Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense William J. Perry - Anti-Defamation League
Tuesday, April 23, 1996
In 1977, when Anwar Sadat made his historic journey to Jerusalem to addressthe Israeli Knesset, he was greeted by Prime Minister Begin, who said to him,"If we do make peace, a true peace, we shall be able to help one another toenrich life and open a new epic period in the history of the Middle East."This historic meeting set the stage for the Camp David Accords, and it reallywas the beginning of a new epic period.
Anything seemed possible.
On the evening of the Camp David Accords, the day they were signed inWashington, I was at a reception talking with the then-Israeli DefenseMinister, Azer Weizmann.
While we were talking, the Egyptian Defense Ministerwalked in the room and Azer excused himself and went over and met the EgyptianDefense Minister, and then brought him back over and introduced him to me.
Ishall never forget that introduction.
He said, "This is General Ali.
He's atough old buzzard.
We shot him down three times and he kept coming back."
This was the spirit of the time, and it was the beginning of the bonding andpartnership between those two men and the building of the Camp David Accords.It soon became apparent in the wake of Camp David that a treaty alone does notmake peace.
A true peace has to be built, brick-by-brick.
And no one did moreto build that whole peace process than those two Defense Ministers.
I was fortunate to be a small part of this building process.
At the time, Iwas an Under Secretary of Defense.
Shortly after Camp David I went to bothIsrael and Egypt.
I had my first meetings in Tel Aviv, and then I flew fromTel Aviv to Cairo.
It turns out that this was the first airplane that had everflown from Tel Aviv to Cairo, and I can still remember wondering whether theword had gotten through to the Egyptian air defense that this was okay.
In Egypt, my task was to establish a brand new security relationship betweenour countries, starting from scratch, to support and encourage Sadat'scourageous decision to make peace.
In Israel, my task was to build on theexisting security partnership between America and Israel.
We realized thatpeace clearly depended on a strong and secure Israel.
No one understood this simple fact -- that peace in the Middle East depends ona strong Israel -- better than Yitzak Rabin.
I just visited Israel inJanuary.
It was my fourth trip there as the Secretary of Defense, but it wasmy first one without Rabin.
I met with Prime Minister Peres, just as I had metwith Prime Minister Rabin, in his office at the Defense Ministry -- not in thePrime Minister's office.
This was symbolic, I believe, of how seriously eachman took his responsibility as Defense Minister for safeguarding Israel'ssecurity.
In a few days, I will meet again with Prime Minister Peres when he comes tothe United States.
The backdrop of our meeting will be the fact that Israel'smilitary qualitative edge is greater today than ever before.
This is thanks,in large part, to twenty-plus years of close security cooperation between theUnited States and Israel, and the emphasis put on defense by Israeli leaders --certainly including Prime Minister Rabin and Prime Minister Peres.
We must not lose sight of the reality that it is only because of Israel'sstrength and the strength of the U.S. - Israeli security partnership that theMiddle East has any prospects of a comprehensive peace -- the comprehensivepeace that we all envisioned back in 1977.
In fact, the closer we get topeace, the stronger Israel's security needs to be.
That paradox derives fromthe fact that the closer we get to peace, the more desperate become the enemiesof peace.
They know their time is running out.
Hezbollah's attacks on northern Israel this month are precisely for thispurpose -- to sabotage the peace process.
In their desperation, the extremistsbecome more threatening, more belligerent, and more mindlessly violent thanever before.
So, as we get closer to a comprehensive peace, the going getstougher and the more vital it becomes that the friends of peace have the meansto prevail against the enemies of peace.
Today, I want to discuss with you threats to Israel's security and to thepeace process and what the Department of Defense is doing to help both Israeland those Arab nations that also seek peace so we can prevail against threethreats.
The first main threat is from the buildup of conventional arms by the roguenations that oppose peace -- Iran, Iraq, and Libya.
The U.S. is seeking toblunt the danger from the conventional build-up by these three countries byputting an economic squeeze on them: Libya and Iraq are under UN-mandated armsembargoes; and Iran has to deal with growing international pressure, thanks toU.S. leadership.
All three find it harder to get sophisticated, advancedconventional weapons because of our efforts.
But isolating this rogue's gallery only takes us so far.
We must maintainIsrael's qualitative edge.
I told Prime Minister Rabin and I've told PrimeMinister Peres and I will tell you, that as long as I am the Secretary ofDefense of the United States, we will maintain the qualitative edge inIsrael.
Maintaining this edge means $1.8 billion a year in foreign military funds.
Itmeans joint military exercises.
It means technology transfers in the field ofmissile defenses in particular.
Because of these measures, Israel canout-match any threat from the rogue states and they know it.
But it is also important for these rogue nations to know that they cannotsuccessfully attack their Arab and Muslim neighbors -- that is why I was inEgypt two weeks ago.
The seeds of security cooperation that we planted thereafter Camp David have blossomed today into a solid, mature securitypartnership.
Today, Egypt's armed forces are well trained, well equipped, andindeed, have been a stabilizing force in the region.
Through joint exercises, military sales, and technology transfers, the UnitedStates is helping many moderate Arab states better defend themselves, and allof this with the strong support of the Israeli government.
Israel, forexample, has strongly supported Jordan's request for F-16 fighters and isprepared to help Jordan maintain these F-16s.
It should also be crystal clear to everyone in the region that the UnitedStates is prepared to protect our vital interests in the region with militaryforce.
We demonstrated this capability in the Gulf War.
We demonstrated itagain in 1994, when Saddam Hussein again sent his troops towards the Kuwaitiborder.
Today, due to pre-positioning of equipment and access agreements, ourcapability and our response time is even better.
In 1980, for example, itwould have taken us at least three months to put a significant military forcein the Gulf area.
In August of 1990, it took us about a month.
In October of1994, we did it in about a week.
A second longer term threat to Israel and the peace process is the threatstemming from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Nowhere isthis threat more real or more terrifying than in the Middle East.
Iran, Iraq,and Libya all have programs to acquire or build nuclear, chemical, andbiological weapons.
The United States is countering this threat with athree-pronged global strategy to prevent, to deter, and to defend against theuse of these weapons.
As applied in the Middle East, this means we will seek to prevent thesecountries from obtaining the technology and materials they need to completetheir programs.
That is why we have led the fight for international sanctionsagainst these nations.
If necessary, the United States is fully prepared totake other, more drastic preventive measures.
The United States remains deeply engaged in containing the threat posed byLibya, Iran, and Iraq.
In the case of Iraq, since they began in 1991, U.S. andcoalition aircraft have flown almost 140,000 sorties over Iraq in OperationsPROVIDE COMFORT and SOUTHERN WATCH to monitor the Iraqi threat to its northernand southern neighbors.
Our U-2 aircraft provide support to the UN SpecialCommission inspectors who monitor Iraq's weapons of mass destruction andmissile programs.
All of these programs are key to trying to prevent these weapons from everbecoming threats.
In addition to trying to prevent the proliferation ofweapons of mass destruction, we are also seeking to deter the use of theseweapons.
Today the United States has the strongest conventional military forces in theworld, and we continue to maintain a nuclear deterrent.
Our nuclear deterrentis considerably smaller than it was in the Cold War, but make no mistake: it isstill devastating.
These powerful military forces would be used against anycountry that tries to use a weapon of mass destruction against either theUnited States or its allies.
We would not specify our response in advance ofan attack, but our response would be overwhelming.
But if prevention anddeterrence fail, we still need to be prepared to defend against threats,particularly against weapons of mass destruction.
In just a few days, Prime Minister Peres and I will talk about our theatermissile defense programs, a fruitful area of cooperation.
The United Statesand Israel are jointly developing systems such as the Arrow Anti-TacticalMissile System and high-energy lasers that will be able to knock rockets andmissiles out of the air, much closer to their launch point than previoussystems.
We're also looking at some new initiatives in the area dealing withearly warning.
We will discuss all of these programs very seriously and verysubstantively with the Prime Minister when he is here this weekend.
Ultimately, I am confident that hard work and firm resolve will protectIsrael, the peaceful Arab nations, and the peace process itself from threatsfrom conventional warheads and threats from weapons of mass destruction.
But there's a third threat, which will take even more hard work and evenfirmer resolve, and that is the threat from terrorism.
Terrorism touches usall -- Americans, Israelis, and Arabs.
We all suffer when a terrorist strikes,whether the target is the World Trade Center in New York, a crowded bus on thestreets of Jerusalem, or an office building in Saudi Arabia.
I recently went to Saudi Arabia, where I visited the American projectmanager's office for our program with the Saudi National Guard.
This wasshortly after the office had been torn apart by a terrorist bomb.
When I metthe people in the project manager's office, they had just learned the tragedyof terrorism firsthand.
Despite their loss and suffering, they remainedcommitted to the work of training the Saudi National Guard and helping bringpeace and stability to the region.
Their resolve is America's resolve.
We will not let acts of terror intimidateus into abandoning any of our vital security partners in the Middle East.
Wewill not let terrorism derail our dream of a comprehensive peace in the MiddleEast.
We will fight terrorists.
I was pleased to hear, just yesterday, that Saudi Arabia had arrested theperpetrators of this act of terrorism in Riyadh.
This fight against terrorismwill go on, though, on into the future, and it will require increasedinternational cooperation, enhanced intelligence sharing, and firm resolve.
All of these were in evidence at the first-ever Peacemakers Summit in Januaryat Sharm el-Shaikh.
Twenty-nine years ago, Sharm el-Shaikh and the Strait ofTiran were a focal point of war.
In January, Sharm el-Shaikh became the focalpoint of peace as the leaders of 29 nations joined together to stand up againstterrorism and for peace.
But even as we do so, we must be very clear that the United States does notoppose Islam.
We do not oppose any religion or the people of Iran, Iraq, orLibya.
What we oppose is extremism.
We oppose extremism dedicated to violence-- whether it is found in governments, groups, or individuals.
We opposeanyone who tries to make a political tool out of the slaughter of the innocent.Extremists who promote hate and violence are a threat to peace everywhere --whether it is in the Middle East or on our own shores.
The American peoplemust be committed to fighting extremism and hate wherever we find it.
Terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and conventional military build-ups byrogue nations all have the potential to threaten Israel and destroy the peaceprocess that must succeed.
It is important for the United States to stand firmin the face of these threats.
The key will continue to be our strong partnership with Israel and our supportfor all nations that embrace peace.
But it is important not to get lost in thethreats, because this should also be a time for appreciation and optimism.
Twenty years ago, even after the Camp David Accords, no one would haveexpected to see the seder we just saw in Washington, D.C.
It was attended notonly by high officials from all over the U.S. Government, but also byambassadors from all over the world, including Russia and China.
In fact, Iheard the Chinese ambassador was seen confronting his first matzo ball.
Twenty years ago, no one would have believed that the King of Jordan wouldcome to Jerusalem to mourn a slain Prime Minister of Israel, or that we wouldbe commemorating almost two decades of peace between Israel and Egypt.
Today, for all of the difficulties that we are facing and will continue toface, we are closer to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East than I everimagined we could be back in 1977.
We are closer to winning what Anwar Sadatcalled, "the battle of permanent peace based on justice."
In a speech to the Israeli Knesset, Sadat said, "It is not my battle alone,nor is it the battle of the leadership in Israel alone.
It is the battle ofevery citizen in all our territories whose right it is to live in peace." Itis the battle of every citizen whose right it is to live in peace.