The Women’s Speech / Irit Keynan

An alternative to the speech that Netanyahu is expected to make in Congress

Our fellow Citizens of Israel,

Today, as P.M. Netanyahu has chosen to be an unwelcome guest in Washington and reiterate his
stubborn belief in the inevitability of war, we of women wage peace have come to say to you that there
is another way.
We have marched here from all corners of Israel, young and old, religious and non-religious, Jews and Arabs, in order to remind us all: for the last six years we have heard the same mantra repeated
endlessly – Iran, terror, war. During these six years he has stood against any initiative that could have improved Israel’s diplomatic and security situation here, at home.

We have come here to declare – Enough! We are tired of wars. We – the mothers, grandmothers, wives, sisters and daughters of the soldiers and of future generations, we – citizens and soldiers
ourselves, declare: No more! We will no longer stand for politicians dragging their feet, giving us excuses, claiming that there is no alternative. We are taking our fate in our own hands.

Today we embark on a voyage with a new kind of leadership, women’s leadership. We are not asking for positions
to hold or offices to run, our only demand is a vision of hope and not despair, a vision of peace and prosperity and not paralysis.
We do not pretend this will be easy.

Indeed, Israel is confronted by serious threats. However, the way to deal with these threats is notthrough continued confrontation with the Palestinians, but through resolution of the conflict. Radical
Islam, Hamas and Iran threaten the Palestinians every bit as much as they threaten us. A diplomatic agreement, whether bi-lateral or regional, will facilitate cooperation with more Arab countries and
broaden the coalition against the dangers facing us all.
We do not pretend this will be easy.

There are those who claim that resolution of the conflict is a utopian dream, an illusion with no basis in reality. But it is us, members of the Jewish people, who should know better than anyone else that dreams can be realized. The unbelievable success of Herzl, who transformed the Jewish people from a scattered, persecuted and defenseless minority with no rights and returned them to their rightful place in history as a nation among nations with a homeland, a government and a powerful defense army, was neither a miracle nor an accident. It was the result of his understanding of the existential imperative for an immediate change in history and of his own willingness and that of his followers to steadfastly cling to that idea with all the strength at their command. Most of the members of his generation considered him a naïve prophet, an imaginative writer with no understanding or experience in diplomacy. But Herzl acted decisively and untiringly, faithfully pursuing his goal with diplomatic finesse. Every setback only encouraged him to try harder. Today, too, “experts” repeatedly tell us that we are naïve and unrealistic, snidely silencing voices that claim that peace is possible.

We have come here from all over Israel to remind you that, just as the State of Israel proved to be no dream, so too the end of the conflict is not a dream – if only we want it enough. Our fellow Citizens of Israel – Security is not the opposite of Peace. Security is the opposite of War! Security is quality education, Security is a Welfare State, Security is Quality of Life, Security is insisting on a diplomatic solution.

We do not pretend this will be easy. Many Israelis believe that we have no partner in the peace process. To them we say: for over a decade the Peace Initiative of the Arab League for Resolution of the Conflict has been on the table. To the present day no Israeli government has even addressed the Initiative. For the last six years, Netanyahu has stifled every opportunity, raising new demands time and again, while claiming that Mahmoud Abbas is “no partner”. How can we be so sure that we ourselves are not the missing partner?

A diplomatic agreement reached through peaceful means is not a zero-sum-game where one side “wins” and the other side “loses”. Victory will be gained by those who present a courageous initiative that allows both sides to feel that their needs are respected. The victors in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be those who allow all the children – theirs and ours – to live without fear.

Let’s be honest – there are those among us who mistakenly believe that we can continue to live with the conflict. Let’s not deceive ourselves. Even if Israel wins every battle, and even if we succeed in preventing all terrorist attacks, time is running out. A third Intifada is looming, violence is escalating, and the periods of time between rounds of aggression are getting shorter and shorter.
History is not marking time. The window of opportunity that will allow us to solve the conflict while preserving a democratic and Jewish state is closing slowly but surely, and in recent years the conflict itself has been seeping into the State of Israel. The Zionist vision of a Jewish democratic state is Israel’s only chance to exist proudly in cooperation with the developed countries of the world, allowing us to express our plethora of talents in culture, science and business. Our Declaration of Independence from 1948 determined that the Jewish State would be based on the principles of equality and democracy, and would extend full partnership in Israeli citizenship to the Arab minority living among us. In the absence of a diplomatic agreement with our Palestinian neighbors, with no end to the conflict, this vision is destined to failure, taking with it all the wonderful achievements made here during the 67 years of Israel’s independence.

This is a difficult endeavor requiring spiritual strength. It is not the physical possessions that are hard to relinquish. It is always harder to relinquish symbols and world views that we cherish. In truth any road taken to end the conflict will necessitate compromises that one or another part of society will find hard to accept. But isn’t that a price worth paying in order to preserve the lives of our children? The same children whom we watch anxiously from the time we get up in the morning to the time we go to bed at night, the ones whom we wait up for till they return from outings with their friends in the early hours of the morning and whose crying in the night awakens us with a jolt, sending us racing to see that they’re properly covered in their beds and making sure that they have all they need. But then – when the time comes that we have to literally save their lives, by stopping the destructive cycle of wars, we succumb to paralysis!

Most of us here today are Israeli born. Many of our parents were survivors of the Holocaust and of other persecutions. They came here and had to fight again for theirs and our existence. From childhood we were educated to answer any call by our country because our wars are just and because we only fight when we have no other choice, we only fight when all other alternatives have been exhausted. And today, when our sons and daughters are called for duty – can we honestly tell them there is no alternative, that we have exhausted all other options?

We call upon the new government to be formed after the elections, and to all members of the next Knesset: the time has come to take the fate of Israel in our hands, to renew the diplomatic initiative, to devote our greatest talents and skills, to invest our energy and time in reaching an agreement. We have faced difficult challenges in the past, we have overcome existential threats, we can surmount the present challenge as well.

Our fellow Citizens of Israel, as you prepare to put your ballot in the box, take a moment to think – hundreds of senior security personnel have already joined the call of IDF generals past and present to view a diplomatic agreement as a major national goal. Don’t let politicians blind you with tactics instilling fear and false promises of unlimited military power. Remember – the most important thing we can ask from any government, and from all members of the Knesset, is to devote all their strength and energy to finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

We of Women Wage Peace, Jews and Arabs, religious and non-religious, women who support the right, the left and the center, declare here today that we will not relent until agreement is reached. We will continue to monitor the actions of the new government, we will continue to demonstrate and to use every legal way available to demand from the government and members of the coalition, that they reach an agreement or vacate their seats in favor of those who can do it.

No more war! We choose life!

Written by Irit Keynan