Israel's UN Ambassador Ron Prosor addressing the UN Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, Monday:
The Middle East is known as the cradle of civilization – the birthplace of history’s greatest empires and three world religions. The region was once admired for its stirring art, striking architecture and significant innovations.
Today, the world looks at the Middle East and sees a region shaken by violence. From the Arabian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, not a day goes by when we do not read about brutality and bloodshed or new threats looming on the horizon.
Amidst this sea of hostility, Israel is an island of stability and democracy. It is a nation in which the majority governs, but the minority enjoys equal rights; a nation that embraces diversity and welcomes diverse opinions; and, a nation that leads the world in human rights and encourages women to be leaders.
Israel is proud of its democracy and yearns for peace with its neighbors and security in its borders. The people of Israel are still mourning the loss of their legendary statesman and soldier, Ariel Sharon. He was a fearless leader who knew the heavy price of war and was willing to take bold steps for peace.
The State of Israel is still willing to take courageous steps for peace and is committed to serious and meaningful negotiations with the Palestinians. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the United States and Secretary Kerry, in particular, for his tireless devotion to promoting peace in our region.
Twenty years ago, I recall watching King Hussein and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin meet in the Arava desert to sign the historic peace treaty between our two countries. At the signing, King Hussein said (and I quote), “This is peace with commitment. This is our gift to our peoples and the generations to come."
Fifteen years after his death, King Hussein’s legacy of peace lives on. Israelis from across the political and religious spectrum still admire King Hussein’s towering morality and his profound belief in the sanctity of life and the dignity of every human being.
I and most Israelis will never forget the sight of King Hussein consoling the Israeli families whose children had been killed in a terrorist attack. After learning that a Jordanian soldier had murdered seven Israeli schoolgirls, King Hussein traveled to Israel to visit the homes of the bereaved families. One by one, he sat with the grieving parents, held their hands, offered words of condolence and hugged and kissed them.
King Hussein told them (and I quote), “I feel that if there is anything left in life, it will be to ensure that all the children enjoy the kind of peace and security that we never had in our times.” This is the legacy that his son, King Abdullah, proudly continues today.
Contrast this picture, with a picture from just a few weeks ago. In December, Israel once again made the heartbreaking decision to release convicted Palestinian terrorists in an effort to advance the peace process.
The released terrorists were given a heroes’ welcome by the Palestinians and embraced by President Abbas. Murderers were met with fireworks and festivities and showered with candies and congratulations. The Palestinian Authority is rewarding terrorists with tens of thousands of dollars. The motto of the PA’s pension plan seems to be ‘the more you slay, the more we pay.’
This is coexistence? This is tolerance? This is mutual respect? Grieving Israelis watched as Palestinians celebrated men like Abu Harbish who threw a firebomb at a bus, murdering 26-year-old Rachel Weiss and her three young children.
To everyone in this room I ask - how would you feel if you had to watch your family’s murderers being celebrated? Would you call into question the so-called 'peaceful' intentions of your neighbors? President Abbas could learn a great deal from King Hussein of Jordan about demonstrating his commitment to making peace.
Since peace talks began in July, there have been hundreds of examples of Palestinian incitement against Israelis and Jews. From cradles to kindergartens and from schools to soccer stadiums, Palestinian children are besieged by messages of hate.
They are born in hospitals named after violent Palestinian groups, attend schools named after terrorists, and are taught from textbooks that describe Zionism as racism. In their free time, Palestinian children play on sports teams named after murderers and watch television programs that teach that Jews are “our enemies and should be killed.”
Rather than condemning this incitement, the Palestinian Authority is amplifying the messages of intolerance. President Abbas’s Fatah party regularly displays maps that erase Israel. In one map, for example, the Palestinian flag flies over the entire geographic area of the State of Israel. This map extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River and is entitled “Palestine.”
In a speech on Christmas Day, President Abbas declared that Jesus was a (quote) “Palestinian messenger” and suggested Israel was to blame for the exodus of Christians from the Holy Land. This is a blatant attempt to rewrite history and erase any connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel. Today we are witnessing a mass exodus of Christians from the Palestinian territories and the Arab world because of the constant persecution and discrimination that they face by the Arab states.
Abbas’s made-up maps and mythical accounts could join the fables of One Thousand and One Nights.
We have already lost an entire generation to incitement. How many more children will grow up being taught hate instead of peace; violence instead of tolerance; and martyrdom instead of mutual understanding? The international community must finally confront Palestinian leaders and publically demand an end to the incitement.
The glorification of terrorists combined with unrelenting messages of hate are having deadly consequences. In 2013, there were 1,500 attacks against Israelis, 700 of which occurred after peace negotiations began in July. In recent months there has been a sharp increase in terrorist attacks including the murder of five Israelis.
Just last month, a Palestinian sniper murdered 22-year-old Saleh Abu Latif, an Israeli Bedouin civilian. Two day earlier, a bomb exploded on a civilian bus in a suburb just outside Tel Aviv. Had it not been for the quick thinking of the bus driver and an alert passenger, dozens of people could have been killed. A successful attack could have had disastrous consequences for the peace talks.
In the face of this violence and bloodshed we have yet to hear President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, utter a single word denouncing these attacks. They even remained silent when it was revealed that one of the bus bombers was a member of the Palestinian police force. While most police forces have officers that uproot terrorism, this police officer was busy planting bombs.
The Palestinian leadership has yet to learn that real peace requires real commitment. You cannot condemn terrorism to international media and congratulate terrorists on Palestinian media. You cannot victimize others and then insist you are the victim. And you cannot use this forum to spread destructive messages and expect constructive results.
How many times have you heard that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the major conflict in the Middle East? ‘You solve this conflict, you solve all the conflicts in the Middle East.’ Some in this Chamber have even repeated this fiction.
Really? The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the major conflict in the Middle East? Wow. People who say this need an eye doctor to help them see clearly – beginning maybe with the ophthalmologist from Damascus, Bashar al-Assad, who is butchering his people every day. I’m sure that’s connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Shiites fighting Sunnis fighting Alawites; extremist groups battling one another in Libya, Yemen and Tunisia; Al-Qaeda forces overrunning major cities in Iraq - all of this is caused by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? That’s a revelation.
The truth is that Israel is an island of stability in a sea of tyranny. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose legacy is being celebrated today, once described Israel as (quote): “one of the great outposts of democracy in the world and a marvelous example of what can be done - how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security, and that security must be a reality."
I think it should be obvious that the violence and instability afflicting the Middle East has nothing to do with Israel. We must solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on its own merits because it’s important for us. Solving this conflict isn’t a prescription to cure the epidemic of violence plaguing the Middle East.
Despite what you constantly hear, the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has never been about borders or settlements. The major obstacle to peace remains the refusal of Palestinian leaders to accept the Jewish State in any border. You will never hear President Abbas or any Palestinian leader utter the phrase “two states for two peoples.”
Let me understand this – the Palestinians call for an independent Palestinian state, but want millions of their people to flood the Jewish state? It will never happen. It is a complete nonstarter. Many in this Chamber are vocal about telling Israel what to do, but begin to stutter, mumble and fall silent when it comes to telling the Palestinians what they must do.
Each and everyone here must tell the Palestinians that there will never be peace as long as they refuse to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and insist on a so-called right of return.
Despite what many may believe, Israel dedicates a great deal of its energy and resources to assisting the Palestinian people. Today, more than 100,000 Palestinians earn their living in Israel and their income constitutes more than 10% of the Palestinian GDP.
Israel helps generate solutions to energize the Palestinian economy. We transfer millions of dollars in electricity, water and natural gas to power Palestinian homes, schools and hospitals. When a giant storm struck last month, Israel delivered humanitarian aid and water pumps and facilitated the passage of fuel and cooking gas to Palestinians in need.
Yet for every truckload in the name of coexistence, we seem to be feeding a Palestinian opposition that challenges our very existence. It is time for Palestinians leaders to lead. It is time for them to set a course towards coexistence. And it is time for them to build the Palestinian people up rather than tear Israel down.
The Middle East is plagued by a reign of tyrants and a drought in leadership. Millions of people have taken to the streets demanding better lives, better economies and greater opportunities. The first peaceful protests in the region were in the streets of Tehran, where the government brutalizes it citizens and throws innocent people into jail.
Many in the international community believed that the new Iranian president would set a new precedent. It has been almost six months since President Rouhani took office and Iran is still persecuting minorities, imprisoning journalists, and targeting political adversaries. The Iranian government has executed more of its citizens per capita than any other government. Last year alone, the regime executed almost 600 people, including 367 since President Rouhani took office in August.
Iran does not confine its violence and extremism to its own borders. From Buenos Aires to Burgas, Iran is the world’s primary sponsor of terror. Just this month, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif paid tribute on behalf of the Islamic Republic at the grave of one of Hezbollah’s most notorious murderers.
Rather than cleaning house, the new president believes he can sweep Iran’s atrocities under the Persian rug by introducing UN resolutions that condemn violence and extremism. Iran’s WAVE resolution may have made a splash at the UN, but messages of intolerance and violence continue to trickle down from the top.
Behind Iran’s smiling façade, President Rouhani and Ayatollah Khamenei continue to preach hatred and provoke hostility. Ayatollah Khamenei recently appeared on state television and delegitimized Israel using disgusting profanity that doesn’t bear repeating.
The ink is barely dry on the interim nuclear agreement and Iran is already showing its true colors. This is a regime that crosses red lines, produces yellow cake, and beats its citizens black and blue. Meanwhile, some in the international community are willing to serve Iran its yellow cake on a silver platter. Permitting Iran to keep its enrichment capabilities today means that Iran will retain the ability to breakout and build a nuclear bomb tomorrow.
Violence is encoded in the Iranian regime’s DNA. It doesn’t take a crime scene investigator to see Iran’s fingerprints on the violence erupting in parts of the Middle East.
In the Gaza Strip, Iran backs the Hamas terrorist organization that uses Palestinian schools, hospitals and mosques to launch rockets at Israeli citizens. We are barely three weeks into the new year and Hamas has already launched 17 rockets at Israel – attacks that have closed schools and kept tens of thousands of children in Southern Israel at home.
The international community has yet to find the time to utter even a single condemnation of these attacks – attacks that could derail the peace process. It has also yet to condemn Hamas for deliberately exploiting children. Schools in Gaza have become the training ground for the next generation of terrorists. Last week, Hamas graduated 13,000 students from paramilitary camps geared at training children to fight Israel.
In Lebanon, Iran has helped Hezbollah hijack the Lebanese state and transform it into an outpost for terror. For years, Hezbollah insisted it needed a private army to defend Lebanon against Israel. Today, that army has sent 2,000 fighters to butcher the Syrian people and shoot rockets into Israel.
Hezbollah has positioned 60,000 missiles and rockets in the heart of Southern Lebanon’s civilian population. General Hajizadeh, a senior commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guards recently boasted that Hezbollah has improved its missile capabilities and can now “hit and destroy any target” in Israel.
Hezbollah intentionally hides these missiles in the basements of homes, in the playgrounds of schools, and in the back rooms of hospitals. In doing so, Hezbollah is committing a double war crime - first by using Lebanese civilians as human shields and second by targeting Israeli citizens.
The Government of Lebanon cannot continue to ignore what is happening in Southern Lebanon and it can no longer ignore its international obligations under resolution 1701. Throughout December, armed terrorists fired shots across the Blue Line into northern Israel. In one incident, a member of the Lebanese Armed Forces shot Israeli, Shlomi Cohen, in a ruthless and unprovoked attack.
It is time for this Council to hold accountable all those that arm, train and harbor terrorists. It is time to speak out against those who callously disregard human life. As we have seen in Syria, the failure to do so has disastrous consequences.
The war in Syria is approaching its fourth year and the death toll continues to climb. The Syrian government has resorted to new depths of brutality by dropping “barrel bombs” packed with explosives, nails and other shrapnel on markets and hospitals. In just a few days, more than 700 people were killed and over 3,000 were injured.
The State of Israel and the Jewish people are deeply troubled by the suffering of the Syrian people and are reaching out to help them. While some in the region are aiding the murderous Assad regime, Israel is providing medical aid.
Sunnis, Alawites and Shiites are running to Israel – the so-called “enemy” because they know that Israel will treat anyone without prejudice and regardless of ethnicity, religion or gender. And we will continue to lend humanitarian assistance to the victims with open arms and an open heart.
Today, the Middle East stands at a critical juncture. There are two roads before us. The first is the future offered by Iran and Syria - a future of more extremism and greater violence. And the second is the road towards equality, reform and stability.
Study after study has shown the clear connection between advancing peace and advancing equal rights. When a woman receives an education, her children are healthier and more likely to get an education. And when a woman generates her own income she reinvests 90% in her family and community. But women can only help drive a nation’s economy if they are allowed into the driver’s seat.
As we begin this new year, the international community must call upon Arab leaders to choose the path of progress and abandon the road of repression. Tell them that tyranny will fail; tell them peace is built on tolerance; and tell them that every man and every woman is entitled to equal rights and equal opportunities.
As Winston Churchill said: “All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom... honor...hope.” The international community must stand on the side of human rights and human dignity. You must speak up and speak out so that the people of the Middle East can finally enjoy freedom, honor and hope.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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