From Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 23 Apr 2012 (Ambassador Ron Prosor addresses the Security Council):
"The Situation in the
Middle East" - I would like to use today's debate as an opportunity to
address just a few of the myths that have become a permanent hindrance to our
discussion of the Middle East here at the United Nations.
...In the barren deserts of the Middle East, myths find fertile ground to grow
wild. ...I would like to use
today's debate as an opportunity to address just a few of the myths that have
become a permanent hindrance to our discussion of the Middle East here at the
Myth number one: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the central conflict in
the Middle East. If you solve that conflict, you solve all the other conflicts
in the region.
Make no mistake: it is important for Israel and the Palestinians to resolve our
longstanding conflict for its own merits. Yet, the truth is that conflicts in
Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Bahrain, and many other parts of the Middle East have
nothing to do with Israel.
It is obvious that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict won't stop the
persecution of minorities across the region, end the subjugation of women, or
heal sectarian divides. Obsessing over Israel has not stopped Assad's tanks
from flattening entire communities. On the contrary, it has only distracted
attention from his crimes. And dedicating the majority of this debate to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, month after month, has not stopped the Iranian
regime's centrifuges from spinning. Iran's ambitions for nuclear weapons are
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 on and
off. The danger of inaction is clear. We cannot allow the diplomatic channel to
provide another avenue for the Iranian regime to stall for more time, as they
inch closer and closer to a nuclear weapon.
Myth number two: There is a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.
In fact, numerous international organizations have said clearly that there is
no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, including the Deputy Head of the Red Cross
Office in the area. Gaza's real GDP grew by more than 25 percent during the
first three quarters of 2011. Exports are expanding. International
humanitarian projects are moving forward at a rapid pace. There is not a single
civilian good that cannot enter Gaza today.
Yet, as aid flows into the area, missiles fly out. That is the crisis in Gaza.
And that is what keeps Gaza from realizing its potential.
It is a simple equation. If it is calm in Israel, it will be calm in Gaza. But
the people of Gaza will face hardship as long as terrorists use them as human
shields to rain rockets down on Israeli cities. Each rocket in Gaza is armed
with a warhead capable of causing a political earthquake that would extend well
beyond Israel's borders. It will only take one rocket that lands in the wrong
place at the wrong time to change the equation on the ground. If that happens,
Israel's leaders would be forced to respond in a completely different manner.
It is time for all in this Chamber to finally wake up to that dangerous reality.
The Security Council has not condemned a single rocket attack from Gaza.
History's lessons are clear. Today's silence is tomorrow's tragedy.
Myth number three: Settlements are the primary obstacle to peace.
How many times have we heard that argument in this chamber? Just this month,
the Human Rights Council proposed yet another "fact-finding" mission
to Israel. It will explore…surprise, surprise…Israeli settlements.
Today, I'd like to save the Human Rights Council and the international
community some time and energy. The facts have already been found. They are
plain for all to see.
The fact is that from 1948 until 1967, the West Bank was part of Jordan, and
Gaza was part of Egypt. The Arab World did not lift a finger to create a
Palestinian state. And it sought Israel's annihilation when not a single
settlement stood anywhere in the West Bank or Gaza.
The fact is that in 2005 we took every settlement out of Gaza and only got
rockets on our cities in return. The fact is that this Israeli Government put
in place an unprecedented ten-month moratorium on settlements. The Palestinian
leadership used the gesture as an opportunity to take Israel and the
international community on another ride to nowhere. For nine of those months, they
rejected the moratorium as insufficient - and then demanded that we extend it.
As former U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell said "what had been less than
worthless a few months earlier became indispensable to continue
negotiations…[for the Palestinians]."
The primary obstacle to peace is not settlements. The primary obstacle to peace
is the so-called "claim of return" - and the Palestinian's refusal to
recognize Israel's right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
You will never hear Palestinian leaders say "two states for two
peoples". You won't hear them say "two states for two peoples"
because today the Palestinian leadership is calling for an independent
Palestinian state, but insists that its people return to the Jewish state. This
would mean the destruction of Israel.
Some of you might say, "Oh Ambassador, but the Palestinians know that they
will have to give up this claim, that's what they whisper quietly at the
Ladies and Gentleman - the Palestinian leadership has never said publicly that
they will give up the so-called "claim of return" - neither to the
Palestinian people, to the Arab world, to the international community, or to
anyone else. Since the Palestinian leadership refuses to tell the Palestinian
people the truth, the international community has the responsibility to tell
them the truth. You have a duty to stand up and say that the so-called
"claim of return" is a non-starter.
Instead of telling the Palestinian people the truth, much of the international
community stands idle as the Arab world tries to erase the Jewish people's
historical connection to the Land of Israel. Across the Arab world - and even
at this table - you hear claims that Israel is "Judaizing Jerusalem".
These accusations come about 3,000 years too late. It's like accusing the NBA
of Americanizing basketball.
Like many nations around this table, the Jewish people have a proud legacy of
age-old kings and queens. It's just that our tradition goes back a few years
earlier. Since King David laid the cornerstone for his palace in the 10th
Century BC, Jerusalem has served as the heart of our faith.
In debate after debate, speakers sit in the Security Council and say that
Israel is committing "ethnic cleansing" in Jerusalem, even though the
percentage of Arab residents in the city has grown from 26% to 35% since 1967.
The holiest sites in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people, were
closed only to Jews from 1948 until 1967. Everyone could come to these sites
except Jews. There was absolutely no freedom of worship. The world did not say
a word about the situation in Jerusalem at that time.
Since Israel unified the city, it has thrived under the values of tolerance and
freedom. For the first time in centuries, sacred places that were once sealed
off along religious lines are now permanently open for worship by all peoples.
This is a principle grounded in our values, our actions and our laws.
There is another great truth that this organization has completely overlooked
for the past 64 years. In all of the pages that the UN has written about the
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, in all of its reports and fact-finding
commissions, and in all of the hours dedicated to debate about the Middle East,
there is one great untold story. Or - to be more specific - there are more than
850,000 untold stories.
More than 850,000 Jews have been uprooted from their homes in Arab countries
during the past 64 years. These were vibrant communities dating back 2,500
years. On the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, Babylonian Jewry
produced many of Judaism's holiest books - and thrived for two millennia. In
the great synagogues and libraries of Cairo, Jews preserved the intellectual
and scientific treasures of antiquity into the Renaissance. From Aleppo to Aden
to Alexandria, Jews stood out as some of the greatest artists, musicians,
businessmen, and writers.
All of these communities were wiped out. Age-old family businesses and
properties were confiscated. Jewish quarters were destroyed. Pogroms left
synagogues looted, graveyards desecrated and thousands dead. The pages that the
UN has written about the Palestinian refugees could fill up soccer stadiums,
but not a drop of ink has been spilled about the Jewish refugees.
Out of over 1088 UN resolutions on the Middle East, you will not find a single
syllable regarding the displacement of Jewish refugees. There have been more
than 172 resolutions exclusively devoted to Palestinian refugees, but not one dedicated
to Jewish refugees. The Palestinian refugees have their own UN agency, their
own information program, and their own department within the United Nations.
None exist for the Jewish refugees. The word "double-standard" does
not even begin to describe this gap.
This discrepancy is very convenient for some in this Chamber, but it's not
right. The time has come for the UN to end its complicity in trying to erase
the stories of 850,000 people from history. The time has also come to speak
openly in these halls about the Arab World's role in maintaining the
Palestinians as refugees for more than six decades.
Jews from Arab countries came to refugee camps in Israel, which eventually gave
birth to thriving towns and cities. Refugee camps in Arab Countries gave birth
to more Palestinian refugees. Israel welcomed its Jewish refugees with
citizenship and unlocked their vast potential. As they rose to the highest
levels of society, our refugees lifted the State of Israel to new heights.
Imagine if Arab countries had done the same with their Palestinian refugees.
Instead, they have cynically perpetuated their status as refugees, for
generation after generation. Across the Arab world, Palestinians have been
denied citizenship, rights and opportunities.
All of these are facts that must be neither forgotten nor overlooked, as we
look to move forward on the path to peace.
I've saved the most obvious myth for last: The myth that peace can somehow
be achieved between Israelis and Palestinians by bypassing direct negotiations.
History has shown that peace and negotiations are inseparable.
Direct negotiations are the only tool, the only way and the only path to create
two-states for two peoples. Last January, Israel offered a clear proposal in Amman
for restarting direct negotiations. We presented the Palestinian delegation
with negotiating positions on every major issue separating the parties.
That proposal - filled with Israel's vision for peace - continues to gather
dust, as Palestinian leaders continue to pile up new pre-conditions for sitting
with Israel. They are everywhere except the negotiating table. It is time for
them to give up unilateral efforts to internationalize the conflict and take up
the real path to peace...
...In the dangerous uncertainty of a turbulent Middle East, the Security Council
has never had a greater responsibility to separate myth from truth, and fact
from fiction. The clarity of candor has never been more valuable. The need for
honest discourse has never been clearer. It is time for this Council to sweep
out the cobwebs of old illusions - and plant the seeds for a truly
"open" debate on the Middle East. The challenges before us demand