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Read Israel Foreign Minister's speech at Manama Dialogue conference

Updated: Dec 14, 2020

Israel Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi's speech at the Manama Dialogue conference. Following his meeting with Bahrain's foreign minister in mid-November, he was the first Israeli to address the annual event on December 6, 2020. The following is a full transcript.

Thank you my friends,

I would like to thank my dear friend and colleague, Dr Abdullatif Al Zayani Bahraini Foreign Minister, for inviting me to this important Manama Dialogue.

At the beginning of my remarks I would like to express my regret on the comments of the Saudi representative. I don’t believe that they reflect the spirit and the changes taking place in the Middle East. And I will refer to them during the rest of my comments. This year's dialogue is a milestone.

We are about to embark on a new era of peace, hope and a better future.

Focusing on the one hand, on cooperation, technology, and innovation, and on the other hand on security and stability.

The influence of such cooperation will go beyond the boundaries of our region.

These agreements are a historic breakthrough, made possible by the boldness and vision of

His Majesty King Hamad, and Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad of Bahrain, and the Crown Prince of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed.

I also want to thank our ally, the United States, President Donald Trump and his professional and dedicated team. The U.S. is Israel’s indispensable strategic ally.

We are very proud of our friendship. It is bipartisan in nature, and based on shared values and common interests. We are very grateful for the US contribution to regional security and stability, and I believe all of us are in debt to its continuing presence in our region.

I also want to thank Prime Minister Netanyahu for his contribution to these accords.

The agreements represent a new paradigm of peace.

They symbolize the choice of a better future over the past, of agreement and consensus over disagreement, and of hope and promise over despair.

These agreements are not just pieces of paper, they are changing the reality on the ground.

I have had the privilege of hosting Bahrain's Foreign Minister, my friend Dr. Abdallatif Al Zayani, and just last week, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism,

Mr. Ziad bin Rashid al-Zayani.

We are working to open the skies for Israeli tourists and businessmen to visit Bahrain and the UAE and vice versa.

This would not have been possible without the approval of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and we are very grateful for this support.

It is my strong belief that the “Abraham Accords” are not, and should not, be a closed club, but rather a constantly expanding circle of cooperating members.

We trust in the continuing bipartisan support of the United States.

Ladies and Gentleman,

The Middle East today is divided into two clear camps:

Those that have chosen peace, a better future for their children, economic prosperity, and regional stability.

And on the other side, those, led by Iran and its proxies, who have chosen the path of war, violence extremism, and terrorism.

Since the Nuclear Deal came into force in 2015, the Middle East has experienced an unprecedented time of disruption.

Iran’s hands and fingers are dug deep in the region, creating havoc, misery, and agony.

All of us are fully committed to the goal of INDEFINITELY blocking all paths of Iran to the bomb and disrupting and reducing its regional malign activities.

2020 is not 2015!!!

We must learn from the lessons of recent years.

We have to recognize the nature of the Iranian threat.

We should recognize that INDEFINITE does not go hand in hand with SUNSET.

We must recognize the very important role that pressure, including strong economic sanctions play.

We cannot let the fate of the peoples of the region be held hostage by Iranian proxies like Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen.

Death, corruption, economic crisis, and political stalemate is what Hezbollah has brought on the Lebanese people.

We need to Designate them. Outlaw them. Sanction them.

The months to come will be significant in defining the future stability of the region.

We would like to work closely with all our partners, including in the region.

I also sincerely hope that it will open a new channel for a different dialogue with our Palestinian neighbors.

As I have stated at every opportunity, the "Abraham Accords" do not come at the expense of the Palestinians.

Quite the opposite,

they are an opportunity that should not be missed.

I welcome the Palestinian decision to return to security and civilian coordination with Israel, and I call on the Palestinians to change their minds and enter direct negotiations with us, without preconditions.

The change in conversation from annexation to normalization has opened a new window of opportunity for the Palestinians. Negotiations are the only way to solve this conflict.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I strongly believe in my country.

An Israel, which is Jewish, democratic, secure, strong and safe.

As a former IDF chief of staff, as a commander, and former soldier who fought on too many battlefields, and buried too many friends, I want an Israel which lives peacefully with its neighbors and continues to contribute to regional stability and prosperity.

Thank you once again for this opportunity.

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