Address by PM Netanyahu at the Graduation Ceremony of Course 38 of the National Security College
- Translation -
Honorable Minister of Defense,
IDF Chief of Staff,
Head of the General Security Service,
Prison Service Commissioner,
IDF Generals in regular service and reserves,
And of course, College Staff, Commander Gershon Hacohen and Prof. Ben-Ze'ev,
Above all – National Security College graduates and dear families,
This is a moment of great pride for you and for us – for you, graduates, for all of us, the entire nation, and I believe particularly for your families.
You have made a long journey to come here. First of all, to get to this course. It means you were selected. You are a selected elite. You have also undergone a comprehensive, in-depth process of understanding the fundamentals of our national security which you are now required to defend. Our national security is a triple-headed triangle: security, economy and society. The upper head is security, and the most decisive component in each one of the heads is the human component – the excellence, the ability to produce excellence, to let it rise, flourish and create new things. That is why you are at the top of the triangle, the edge of the peak, and you are worthy of every praise, but also every challenge.
The formula of this triangle – security, economy and society – is the source of our national strength, our national confidence to successfully withstand new challenges, primarily the challenge of living in peace with our neighbors, while our entire surroundings are undergoing fundamental, historic changes. I hope that these changes will ultimately produce freer societies, more responsive to their peoples' needs. It is not a simple process. It is a lengthy one, but a real development of real democracies around us will undoubtedly serve to strengthen the prospects of peace.
Meanwhile, we are facing major challenges and major opportunities in each of the three components I described.
In security – we are a small country, one of the smallest in the world, and we are facing unparalleled threats. In addition to the threat of conventional war and the war of terrorism in between wars, we face three new challenges that have been developing over the past few years: the nuclear threat, the threat of missiles and the cyber threat. These threats gradually intertwine. And I believe in our ability to meet these threats. Over the past year, since the previous course, Israel has developed – under your leadership, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and also at the initiative of former Defense Minister Amir Peretz – a multi-layered defense system that was successfully tried in the "Iron Dome" experiment. This is a major, ground-breaking change in the world.
With regard to cyber, I have established a national cyber headquarters, which is designed to bring together the defense, academia and private sector agencies to transform Israel into a global cyber superpower. It is possible, it is certainly necessary, but I believe that we are no longer merely at the top of the list, we are at the top of the top, and we must remain there. It is a constant race. We cannot rest on our laurels. There is no such thing. It is a constant battle to be at the forefront.
This is true also with regard to the economy. There are plenty of reasons why we would like to see a developed and dynamic economy, but the most simple, prosaic reason is that we have no other way of financing our defense – and defense costs a lot of money. Weapons cost a lot of money, forces cost a lot of money and development costs a lot of money, and it keeps going up and up.
I recently read a wonderful book by a remarkable historian, Will Durant, a 20th century American historian who, after writing, over a period of fifty years, eleven volumes on the history of mankind, concluded his findings in a small book, a thin 100-page book entitled "the Lessons of History". And I share with you both the bad news and the good news. The bad news is that Durant's conclusion was that the Law of Numbers works. It works because large nations – he wrote this in the 60's – have enormous economic power because of their numbers, and ultimately economic power translates itself into political power and military power. Now for the good news. He lists one exception to the Large Numbers Rule – the young State of Israel.
We have tackled the economic problem by doubling our GNP per capita in comparison with our neighbors. We were more or less equal, but now we are 10 or 15 times larger than our neighbors. It is as if our population was 10 or 15 times greater, although we have a lot of neighbors. We have tackled it also through our economy of knowledge and our technological economy. I am a great believer in this, on condition that there is freedom of entrepreneurship. Free economy is a necessary pre-requisite for a growing economy – a growing economy that now surpasses European countries in its GNP per capita – something that did not exist a decade ago.
Israel's powerful economy is the second fundamental pillar of our national security, for which you are now responsible. The third condition is society, our social cohesion. Prof. Ben-Ze'ev said that it depends on education, higher education. It is true, but higher education depends on the education that preceded it. In other words, our elementary schools and high schools, and we are in a process of a shifting trend. A shift in trend is coming, you can see it in the various science, math and physics Olympics. Israel has taken a sudden leap forward, in dozens of places. How can you generate this change? How do you change education? When you look at the world's successful countries, countries that have succeeded in transforming education, the main factor is not merely resources. We have put in the resources.
Our national strength is our democracy. The Knesset takes priority over the National Security College. When I was in the Knesset opposition I had time and I met with teachers' organizations. They knew that I liked clear ideas and they also showed me a presentation that explains it all in education. One particular transparency featured: "inputs" – a large arrow – "outputs", and what I said was that my entire experience, without exception, has taught me that the arrow works the other way around. When you are in the public service, in security, economy, education, anywhere, if you know what you want to achieve and you put in the resources, you will achieve it. If you are investing in a bottomless pit, with no direction, you will fail to achieve it.
And you know it – each one of you in your own way – otherwise you would not be here. You know that setting goals is the key to attaining them. What we are currently doing in education is setting goals. And by setting the goals, by expecting each and every child in Israel to excel or at least to maximize their potential – we produce results. And we have seen this in many countries. We have seen it in the world's five leading countries in education. This is what unites them. Both students and teachers are expected to show results, and the principals are rewarded for producing these results. It is not an easy change, but it is a necessary one if we are to have social cohesion and the confidence that each and every child in Israel can compete in the world of the 21st century.
Education is the key to cohesion, but it is insufficient because people make a good living, better than more and more European countries, but ultimately they are not left with much. Why? The main reason is that many things cost more in Israel. Why do they cost more? Why does yogurt cost more here than in Europe? Why do many products cost more? Because where there is no competition, prices go up and then less is left in our pockets, and one of our goals now is not only to boost our economy, but also to achieve a reduction in prices, and the highest prices are not for yogurt nor for cheese – although they are important – they are the prices of housing, and this is where we have to break the government cartel.
I said we have a very small country, but we have turned into an even smaller one by a long-standing government monopoly in the Israel Lands Administration and the planning mechanism that is responsible for the fact that construction and planning procedures in Israel are the slowest in the world. Well, not the slowest. We are ranked 140 or 120. Although we top the list on other things. This is about to change. I will not present it today. You are welcome to hear it tomorrow, but these are steps that are important for us to produce the social cohesion I have described, so that people will know that they can make a living and they can have something to aspire to, that their children will receive the best education, both in universities and before that, in our schools, so that they can keep leading Israel up the global ladder.
Ultimately, the most important thing is the unity of ideas. We all know that this is the only country the Jewish people have. We know what became of us when we had no such country, when we had no government, no army, no security services, no intelligence services, and this major transformation in the history of our people is only a few dozen years old. But Israel moved up and up, and historian Will Durant was largely correct when he said that we violate the iron rules of history.
Those rules were set in the 16th or 17th century by an Italian historian named Vico. He said that all peoples and all cultures, without exception, exhibited the same patterns as a "field tree". They sprout, they bloom, they wither and then they die. He said: if you wait long enough, you'll see there are no exceptions. But there was a problem. There was one clear exception – the Jewish people. One of Vico's disciples, a Jew, Rabbi Nachman Krochmal, said: every time the Jews are on the brink of death, they reinvent themselves. The Jews have power, the Jewish people has an enormous living power, which reveals itself in different times, when they revive themselves remarkably. I believe each and every one of you has this sense of mission. And at this time, we expect each of you, in turn, to meet this challenge.
This is not your graduation. This is your beginning. You are about to shoulder an enormous responsibility, as enormous as our expectations of you. At this time, I want to tell you that I believe in you and I salute you.
May you be successful for the benefit of the people of Israel and the State of Israel.
Prime Mnister's Office : http://www.pmo.gov.il/PMOEng/Communication/PMSpeaks/speechmbl250711.htm