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E. Olmert: Address to World Summit 2022, Plenary Session II

Address to World Summit
February 11-13, 2022


Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, Vice President Pence, distinguished heads of state, the honorable former secretary-general of the United Nations, my friend Mr. Ban Ki-moon.

Ladies and gentlemen, first of all, allow me to say a personal word to the vice president of the United States, Mr. Pence, whom I have known for many years, long before he thought that he would be vice president, and long before I thought that I would be prime minister of the State of Israel. I want to thank you, Mr. Vice President, for the courage and dedication to peace that you have manifested in a period that you served in different positions in America, particularly as vice president of America. You have contributed a lot to the last peace agreement signed between our country and the United Arab Emirates, and subsequently also between Israel and Bahrain, and Israel and Morocco, together with President Trump, and we in the state of Israel are very grateful for what you have done.

I know that you are facing a great challenge in the near future, and I'm sure that I speak for many Israelis from both political sides, that we wish you a  great success.

I also want to recognize the secretary-general of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon. I first met Mr. Ban Ki-moon when he was  the secretary of state of Korea, when he visited Israel on the national day of Korea, and since then we worked together a lot when he was secretary-general of the United Nations, helping me to try and bring some relaxation to the tensions which always characterized the Middle East. He is a great leader, highly respected and admired by people across the world, and I'm very proud to participate in this conference, which he graciously was among those who invited me to be part of.

I also want to congratulate Mrs. Moon for the inspiration which she has bestowed upon the spirit which characterizes this gathering here and many other activities in different parts of the world. This inspiration is highly needed, was always needed, is certainly highly needed at this time now.

Now, my dear friends, I must say I've been listening to the speeches made here and to many other speeches in different international conferences of this nature.  And there is a complete consensus in all of these conferences as to what needs to be said. The words are almost identical. The ideas are very similar. The attitudes and the emotions are entirely the same.

Everyone, from East and West, from Right and Left, is always for peace, for friendship, for relaxation, for mutual respect. Who is not? You speak to the leader of North Korea; he is for peace. You certainly speak to the leaders of South Korea, and everyone is for peace. You talk to leaders of Russia. Does Mr. Putin say that he is for peace? He definitely does. And the same with Mr. Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine: He is also for peace. And obviously, there is no doubt and there is no question that most importantly, the president of the United States of America, Mr. Biden, is for peace.

So the question is not what we are for; we are all for peace. We are all for friendship. The question is: What are we prepared to do in order to make it possible?

There is one lesson that I've learned in my times in politics—and particularly at a time when I had the responsibility, first, for one of the most sensitive places on earth, the city of Jerusalem, which I had the honor of being the mayor of for ten years, and subsequently when I became the prime minister of Israel—is that there is not one formula for peace, and it is not impossible that when different sides spell out at the same time the desire for peace and then may say things that are not congruent to each other, that both of them are not completely mistaken.

Which means, in other words, that what I think is incumbent upon those who are seriously committed to achieving  peace is to be able to define and to find the ways that are not identical to the original ideas that they had in mind, that might be different. But that difference can bring us closer to the other side, whose original ideas may not necessarily be the only ones that can bring the two sides ultimately into making peace between the two of them.

And I want to just bring you two examples, one from my part of the world, where I was involved intimately and deeply for many years. For many years we thought that we can work out a solution between Israel and the Arab countries and the Palestinians that somehow miraculously will not require painful concessions which are maybe in contradiction to what originally we had in mind about what we want to achieve.

Then we found out that maybe we have to reposition ourselves and to reconsider some of our original ideas. The first who set the example and manifested an unbelievable leadership was the late prime minister of Israel, Menachem Begin, together with the late president of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, who brought the two countries, pushed them away from where they were when they started to talk into a different position, which made it possible for both to sign peace, which already now is older than 30 years and is stable and is fruitful and is very helpful not just to the two countries but to many around us.

That was the beginning. Then we moved on to make peace with Jordan, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, with the legendary King Hussein, together with the legendary former prime minister of Israel, Gen. Yitzhak Rabin.

And now the main challenge that we have is to make peace with the Palestinians. I tried very hard. I came very, very, very close to concluding a deal that would have concluded all the outstanding differences between us and the Palestinians. But it didn't work out.  We were very close.

President Trump and Vice President Pence both presented the peace plan, which the president likes to call the deal of the century. I'm not sure that it was the deal of the century, but it was based on one basic principle, which I absolutely accept and which is much further from what both sides originally wanted, which is a two-state solution. This is the only way to resolve this issue, and I'm sure that if we will continue on this path—not on the details; they are less important—on the basic principles of two states, we will come to it.

Now I want to conclude by an opposite road, which is expected in this part of the world. There can be only one possible solution to the conflict, which is the source of pain and concern and worry for the Korean people. And this is not a two-state solution. It's a one-state solution, but a one-state solution that is based on a dramatic, fundamental change in the nature of North Korea. There can be no peace, no reunification of the same people because the people of North Korea are Koreans, the people of South Korea are Koreans.

But North Korea is not a democracy. It has to rid itself of this obsession for indoctrination, for the lack of democracy, for the lack of freedom, for the lack of freedom of speech, for the lack of freedom of movement. It has to change. I don't know how much time it will take. It's difficult. These kinds of changes take time, but I'm absolutely confident that the success of South Korea, the enormous economic, social, cultural, and scientific achievements of South Korea, ultimately will become a role model for the people who live in North Korea who would like to be part of it, and the only way that they will become part of it is if they will change the nature of their way of life, the nature of their government and become what they are not now: a democratic society.

When they will become a democratic society and a free society, then there will be a solution, a one-state solution. Until then—and I don't know how much it will take, but I'm absolutely confident that it will take place—there is one thing that is important for me—from where I come from and from the emotions of the people that I am part of—to let you guys in South Korea know that we are absolutely certain that you will be defended, supported and strengthened by all peace-loving people in the world.

And I want to thank you for allowing me to make this presentation to you at this place and at this time.

Thank you very much.



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