דברי הנשיא בפורום הכלכלי העולמי בדאבוס

מילות מפתח: הסכמי אברהם, מזרח תיכון, אזוריות, שיתוף פעולה

קרדיט צילום: עמוס בן גרשום, לע"מ

We gather here at the World Economic Forum in Davos, after a two-year hiatus, as the world continues to gradually re-emerge to normalcy. Yet we realize that the new normal is drastically different from the reality we put on hold.

After millions lost their lives to the paralyzing COVID-19 pandemic, the past few months have presented us with an unfolding tragedy in Ukraine. Our hearts break seeing the tragic devastation being inflicted on the people of Ukraine. The State of Israel continues to provide extensive humanitarian support to the Ukrainian people. The Israeli field hospital in Ukraine treated thousands of civilians; Thousands of Israeli volunteers are operating in Ukraine and around it, to assist with humanitarian aid and relief.

My wife Michal and I have been working to promote practical post-trauma treatment and psychological therapy, for children in particular, based on Israel's unique experience and capabilities in these fields. We remain eager to address the physical and emotional needs of everyone suffering from this humanitarian crisis. This is not the normal for which we hoped.

It is also noteworthy that the past two years have afforded opportunities for profound, historic shifts. Chief among them- from the Israeli and regional perspective- are the Abraham Accords: a set of groundbreaking agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors for peace and normalization. The courageous efforts of leaders at the forefront and supporters behind the scenes who made these agreements a reality, under the auspices of the United States- are realigning the Middle East.

In January of this year I had the honor of paying an official visit to the United Arab Emirates, as president of the Jewish, democratic State of Israel. This was two weeks after the passing of my mother, Aura Herzog. Jewish tradition provides mourners with a beautiful daily prayer – Kadish – expressing deep faith in God even in times of loss.

Reciting this prayer in Abu Dhabi, praying for my Egyptian-born mother, I thought about how astonished she would have been to see her son, the president of the Jewish democratic state praying freely, equal among equals, in a Muslim country, beside fellow Sons of Abraham.

An outburst of energy is sweeping through the region- energy of change that will dictate how the next generation grows up. I often envision the ten-year old boy, somewhere in the Middle East who sees his Muslim leader speaking openly with a Jewish head of state; Who sees the Israeli flag fluttering proudly as Israel's Prime Minister and Defense Minister are welcomed to summits in Sharm El-Sheikh, Rabat, Manama, Who sees the President of Israel warmly received at the Royal Palace in Amman and the Presidential Palace in Ankara, And who sees an Israeli President flying directly to Abu Dhabi to console its new ruler on the passing of his beloved brother, as I did just two weeks ago.

A child who grows up with such a deep message of hope, will mature into an inspired young adult for whom peace is a reality, not a distant dream. This hope is the greatest revolution brought about by the Abraham Accords, and we are seeing this dramatic sea change throughout the Middle East. Warm winds of cooperation, dialogue and understanding are blowing through the region. People to people, Non-profits, businesses, tourism- the change is apparent in virtually every sector and is enhancing the entire region.

This is true of our new partnerships— with Bahrain, the UAE, Sudan and Morroco, as well as of our deeply respected, traditional partners- Egypt and Jordan. The encouraging opportunity to turn a new leaf with Turkey, and the evolving collaboration with countries in the region with which we are eager to formalize relations- fills me with great optimism. I call on all countries from near and far, to join these winds of change, partner with Israel, lead the future, and make history!

We are well aware that as this thrilling momentum grows, so does the motivation of dark forces, be they individuals, groups or radical regimes, to enflame tensions and ignite violence. Those who wish to keep the Middle East stuck in the old paradigm of hatred and terror, while undermining the new paradigm of trust, and directing rampant hatred towards the State of Israel and the Jewish people worldwide. We must all make it clear to them that the State of Israel, is here to stay. Forever! Unfortunately, our principal struggle is against the Iranian regime, which systematically undermines the stability of the region.

Israel, and all nations of the world, cannot accept Iran's pursuit of nuclear capabilities, recognizing the threat it poses- to Israel and to the future of the entire region. Iran spreads hatred, terror, pain and suffering. Time and again we have seen how every country infiltrated by Iran has had the life sucked out of its people and its land. Prosperity, human liberty, creativity, growth- all these are erased. We have seen this in Iraq and Yemen, in Syria- and in Lebanon.

Take Lebanon as an example: Beirut was once termed the Paris of the Middle East. Lebanon is a country and a people with which Israel has not the slightest reason for conflict. It is painfully disturbing to behold the catastrophe of Lebanon a country continuously collapsing into poverty and pain. Israel is eager to share prosperity and successes, with all our neighbors; to break down barriers imposed by Iran’s influence. I truly believe that if we only choose the forces of light- the path to a drastically different, brighter future, is closer than we can imagine.

We will continue to extend our hand in peace to all our neighbors, from the Levant to the Gulf, from the Maghreb to the Mashreq, from our immediate neighbors the Palestinians- to the people of Iran, the entire Muslim world, and the whole of Africa. We all owe it to our children, to find a way to hear each other, and to work together to expand the zone of understanding, despite wide gaps and conflicting narratives. We expect of others what we demand of ourselves: To be attuned to the truth even when the truth hurts, to not buy into fake news, and to dare to work together to chart a different course.

In order to secure a safe future for everyone in our region, we must outline a nuanced, multifaceted approach incorporating geopolitical, climatic, and societal needs. We must work together, regionally, to fundamentally change our approach to our planet; To harness revolutionary technologies to create far-reaching prosperity, health and well-being for our peoples; To embrace a new paradigm of tolerance, dialogue and trust. Because together, we can shape not only a new Middle East, but a renewable Middle East: A new regional alliance for a stable and sustainable future.

A Middle East that thrives as a global hub of sustainable solutions in food, water and health; That serves as a source of energy, mostly solar, to Europe, Asia and Africa. A renewable Middle East: a region that is not only new, in the sense of different, but is sustained by its own positive momentum, developing collaborative defense systems, joint infrastructure, and shared technologies for improving the world.

Too much has happened over these two years for us to go back to the old normal. We cannot treat our future as we have done in the past. We must change: breaking paradigms, setting ambitious goals and committing to overcome every obstacle. Some would call this courage, audacity or determination. In Israel we call it chutzpah- the same chutzpah on which our state was built, just 74 years ago.

Israel remains fully committed to freedom of religion and worship, to deep respect towards all faiths, and to upholding democratic values. Let us harness this momentous shift to foster interpersonal dialogue, people to people, heart to heart. By working with all countries of the region, with the support of this distinguished Forum, we have an opportunity to build a future of peace, prosperity and progress, for all the sons and daughters of Abraham. Let us work towards this Renewable Middle East cultivating a shared sustainable future for all of our children. If we lead with action, our hearts will follow suit. Thank you very much.