Netanyahu: Israel To Adhere to Peace With Egypt; Powerful Alliance With US 'Vital'
Good week to all of you. Early this morning, at almost 0500 local time, the complicated rescue operation of the Israeli Embassy staff in Cairo was successfully ended. I worked together with the foreign minister, the defense minister, the Shin Bet chief, the Mosad head, the IDF chief of staff and their people at the Foreign Ministry's situation room. We had one mission in mind, namely, to guarantee the safety of the Israeli emissaries in Egypt. We acted together in a responsible manner to make sure that this incident ends in the best possible manner.
Soon after the incident started, I instructed to return to Israel all the Israeli Embassy staff and family members at Cairo -- to return them all by flight to Israel. At the same time we acted opposite the Egyptians and the US Administration in order to make sure that our people inside the embassy building are extricated without any harm.
I want to use this opportunity to thank US President Barack Obama. I requested his assistance at a decisive -- I would even say fateful -- moment. He said he would do everything possible, and this is what he did. He activated all of the United States' means and influence -- which are certainly considerable. I believe we owe him a special debt of gratitude. This testifies to the powerful alliance between Israel and the United States. This alliance is especially vital in these days, in which we can witness fierce storms and upheavals in the Middle East.
I also want to note the intervention of the Egyptian commando forces; this intervention undoubtedly prevented a disaster.
All through the night we maintained contact with the Egyptian Government. I think all sides realize that the protection of embassies in general, and of the Israeli Embassy in particular, is a vital part of the duty shouldered by any sovereign state. I therefore appreciate the statement of the Egyptian information minister, who denounced the attack against the Israeli Embassy. Incidentally, he was joined in this denunciation by other leaders in the international community, as well as in the Arab world. I think this is a significant fact.
Israel will continue to adhere to the peace agreement with Egypt. We are acting together with the Egyptian Government in order to return our ambassador to Cairo soon. I want to ascertain, however, that the security arrangements required by him and by the other embassy members are solid, and that they are provided with the necessary security. At the same time, our political attache in Egypt will continue to represent the state of Israel in Cairo.
During this long night, we had to make many difficult decisions. I want to describe to you one talk. On the phone line was Yehonatan, the embassy's security officer. He and his people -- six altogether -- were barricaded inside the embassy. The rioters entered the building and the office. One door only separated between them and Yehonatan and his friends. Yehonatan sounded to me calm and collected. At the same time, he understood his and his friends' situation very well. During the exchanges between the Jerusalem situation room and Yehonatan, he told the Foreign Ministry's security officer -- we all heard it -- as follows: If anything happens to me, I request that the announcement be made to my parents in person, not over the phone. At that point I told him: Yehonatan, hang in there, I assure you that the state of Israel will do everything possible, that it will activate all the possible powers in the world, so that you and your friends will come out of there safely and return home. Thank God, this morning they returned safely to Israel. A few hours ago I spoke with Yehonatan and his mother, and I must tell you that they sounded wonderful.
I want to tell you, the citizens of Israel, something else this evening. The Middle East is undergoing an earthquake of historic proportions these days. Perhaps it can be compared to what happened here almost 100 years ago, at the end of World War One and the new order instituted at that time. We must act coolly, soberly, and responsibly in view of these historic upheavals. We must realize that these events are taking place due to incredibly powerful undercurrents. People in Israel are inclined to maintain that everything is happening because of us, thanks to us, or by our fault. Well, there are far greater forces at play here.
However, more than anything, at such times we must safeguard our security, because this is the anchor of our existence here -- especially in such a volatile period. We must promote our national interests in the region at this time. We will continue to safeguard our peace with Egypt. This is an interest shared by both countries. We will strive to prevent further deterioration in our relations with Turkey. We did not choose this track. As far as I am concerned -- as far as Israel is concerned -- we will strive to lower the flames, and if possible, to rehabilitate relations. We will also continue to strive for peace with the Palestinians. With this view in mind, we should return to the track of direct peace negotiations as soon as possible -- because only via such a track can we promote and achieve peace.
As far as these negotiations are concerned, I want to point out that I believe that at the present time, and in view of the situation in the region, many people both in Israel and abroad understand much better Israel's justified position in insisting on its security needs in any future arrangement.Date: 9/12/2011
Once again, I want to thank the foreign minister, the defense minister, the members of Israel's security branches, and above all, our brave young men who were under siege in the embassy building for many hours. We all operated together as a close-knit team. We operated together in order to prevent a disaster to the state of Israel, and we succeeded in bringing back our people safely home. A good week to all the people of Israel.