Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began his speech at the closing plenum of the Israeli Presidential Conference with the subject of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held captive in Gaza for five years. "Gilad Shalit is important to millions because of Hamas's refusal to allow Red Cross representatives to meet the kidnapped soldier. Hamas announced today that it stands by its refusal. I have decided to change Israel's policy concerning terrorists in Israeli prisons. We are obliged to respect Israeli law and international law, but we are not bound to anything beyond that, and therefore the over-generous conditions in Israeli prisons will stop," Netanyahu said.
"We are implementing a series of measures that will change prison conditions I will not go into detail here today. I have for example stopped the absurd procedure whereby terrorists register for academic studies. There will be no more masters in murder and doctorates in terror. This party is over," he continued.
Turning to more general matters, the prime minister said, "This is my vision for the future of Israel: I see her as a regional economic power and a global technological power, a country living at peace with her neighbors. We have a strong economy with unemployment at an unprecedented low, and we believe that we can lower unemployment to 5%. We must enable our brains to bring out their creativity. We must continue developing the economy and breaking the cartels.
"That however is not enough. The country is still choked by bureaucracy, but, worse than that, it is choked physically, and we are developing transport, including highways to Kiryat Shemona and Eilat. We want to make it possible to travel from Kiryat Shemona to Eilat without a single traffic light. We want to develop the country, to develop the Negev, and it is very important to have a transport network, including a railway from Tel Aviv to Eilat via Ashdod, and to connect the Red Sea with the Mediterranean. That will change Israel for ever, and we will do it.
"The future belongs to the inventors, and we in Israel have invested more than any other nation proportionally to our size, and we will continue to do so, together with huge investment in every technological field. We are not just talking, but are putting a great deal of money into our educational centers, and we are bringing back brains that have left Israel
"We want to invest in food, in agronomy, in food engineering. This is important to Israel and to the human race. Secondly, we are searching for oil substitutes, and we are investing over half a billion dollars in research over the next ten years. If we find a suitable alternative, we will change the world, and cleanse it. That way, we will stop financing the wheels of terror.
"Thirdly, we are investing in cyber. This is a challenge and an opportunity, because today, you can paralyze an entire country without firing a single shot, and that will only worsen. It is possible to overthrow armies, banks, and anything else, by pressing a button, and we must defend ourselves from cyber attack.
"We derive much gratification from the past, and several Nobel prizewinners, but they came from the education system of yore. We need to develop the current education system, and we have put NIS 7 billion into higher education in the past two years, and we will yet see the results. The essence of the change is to link teachers' pay to pupils' performance, and that is a very difficult reform, which we have fought for, because it's very important to start. Excellence should be rewarded, and we are doing that," Netanyahu said.
Other participants in the closing session of the conference were President Shimon Peres, European Central Bank Governor Jean-Claude Trichet, Jewish Agency for Israel chairman Natan Sharansky, and conference chairman Israel Maimon. The conference has been taking place over the past three days at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on June 23, 2011
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2011