Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with Czech Republic Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek on Monday, shortly after the latter told Israeli media that he would push for Israel to pursue resuming peace talks to take advantage of strategic partnerships with neighboring Arab countries.
"We have a deep friendship between our peoples, between the Czech people and the Jewish people," Netanyahu began. "It goes back a thousand years."
"It goes back also 67 years when we were fighting for our independence, and we’ll never forget the timely and invaluable assistance from the Czech people as we were fighting for our very life," Netanyahu added, referring to vital Czech arms provided to the nascent Jewish state when others refused to help.
"We have since established relations," he continued. "We have two robust, vibrant democracies that are cooperating with each other, and this visit is an expression of that cooperation, including the working holiday agreement that we have just concluded, which I think will enable Israeli students to get to know the Czech Republic better and Czech students to get to know Israel better, and to earn a living while they’re doing that, which I think is a very nice idea."
Netanyahu added that, in his view, the two countries have shared values.
"I think we have an enhanced partnership," he said. "It is reflected and is developed through meetings like this, but also through G2G meetings that we regularly do."
"And I for one would like to carry this to another plane, because we’re moving into a technological world, and the world belongs to those who can create competitive advantage by adding value to their products and services," he noted. "There’s only one way to add value to products and services as your wages rise, and that is by technology."
"The Czech Republic has technology. Israel has technology, lots of it," he continued. "Together, we’ll have more of it for the betterment of our peoples, and for the prosperity of all."
The Prime Minister then addressed the purpose behind the meeting: a discussion of regional issues.
"Our goal is prosperity, peace and security," he said. "That’s a difficult order in the Middle East which sees states collapsing before our eyes."
"Syria no longer exists; Iraq no longer exists; Libya no longer exists; Yemen no longer exists," he continued. "And every one of those places that collapses sees the emergence of militant Islam, either the Shi’ite variety led by Iran or the Sunni variety at the moment led by Daesh, by ISIS, and of course with its Sunni competitors."
"In this environment, Israel wants to achieve a durable peace," he declared. "This peace means that we do not want to see a repetition of what happened in Gaza, what happened in Lebanon."
"We left Lebanon – Hezbollah came in. We left Gaza – Hamas came in. Both are supported by Iran."
"We cannot afford to have that happen a third time," he warned. "But we don’t want a single unitary state. We want two states for two peoples: a Jewish state, a Jewish nation state – Israel, living in peace with a demilitarized Palestinian state."
Netanyahu noted, however, that the current situation does not engender that vision.
"Unfortunately, the Palestinians don’t negotiate," he said. "They ran away from negotiations. They ran away from [former Prime Ministers Ehud] Barak; they ran away from [Ariel] Sharon; they ran away from [Ehud] Olmert; they ran away from me."
This, he said, is intentional.
"It’s a perfect trap, Foreign Minister," he said. "What they do is they refuse to negotiate, refuse to deal with the framework of John Kerry, in the White House, run to Hamas, which calls for our destruction, go to the UN and try to get sanctions on Israel."
"They refuse to negotiate and then try to get boycotts on Israel for there not being negotiations which they refuse to enter," he added. "Catch 22."
"And Israel is being blamed. There is talk of labeling products on Israel, there’s talk of UN Security Council resolution demands on Israel. This will push peace further and further back. Because why should the Palestinians negotiate when the UN will give them everything without negotiations?"
"I think this cycle has to be stopped," Netanyahu urged. "I think we have to get back to direct negotiations without preconditions. I think it’s important that the international community stop giving the Palestinians a free pass. They’re engaging in BDS, which calls for the elimination of Israel."
Netanyahu rejected any arguments legitimizing the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.
"People tell me, you know, the BDS movement really wants, all they want to do is get Israel back to the ’67 borders," he stated. "Well, here’s what one of the leaders of the BDS says: 'The real aim of BDS is to bring down the State of Israel. Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the State of Israel.'"
"BDS tries to conceal this bigoted agenda behind an elaborate smokescreen, and they exploit the language of human rights while they deny the right of the Jewish people to independence and sovereignty," he continued. "And I think this lie has to be exposed for what it is. It’s a rejectionist extremist Palestinian position in which there is no room for Israel in any borders."
He then turned to Zaorálek directly.
"I know, Foreign Minister, that you stand with me in opposition to this extremist agenda," he said. "I want you to know that we are committed to a solution of two states for two peoples."
"We are committed to negotiations. It’s about time that the focus was placed on the Palestinians and they should be told: 'Are you committed to a solution of two states for two peoples? Are you committed to open-ended negotiations, that is, without preconditions? Are you committed to peace?'"
"We are committed to peace. We hope they will be too. And if we negotiate we might actually get it."
"I look forward to discussing these and many other issues," he concluded.