Welcome to Jerusalem. President Peres, Shimon: I want to thank you for hosting another successful conference and I want to congratulate you again for winning the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
You see, people don't know this, but now that Shimon has won the Medal of Freedom and the Nobel Peace Prize, there's only one thing left: an Olympic Medal. And if anyone deserves to win the gold for tirelessly working to build peace, dreaming for peace, yearning for peace, Shimon definitely deserves the gold.
There's a reason why I couldn't be with you personally in this conference. Have you ever heard the expression, "Break a leg"? I did. I'm definitely out of the competition for the Olympic Medal in soccer. But this conference is about facing the future, and I think there we can win the gold. I have tremendous confidence about the long-term future. We're in a knowledge century. This is a century in which nations that will succeed are those that can create conceptual products, products of the mind. Israel is number one in the world per capita in producing more conceptual products than any other nation – by far more than any other nations. In absolute terms, we're not that far behind from the top. So we have a tremendous treasure, a tremendous capacity for innovation, for technology, and we should do very well in this knowledge century. I think the world will do very well in this knowledge century because the infinite possibilities of progress, of technology, of productivity, of curiosity, of freedom are there for all of us to enjoy.
And the real question in our time is: will the Arab peoples, will the Islamic world, will the Islamic-Arab world and the Islamic-Iranian world – will they all be able to partake in this bounty of progress? I have no doubt that by the end of the century, militant Islam will be defeated. I don't think you can cloister young minds; I don't think you can take children and lock them out of modernity, bring them back to an early medieval mindset. I don't think that's sustainable with the technological explosion of this century.
I think the real question is: can we get the devices of freedom, that is these technological breakthroughs, literally in the hands of young Muslims and young Arabs so that they can see a different world from the one that the militants are trying to close them in, that they can have a choice and see different possibilities, different values. And I think the answer is: yes. That will happen. I think it's unstoppable, but I think it might take several decades. I don't know if it will take the gist of the century, but it will take some time. I have no doubt that we will climb the Himalayas. I think we can see that vision, and I don't mean just Israel, but I think everyone. So I think there is great hope for humanity.
The question is: what do we do in the years ahead. What if there's a big chasm before we can climb the mountain, and I think there is one. And that chasm is created by a seeming paradox: that the undeveloped societies can still concentrate enough capabilities – scientific and technological – to create not the devices of freedom and progress, but the devices of mass death. You have a country like North Korea, which has a few hundred dollars per capita per year, that is able to build nuclear weapons and missiles. The same is happening in our area. Iran is developing atomic bombs. Other countries and other movements are developing missiles. They're developing cyber. So the paradox is that while the general societies are left backward, dilapidated, with no hope, there is a concentration of effort to produce the weapons of mass death. This is the central challenge of our time.
The central challenge of our time is to continue the proliferation of freedom and to stop the proliferation of these deadly weapons. I think that this is something that we should have a partnership of the major powers of the world, because we all want to secure the present and embrace the future. It's a dual task, and I'm very confident about the long-term, but I know that we must prevent, in the short-term, the radical forces from bringing us down, bringing millions of people down, before they themselves are brought down. That paradox is not something beyond our powers. Free societies and the Jewish people have overcome tremendous challenges, and I think if we focus ourselves to these twin tasks, then I think we'll achieve this as well.
This is something that I know has been advanced by this conference as well, and I congratulate you for it. Thank you.