, of ethnic and religious wars into a region of economic stability, of gross -- of democracy, and of peace. Thank you. Thank you. >> This is a peaceful protest against U.S.-backed Israeli imperialism and apartheid. >> Right. Moving right along. >> One, two, three, four, occupation no more. Five, six, seven, eight, Israel apartheid state. One, two, three, four, occupation no more. Five, six, seven, eight, Israel apartheid state. One, two, three, four, occupation no more. Five six, seven, eight, Israel apartheid state. One, two, three, four, occupation no more. Five six, seven, eight, Israel apartheid state. Free Palestine. Free Palestine. End apartheid. End imperialism. End colonialism. End war crimes. >> [Inaudible]. >> "End war crimes." "End war crimes." >> Okay. Okay. Moving right along [laughter]. I guess there's no convincing some people. I don't know. I thought you were pretty strong for a Palestinian state. >> You think so? >> Yeah, I thought so. So... >> These guys -- the problem with these guys, I'll tell you -- you all hear me? Believe me, I was as Daniel said before, I was 35 -- 36 years in parliament. I actually was nine times. >> Sorry. >> Never mind. And there were a lot of complaints about me. One thing they never say that they don't hear me, sometimes they complain that they hear me too much. I just wonder about these guys, what will happen when there will be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, what these professional protesters will be doing? Where else will they go? Who knows? >> I'm guessing people will find something else to be unhappy about, but... [laughter]. So, that was a rousing and really impressive discussion of the imperative for peace. And the question I have for you to start this off is that when we look at Israel today, you set out all the objective reasons why it is appropriate to make a big push. But, if we look at Israeli public opinion, you seem to be the strongest advocate at the moment. If I can read public opinion there, Israelis view instability in the north and Syria is ultimately threatening; uncertainty in Egypt; Sinai has become the "Wild West" as it's often said; and frankly, no one is hugely confident in the long-term prospects of Jordan given its economic situation and the fact is that the king is not nearly as popular as his father was. The peace camp in Israel seems a little exhausted. Is this just poor leadership? Is this something that can be remedied? What is the thing that is needed? >> Well, first of all, I'm not the strongest supporter of a Palestinian state, I am the loudest supporter of a Palestinian state [laughter], there is some difference in this. I think there are a quite a few. I'm not certain -- obviously, my position is different because I'm former prime minister, I'm more well known in Israel and outside of the State of Israel. So, obviously when I speak up which I do, which I could do less but I think that the situation calls for a strong voice and a loud voice to be heard both in the State of Israel and outside of the State of Israel. And as you say, the almost inevitable conclusion as the result of the lack of such voices is that perhaps the peace camp is tired a little bit, and I'm not so certain about it. Look, first of all, in every country, the rhetoric which is always very popular everywhere is the rhetoric of a disaster is in the gate. This enemy is dangerous. They want to kill us. They want to destroy us. They are about to start it. The events here are dangerous to us. The events there are dangerous to us. In every country, it is quite easy to become more popular when you talk about dangers than when you talk about compromise, particularly in the State of Israel, with the history of the Jewish people, the history of the State of Israel, the many, many years in which we lived under the threat of more organized armies that were threatening the liquidation of the State of Israel, and suddenly when you hear a president of Iran, for instance, as he was speaking all the time. First of all, the very fact that Iran wants to build nuclear power and then the fact that Ahmadinejad for years was talking about the need to get rid of the Zionist entity in the Middle East is almost obviously a good reason to use this in order to create apprehension, to put it mildly, amongst many of the people. And it's very easy to raise this sense of solidarity about the dangers rather than about the need to compromise, and perhaps to pull out from territories which are -- and I think they are, by the way -- a part of the history of the Jewish people, part of the history of our people. And it's such a simple -- it's not easy. It's not -- so many of the settlers, you know, many don't like them and many of them are certainly provocative and are counterproductive to what we think is almost an inevitable peace process that has to develop. But, they live there and they went there on the first place because they felt that this is historically part of the legacy and the tradition and the history of the Jewish people. Now, what I say when I say that we have to pull out is I say we have to pull out not because it's not ours. The significance of making a concession of this nature is that when you think it's ours, when you think it belongs to our history and to our memories and to our prayers, and yet in spite of this, there is something more important. And more important is to have a democratic and a Jewish state which protects the basic, fundamental human rights that we believe in [applause]. And therefore we have to pull out. Now, I think that, naturally, when there is no terror, when there are no rockets, when there are no suicidal attacks, people tend to focus on what there is. There is an economic pressure. The middle class is not in the best shape. The revenues are not spread in the country in a balanced manner which is a real problem that has to be dealt with, by the way, and I entirely agree with those who are very upset about the way that we live in the State of Israel. Israel is a very successful country, but as I was just giving notice with of -- and in New York have published an article that was led by Bernie -- Bernie Avishai. To those of you who don't know him, he's a great professor. He is not only a professor at Dartmouth, he is a professor also at another great university in Jerusalem. So, they wrote an article that shows that in the 10 years between 2000 and 2010, the loss of Israel as a result of the lack of peace between us and the Palestinians is equal to one-year GDP of the State of Israel, which is about at -- on the average at that time over the years -- now, it's higher -- was about $60 billion, $70 billion. Can you imagine what may have been the economic situation in the State of Israel had we had peace since 2000? I think it would've been tripled and quadrupled because not only of the internal situation, because of the changing of priorities completely in the State of Israel, because of the ability to spend much more in education than we do now much more on welfare than we do now, much more on strengthening the middle class, that need to be strengthened and also the economic cooperation between Israel and all its neighbors, which is not -- there is some more than is known, much less than could be. So, while there is not any pressure at the present time for making a -- you know, for moving forward towards peace, the appearance of public opinion does not necessarily reflect the real attitude of most of the people. I think that the majority of the Israeli peoples subscribe to my ideas. And sooner than later, it will be spelled out publicly. >> For the benefit of students in the room who have not followed these issues as closely as we have, I know it's fairly tedious by now to kind of review the bidding here, but would you quickly go through what you consider to be plausible principles of settlement in the various core issues that you presented to Abu Mazen over your 36 meetings, just to give us a sense of why we shouldn't despair, because if we don't despair, presumably, Israel is hearing about this in a public forum would also not despair. >> Well, you know, I wasn't certain that I remember all the details, so I reread our interview [laughter], the interview that you made with me which was a cover story in the New York Times magazine in February of 2011, almost three years ago, and this is the basic pattern. The important thing about this interview, really, I think historically, the important thing about this interview is not the repetition of what I proposed because this in different ways would've been published anyway at one point or another, and part of it was published before. It's the fact that after he interviewed me and checked with me every detailed time and again, he went to interview Dr. Makhmoud Abbas -- Abu Mazen; and he checked with him everything that I said and he didn't refute me on one point. So, there was an agreement that this is what it was, both by him and by myself. Now, what was it? Number one, I was in favor of a territorial solution on the basis of '67 borders, not accurately the same line which no one really remembers what, but the basis. With swathes of territories, there are three major demographic centers which were created over the last 46 years in the territories. It will be almost impossible to evacuate all of them. So, the idea is that in these three centers as proposed by President Bush, by the way, in his famous statement from the 14th of April 2004, will remain under Israeli sovereignty an equal size territory that was part of the State of Israel prior to '67 will become part of the Palestinian state. So, the basis will be '67 borders; this is number one. Number two is the Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem. I was mayor of the city of Jerusalem for 10 years. Believe me, I know every corner of this city and I love this city passionately. But the truth is that what we call Jerusalem and what is Jerusalem in the perception of most people that when they think about Jerusalem are two different things. Jerusalem, for us, is the Western Wall. Is Abu Dis Jerusalem? Is Jabel Mukaber Jerusalem? Is Isawiya Jerusalem? What does it have to do with Jewish history? You know, before I came to Dartmouth, you know, I knew that there are so many scholars living here and working here and studying here, I was very careful. I read all the Bible [laughter] from top to bottom, believe me. I never found that Jews were praying to Jabel Mukaber in 2000 years ago. So, why is it that Jabel Mukaber is so important that we need to stay there even at the expense of peace? I don't understand this. My idea was, take all the Arab parts of the city of Jerusalem, make them the capital of the Palestinian state. I don't want 300,000 Arabs living in the State of Israel. I mean, Palestinians living in the State of Israel, I don't need 300,000 Palestinians that don't want to live in the State of Israel. Not only living in the State of Israel but being paid for by the national insurance of Israel billions of billions of billions every year. And at the end, we are accused of holding them without rights. Go, draw the line. What is Jewish, Jewish. What is Palestinians is Palestinian. The city will be shared by both of us. That part is the capital of the State of Israel is, was and will ever remain the capital of the State of Israel. The other part, if you want to make it your capital, be my guest, I will be all for it. Then there is the Holy Basin. Everyone knows that there will never be peace if the Holy Basin will exclusively be sovereign by either one side or the other. There will not be peace. Why? Because sometimes symbols are stronger than realities because sometimes symbols can shake the foundations of life, of nations, of people. My idea was, let's decide that the Holy Basin, which is holy to the Jews, holy to the Muslims, and, by the way, holy to the Christians. But, for some reason, although they are the majority in the world, they are left behind. But there is not other city which is important to the Christians, to all of the different Christians affiliations as Jerusalem is. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the most important church in the Christian world is in Jerusalem. So, what I said was, let's take five nations -- America, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestinians and Israel. They will under the auspices of the U.N. and the General Assembly and what not, will administer this part of the city without a sovereignty either of the Palestinians or the Israelis, but of a completely free access for everyone to every place. What's so bad about it [laughter]? Then, there is the issue of the Arab refugees. Look, there are Jewish refugees, there are Arab refugees. I told Abu Mazen, "Listen, you guys want to have a Palestinian state, why do we need a Palestinian state if you want all the Palestinians to come back to Israel, why do you need a state that you want? You want two Palestinian states? Let's not." He said, "No. We don't want to change the nature of your country, but we need a certain expression of symbolic nature for those who -- as a result of the war, were forced to leave. So, I suggested, I have the numbers, but the numbers are unimportant at the moment. What is important is that I was prepared to negotiate and to conclude thee within the framework of the Arab Peace Initiative, which as a principle was accepted by Abu Mazen. The exact numbers were not, and I said I will be prepared to absorb a certain limited number of Palestinians, not on the basis of the law of return which I disagree with, but on the basis of humanitarian and individual cases, which will have to be approved by the State of Israel, even according to the Arab Peace Initiative. >> 194. >> No. So, I'm not in favor of 194, I'm in favor of the Arab Peace Initiative, which fundamentally says Israel will have a bit of power as to who is allowed in and so on. So, this is something that within this framework can be resolved. Then, there are of course some security issues that are important for us, that we have concluded all of these issues with the United States, they are written. They are in the shelves of the state department offices and I think that this is the framework within which the core issues can be resolved. Then, of course, there will be other issues such as the electromagnetic field. Do you know what it is? >> [Inaudible]. >> I hardly know what it is. >> I'll tell you. >> Now, all these issues are important, but they are marginal against these four core issues that I've outlined to you. If there will not be an agreement on the core issues, the rest is unimportant anyway. If there will be an agreement of the core issues within three weeks, we can reach an agreement about all the rest. Therefore I said, "We need two months. It can start today. Two months to conclude the deal. And then we'll make the ceremonies everywhere you want. You want it in America? We'll make it in America. You want it in Dartmouth? Maybe [laughter]. I don't know. >> I want to be mindful of the time we have left, but I've got to ask you one question before we turn it over to the audience, and that is this -- how does someone who actually in the, what, in the late '60s thought Menachem Begin was too far to the left and who voted against Camp David, wind up where you are today? >> Look, number one, I never thought of Menachem Begin was too much to the left, in fact, he -- when he left politics, he was still too much to the right on these issues -- on these issues. But Menachem Begin had the courage, and the vision, and the horizons to do something which was against everything that he spoke about all his life. This is leadership. This is something that whenever I think about it, you know, I say two things -- number one, how an idiot I had to be at that time to come to Menachem Begin personally and just say, "Prime Minister, I need to speak with you privately." And he said, "My son -- Ehud, my son," that's how he called me, "please sit down." And I said, "Mr. Prime Minister, I'm going to vote against you today. Not against the peace with Egypt, against the Camp David Accords of 1978." Later, I voted for the peace -- but for the accords. So, I mean, one could -- should've been a complete idiot because when you think about it now from my perspective of more than 30 years, just imagine that for the last 30 years, Israel would've still kept Sinai and would've spent probably $100 billion just for the maintenance of the armies, and the forces, and the bases, and they -- all the other things in the last 30 years in Sinai. What would've been the situation and how much better off we are as a result of that decision that not even one soldier who was mobilized over the last 30 years to face the Egyptians that were the most bitter enemy of the State of Israel. What a great leadership it was. The other thing that I'm proud of is the fact that while Begin was alive, I still could come to him and say to him, "Prime Minister, you were right. I was wrong; I apologize to you." For now, sometimes it's important, you know. I'm still waiting for some people to come apologize to [inaudible] [laughter]. >> Okay. >> But, there is one thing more that I want to say. Look, I -- we changed. You know, Moshe Dayan, and you heard this name, right, the famous one-eyed general of Israel; was a great guy and a very unusual character. He used to say, "Only donkeys don't change their minds." I'm not a donkey. Yes, I was in a different place. The dynamic supply, the perception of the differences and the difficulties, and the risks, and the opportunities, change over the years. And I reached a conclusion that this is the best possible solution for the future of the State of Israel. I have only 11 grandchildren living in Israel -- all of them. I want them to live in a world which is slightly better than the one that I live in. That's why I've changed my mind. >> Okay. Right back there. I think there's a mic coming your way. >> Yeah, it's right here. Excuse me, sir. >> Prime Minister, I have two questions for you. The first is you talked about the Arab Spring and how the peace between Palestinians and Israelis would be the solution, would make these Arab nations more democratic. What do you see as the biggest roadblock that hinders the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis? And the other question is, what do you envision as the best solution for the situation between the Palestinians and Israelis? >> To the situation? >> Yeah, to the situation, to the Palestinians... >> I think I've made it clear what I think is the best solution. I hope it will become true sooner than later. The reason the war have prevented the agreement from becoming a reality, you know, there are many excuses that can be voiced from both sides. At the end of the day, if you ask me, it's the lack of courage and the lack of leadership. That is the bottom line. You know, how do you measure greatness? How do you measure a great leadership? By the ability to do that which is -- seems to be impossible. That which may be in contradiction to everything that you said in the past, the ability to change. The ability to change and to face the public, not, you know, when you are anonymous, no one knows about you can change your mind every day. Who cares? When you are a public figure, you speak up; everyone knows what you think, And then one day you come and you said, "I was mistaken." There is always a danger that people will say to you, "Now, how can I be certain that you are not mistaken now when you admitted you were mistaken in the past? There is always this danger. Right? You have to believe in what you do and you have to have the power to convince the people to follow what you think is right, so that they will be with you and support you, if you want to be in a position to be the one that carries out. It requires courage and leadership. I wish we had it. >> Okay. How about over here? >> So, I thought I'd ask you a question [inaudible] the Second Lebanon War because it's always interesting to hear from like national leaders and these kinds of issues. So, in your viewpoint, was it really like impossible to reach a negotiated settlement in place of like launching an attack, which kind of like hurt Israel's popularity in some corners of like the Western world? >> Had you wanted to talk with the Taliban, would they speak with you? >> We tried. >> Yeah? Well, I'll tell you what. Sometimes unity is force. I'm not a pacifist. I don't believe in pacifism. I believe in making every possible effort to make peace and to live at peace, and sometimes to sacrifice for peace. And to sacrifice for peace even when you think that the sacrifice is not really an objective reflection of reality but a concession you make in order to achieve something. All right. But, sometimes, in life, when you see someone who is absolutely blind to anything that you believe in and he is prepared to use only one thing -- force -- then you have to have both force to stop him and to remove him. And I'm entirely subscribed to the general attitude of the American people after September 11th. There is no question about it and to those who committed these terrible crimes, thank God some of them are nonexistent anymore. >> One right here. >> Thank you. I was very buoyed by your optimism, but I have to ask you a question about the other Arab countries. We -- it is generally agreed or conceded that the failure of the peace efforts in the past were in part due to the reluctance of other Arab countries who found that conflict, the Arab -- the Palestinian-Israeli conflict very useful for directing attention and disaffection towards other -- towards that particular problem rather than internal dissention. What gives you optimism that Saudi Arabia, et cetera, is more positively disposed at this point to help with peace effort? >> Who are the Arab countries that you're talking about? Pardon? >> Saudi Arabia. >> Look, Saudi Arabia and many of the Arab Emirates and many of the North African countries which are Muslim countries identify in a natural and almost spontaneous and automatic way with other Arab and Muslim countries. This is natural. What can I say? The reason that they didn't go out against the mainstream of the Arab countries to support the State of Israel against the Arab countries which were neighboring the State of Israel and which were in the state of war with the State of Israel, I don't see that this is anything that one should be surprised about. They never prevented an agreement between Israel and any of the Arab countries or with the Palestinians. Never. You can say that they never encouraged the Palestinians to do things which the Palestinians did not think themselves were important for them. They never encouraged it, but they never ever, ever intervened in order to prevent. In fact, when you look at the Arab Peace Initiative, it was born in Saudi Arabia by a very unique cooperation. The heir apparent -- the heir of the Saudis as that time was the [inaudible] to the king and the columnist of the New York Times created the Arab -- the Saudi Peace Initiative which turned out later to be the Arab Peace Initiative, which was approved in Beirut in February of 2002 in Lebanon. So, I don't think that the Arab countries were that much against -- or they were in favor of the Arab mainstream. And -- but the point which is very important is that today they keep -- some of them very good, quiet, underneath relations with Israel, them and many other Arab countries that you are not familiar with. And therefore, I think that if there will be an agreement, it will relieve them of these barriers to speak up loudly and to make peace formal with the state of Israel. >> You know -- can I quickly, just as the mic is traveling, I wanted to follow up on the Israel-Palestine question one more time. Usually one speaks of this as principles which would lead to a kind of respectful separation. But, the two countries are so close together and so enmeshed, I wonder if you could quickly address areas of potential cooperation? For example, in your own proposal when you speak about Jerusalem being a capital for both peoples, you nevertheless spoke about having a common municipality. And, there are other kinds of areas, areas like security, water. You were talking about electromagnetic spectrum a moment ago. There are -- there are areas of potential cooperation. I just like you to address in the same kind of -- as long as you're kind of doing the spot experiment, you know, address the issue of cooperation and partnership in addition to separation. >> Separation is only -- maybe a separation is not the most accurate -- what I mean is to have their state and our state with a borderline, which is what? Which is nothing. There will be cooperation because their economy depends on our economy and our economy depends on their economy. There will be joint ventures. There will be factories. There will be businesses that they will be the bridge through which Israel will penetrate even further into the Arab world around us and the Palestinians -- the natural partners for this. There is -- and by the way, the Palestinians, when it comes to business, they may be the best partners that Israel has in the whole world. They are smart. They are quick. They are flexible. And they have been through troubles and difficulties and changes in movements, so they are perhaps, in some ways, more adjustable to the kind of cooperation which can bear fruits with Israel than others. Therefore, there is no end to what we can do together and we are doing it already now in some areas quite successfully, except that it is influenced by the lack of peace, by the sensitivities, by the fear of radicals and so on and so forth. And if there will be peace, some of these barriers will disappear and it will open up for a cooperation on almost every level of life -- academic as well. >> Israel claims it tries to avoid civilian casualties. This could be partly true, but then why does Israel use indiscriminate and internationally banned weapons such as cluster bombs and white phosphorus [laughter]? >> I know that something is missing in your question, but you should ask it when the other side will be, why do they use indiscriminate weapons such as rockets on the cities of Israel where there are no military installments, no threats, just innocent civilians living there? Is this not indiscriminate weapon? When you fight, you fight with the weapons you have, and sometimes, there is an excessive use of them and I regret on every case that there is an excessive use of these. Okay? I regret and I apologize for it. But I don't apologize to the fact that we have to respond to attacks on innocent people living in the State of Israel by rockets shot at -- from the Palestinian side, both in the north and in the south. And whenever they will shoot, we will shoot back with all the power that we have in order to stop them. There can be no mistake about it. You know, people accuse me of making such concessions for peace, and at the same time, they're accusing me for using so much power in order to stop terror. This is true and this is true. When you fight, you fight. When someone wants to kill, you better kill him. There is no here, no fooling around. At the same time, you should make every possible effort to make peace even when it involves concessions of that magnitude that I have described today. >> Who could resist [laughter]? >> I was just wondering what people here can do to help get us -- to have a peaceful relationship with Palestine like sooner rather than later because I know that you -- it's important to us, but I don't really know what we can do without it. Yeah. >> Good question. >> Well, you ask people here, let them answer. >> Well, do you have any recommendations? >> Backed U.N. statehood. You backed statehood for them in the U.N., actually. >> Yeah. I think when a -- the Palestinians try to get support in the United Nations, I was criticized in Israel for writing an article in the New York Times supporting the initiative. So, you know, other than to propose peace to them, other than to propose the most far reaching plans that was ever proposed by any Israeli leader. Against many political rival, some of which were very unfriendly and very vicious and very hostile, I speak up, I defend this point of view and I do everything I can in order to help bring peace. Within the context of peace, there will be a solution in the spirit that you have been talking about. >> I'm just pointing back there. I'm sure that Michael would wind up with the right person. No, no. Back, further back. >> [Inaudible] Prime Minister, you said [laughter]... >> What is this? Tell me. What is this? Is this aggression? >> Yes. >> Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead. >> We'll take them both. >> So you said Israel will not tolerate a nuclear Iran. I was just wondering, is it because you think that if they get a nuclear weapon, they'll use it? If -- or, in other words, how likely do you think they would be to use a nuclear weapon if they had it? >> Listen, I don't know, I only say this, that when a nuclear weapons are held by Ayatollahs, and when their representatives talks about the need to liquidate the State of Israel, there is a genuine fear that the weapons that are built that can destroy the State of Israel will be used by those who say that Israel need to be destroyed. That's why we fear and I think we have a good reason to be afraid of it. >> Okay. >> Yeah. You talked about the prospects of peace and what I was wondering is, after talking with like family members in Israel and friends and that stuff, I understand there's so much sort of -- for years, there's been so much mistrust and finger-pointing and hostility between the two groups. How effective do you think an agreement on paper will be in reality in the long run? >> Look, when I compare the relations between Israel and the Palestinians as they were 25 years ago and to today, there is a dramatic change. The rhetoric is different, the daily cooperation is different, the level of terror is different, certainly on the West Bank. And, therefore, there is a change that changes are taking time. They are not as fast as we want them to be sometimes, but they take place and no one can ignore them. Now, the importance of an agreement on paper is sometimes because it symbolizes the aspirations and the commitments of the countries that sign these agreements. The implementation of these may not be on a linear line, but may have some ups and downs. But once there is a direction set forth in the most accurate terms by both sides, it creates the message for your framework within which the implementation can take place along a period of time until it is completed to the satisfaction of all sides. I think we'll have two more. >> I was going to say one, but if you want to do two that's fine [laughter]. Right there. Yeah? >> So given that we might have peace with Israel and Palestine, how do you envision the relationship with some countries like Pakistan and Malaysia going forward where we have had no diplomatic relationships in the past 60 years just because of this conflict? >> How do I -- I'm sorry, I didn't get... >> Division relations with Indonesia and Malaysia, other countries of the Muslim... >> Indonesia, we are very closely have relations -- diplomatic relations, anyway. Israelis go to Indonesia, Indonesians going to Israel. A year ago, I was in Korea speaking in a conference and there were about 10 former prime ministers that were sitting on the panel together. Some of them are, you know, from remote unimportant countries like Sweden and Norway and [laughter] -- and, some were from important countries like Malaysia, Israel, and so on and so forth. It so happened that the Malaysian former president sat next to me. I was kind of curious, how will he react if I come to him, I shake hands with him and I tell him, "Listen. You know, it's about time that we will -- I came to him, he stood up, he was very polite, I said, "Can we, you know, hug each other?" And he said, "Sure, of course." And we hugged each other, it wasn't -- with the cameras, everyone noticed, of course, and then he said, "You know, I'd love to pray [inaudible]." I said, "Come, be my guest. I'll be more than happy to do it." Now, all these countries, they are not against Israel. They sympathize with the mainstream of the Islamic Arab attitude. Once this will disappear as a result of an agreement with the State of Israel and the Palestinians, the next morning they will make peace with Israel. They have nothing to gain by not making peace with Israel once there is not anymore a war -- a state of war between Israel and the Palestinians. >> Do you think that people are worried about peace because they all would be hugging them [laughter]? >> It depends who are, you know. >> Last question. Right here. >> How engaged do you see the Barack administration -- Obama administration being towards the Middle East in general? Our chattering classes and our media here almost across the spectrum say he's disengaged being caught by surprise by Arab Spring, any number of areas. How engaged do you see Obama administration being in -- Middle East, in general, Israel, Palestine, in particular? >> Well, one can, I think, say without necessarily antagonizing or insulting the President of America that he had to deal with other problems, which were of some significance to the United States of America and to his position as President of America, you know. Every now and then, we have this tendency to forget that he's the President of America and not the Prime Minister of Israel and vice-versa. I know it's -- which is worse that sometimes we forget that our prime minister is not the President of America [laughter]; it's also a problem. But one has to remember that when he took over, he had to face the most serious economic crisis in the modern history of America. Now, I thought that the way that the situation in the Middle East was handled was not the smartest. Part of it is my complaint against every new American administration, and I told it to some. Every new -- every President of America, you go back to, whoever, to Nixon, you go back to -- after Jimmy Carter, to Reagan and the others, they start from zero. Okay? By the end of the eight years, they are very close to -- they made a long way, moving a long way towards better relationships. But, they couldn't completely because they stepped down and a new president comes. When a new president comes, it starts from the beginning again. I don't understand, for instance, why Annapolis is a dirty word for the Obama administration. I don't understand it. You know, it was Bush. Okay, you guys don't like Bush. I like him, by the way [laughter]. I like him. I think he's a fabulous guy. I think he's a wonderful man. I think he's very nice. He's very warm. He's very friendly. He's been very supportive of the state of Israel. And his painting, not bad, by the way. You know, I saw some of his paintings, they are quite, you know -- for a man in our age to start at this stage to paint and spend most of your day painting, it's wonderful, you know. He's a man with a peace of mind which is unbelievable. You know, he and Condi Rice created Annapolis. 40 Arab countries or more, Muslim countries came to see the President of the United States and the two prime ministers -- I mean, the Prime Minister of Israel, the President of the Palestinian sitting together on a stage and talking about reaching their hands to achieve peace. Was it so bad? Why not continue from there and rather start from the beginning? I don't understand it. So, there are mistakes which are done traditionally by all the administrations. I think that Obama, as far as we are concerned, is a friend of Israel. I think he has been supportive of Israel. I think that the fact that he cuts the American security budget because of the economic crisis at that time and didn't touch the American security support for the State of Israel but increased it is certainly not a reflection of hostility to the State of Israel. But, it is true that until the appointment of John Kerry, you look at it as the mission of his life to make peace in the Middle East, the involvement of the United States in the peace between Israel and the Palestinians perhaps was not sufficient. But to say that they were not involved in the Arab Spring, I think they were. Who could anticipate it? Don't blame the intelligence services; not everything the intelligence services can foresee, and in many cases, they can't. And I am familiar with it because I was also in charge of one of the best intelligence services there are in the world. They don't know everything. And the fact that they couldn't anticipate the Arab Spring doesn't mean that America was not involved in a very intensive way in all of the developments which took place as a result of the Arab Springs. And they're involved with Syria now, and they are involved with Iran. So, they're involved and these are the priorities of the president and the fact is that the American public reelected him. They reelected him not because they thought that he was the worst. And I apologize to Sheldon Adelson that they didn't do what he wanted to buy [laughter]. >> Go ahead. >> Since someone accused you before, offended you by calling you an optimist, I just want to remind us of that wonderful Amos Oz observation that optimists always have a scowl on their face and pessimists are always smiling because optimists are always disappointed. And pessimists always can't get over how much better things are than they thought. And, so I want to thank you for your pessimism here today [laughter]. >> Let me tell you one thing. The ones which are making changes and improve the world are the optimists, because the optimists are the ones that do not accept "No" as an answer and they are ready to dare, and they are ready to move forward. And I couldn't be offended more than being called an optimist. Thank you very much. [ Applause ]


  1. ^ Kelley, Tina (December 20, 2002). "Wayne Owens, 65, Advocate Of Peace in the Middle East". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Mozgovaya, Natasha (June 14, 2010). "Robert Wexler, has Abbas given you any hope for the peace process?". Haaretz.
  3. ^ Kelemen, Michele (May 24, 2011). "Mideast Peace Deal 'Must Leave Israel With Security'". NPR.

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