Before I begin, I want to extend condolences to the people of France following yesterday’s bombing of their Embassy in Libya. We also extend our condolences to the American people following the attack in Boston last week. Our prayers are with the victims, families and citizens of both countries.
I want to congratulate His Excellency, Ambassador Eugène Gasana, and the delegation of Rwanda for their leadership of the Security Council this month.
Last Tuesday, the State of Israel marked 65 years as a free and independent homeland for the Jewish people. On that historic day six and half decades ago, the leaders of the new Jewish State issued a Declaration of Independence. It affirmed (and I quote), “We offer peace and unity to all the neighboring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all.”
Israel wants peace. Not a day has gone by in the past 65 years in which the people of Israel have not yearned for peace. Last month, during his visit to Israel President Obama said, "I know Israel has taken risks for peace…. [and] I believe that the Israeli people do want peace."
Jewish tradition teaches that the world is sustained on three pillars – truth, justice and peace. Today I’d like to speak about the three pillars upon which a true and lasting peace in our region must stand. These pillars of peace are the foundation that must remain standing in the shifting sands of the Middle East. Anything less would be a peace based on illusions and delusions, a peace that is bound to crumble.
Pillar number one: Peace must be built on a foundation of education for tolerance and coexistence.
Peace should be fostered in homes, taught in schools, nourished by leaders and woven into the very fabric of society. The UN Charter urges nations to (and I quote), “Practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours”.
It doesn't take an urban planner to realize that the Palestinians are missing the blueprints to build a peaceful neighborhood. From cradles to kindergarten classrooms, from the fields of summer camps to the fields of football stadiums, messages of intolerance fill Palestinian society.
Under the Palestinian Authority, students learn history from textbooks that glorify terrorists. They learn geography from atlases that erase Israel from the map. Gaza kindergarten graduations feature “terrorist dress-up”. Five-year olds stage plays that glorify jihadists and suicide bombers. Instead of learning their ABCs, Palestinian children are being taught H-A-T-E. Hate.
Flip through the channels of Palestinian Authority television and you might find a children's program featuring a young girl reciting a poem that called Jews (and I quote) "Allah's enemies, the sons of pigs" who "rap[e] women in city squares." Apparently, this is what passes for "educational television" under the Palestinian Authority.
How can we expect children in Gaza to learn tolerance when their own leaders repress them day in and day out? Hamas has banned co-education, arrested women for riding bicycles, and prohibited women from appearing in public with their hair uncovered. Earlier this month, Hamas police pulled dozens of young men off the street and brutally beat them for the so-called "offense" of wearing pants that were too tight. I’d say that this is taking the phrase "fashion police" to a whole new level.
Month after month this Council meets to discuss what is wrong in the Middle East. Where are the concerned voices in this debate for all the hate being taught to Palestinian children? Where are the cries denouncing the incitement that poisons the wells of peace?
Pillar number two: Peace must be built on a clear recognition that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people.
Since King David laid the cornerstone for his palace in Jerusalem three thousand years ago, Jews have lived continuously in the land of Israel. They saw the rise and fall of the Babylonian and Roman Empires. They endured through crusades and pogroms until the reestablishment of the Jewish State.
I have said it before and I'll say it again, Israel is committed to two states for two peoples. In 1947, we readily accepted the UN's plan to create two states in the region, an Arab state and a Jewish state. At the time, Arab leaders rejected the existence of a Jewish state. Sixty five years later, you still never hear Palestinian leaders speak about two states for two peoples.
While President Abbas claims to march steadily towards peace, his actions fail to fall in step. Last November, the Palestinian Authority built a monument in a central square in Bethlehem depicting the boundaries of a Palestinian state. This state extended from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. Israel was literally wiped off the map.
Conveniently enough, surprise, surprise, when foreign dignitaries visit Bethlehem, the monument is removed from its position and taken in for "repairs." As the old saying goes, “You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
The Palestinian delegate cited Norwegian aid in his remarks earlier. In recent years, Oslo has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in annual aid to the Palestinian Authority. According to Norway's Foreign Minister, the PA misled Oslo when they claimed Norwegian aid money was not used to provide salaries for convicted terrorists in Israeli prisons.
The PA has been using these types of underhanded tactics to funnel money to convicted murderers with blood on their hands. Last year, as the PA was threatening to delay salaries to its civil servants, it somehow managed to find the necessary funds to triple – triple - its monthly payments to these terrorists.
While President Abbas speaks about peace, he continues to publically embrace Hamas. Abbas recently renewed his efforts to create a unity deal with Hamas, a terrorist organization dedicated to Israel's destruction. In an interview last month with the Russian network RT, Abbas went so far as to say (and I quote) "I don't see much difference" between the policies of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
Let me remind Mr. Abbas of a simple truth. Hamas and its extremist ideology are the enemies of peace. Their ideas do not empower Palestinians to build a brighter future. They enslave them in a darkened past. There will be no peace until our neighbors recognize Israel as a Jewish state that is here to stay.
Pillar number three: Peace must be built on security.
These days the cities and communities of southern Israel remain under fire from terrorists in Gaza. This is despite the fact that there has not been a single Israeli settlement in Gaza since 2005. After ten years and more than twelve thousand rockets, this Council has not said a word to condemn the perpetrators. Israeli citizens want real assurances for their security. The situation in Gaza provides us with a valuable lesson concerning any future arrangement in the West Bank.
As rockets fly out of Gaza, new and more sophisticated weapons are flowing in. Just this month, security forces detained a vessel off the southern coast of the Sinai Peninsula carrying 60,000 rifles, RPG launchers, machine guns, hand grenades and ammunition. Ships like these routinely smuggle arms to Gaza and to Sinai-based terrorist groups.
It is no secret that Iran is the primary supplier of weapons and the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East. Yet earlier this month, the Iranian delegate stood in front of the General Assembly to share Iran's so-called concerns with the Arms Trade Treaty. He had the audacity to say the following (and I quote), "the transfer of arms to the Middle East…has gravely affected the security and welfare of the people of this region, and led to many lost lives in recent years." It is quite an interesting statement to hear from an Iranian delegate. This is like the Mafia complaining that the crime rate in New York is too high.
The Iranian regime spins lies almost as quickly as they are spinning centrifuges. The Ayatollahs are threatening to combine their extremist ideology with missiles and nuclear weapons. Make no mistake - Iran's ambition for nuclear weapons is the single greatest threat to the Middle East and the entire world.
The Iranian nuclear program continues to advance at the speed of an express train. The international community’s efforts to stop them are moving at the pace of the local train, pausing at every stop for some nations to get off and on. Last month, there was yet another round of negotiations to reason with Iran and convince them to abandon their nuclear program. Just days after negotiations ended, Iran announced two key infrastructure projects. Surprise, surprise…both of them expanded Iran's ability to process uranium.
At the same time that Iran is advancing its nuclear ambitions, it is providing guidance to Bashar al-Assad to more effectively butcher the Syrian people. As we speak, Iran is sending Hezbollah fighters to Syria to help execute their bloody plans on the ground.
In Lebanon, Hezbollah is building an army equipped with 50,000 missiles - more than many NATO members. Now they might have access to one of the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons in the world. Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, claims he needs this army to defend Lebanon against Israel. The truth is, Nasrallah wants an army to more effectively butcher his Arab brothers and sisters.
Hezbollah doesn't feel the need to limit its brand of terrorism exclusively to the Middle East. Last month, a court in Cyprus jailed a member of Hezbollah for planning terrorist attacks against civilians. Yet this still isn't enough for some EU members to call Hezbollah what it is – a terrorist organization. It operates with impunity on European soil, yet some European lawmakers continue to insist it is a social-services organization. It doesn't take a Sherlock Holmes to understand the obvious facts of this case.
These are just some of the threats Israel faces in the region. Any peace agreement must be based on reassurances for the security and safety of the citizens of the only Jewish state.
Since Israel was born sixty five years ago, we have been forced to fight six wars in six decades to defend our very existence. We know peace comes at a price. We want peace, but not at any cost. We will not turn a blind eye in the face of the threats that surround us.
Now is the time to put aside the distracting sideshows of this debate and focus on how we can lay the foundation for a genuine, lasting peace. It is naïve to think that peace can come from grand statements and vague promises. It would be like trying to build a new house on a shaky foundation. The whole structure is at risk of collapsing.
For all those who believed that the so-called Arab Spring would result in the blossoming of a new Middle East, take note. Democracy has not taken root. Instead, what we have seen is more bloodshed and more violence. To truly establish peace, we must build a structure that can withstand the rough winds of change that are sweeping the region.
Winston Churchill said, "We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us."
The architecture of peace has never been clearer. As we face historic challenges in the Middle East, it has never been more important to strengthen the pillars of tolerance, mutual recognition, and security. These are the blueprints that need to be followed by Israelis and Palestinians, and indeed by all people in the Middle East, if we are to live in peace, security and prosperity.
Thank you, Mr. President.