First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt – one of the architects and earliest champions of the United Nations — wrote, "One's philosophy is best expressed not in words, but in choices.”
Today, the Middle East is at a critical moment – a moment that calls for leadership. And history will judge today’s leaders not by the words they speak, but by the choices they make.
I am here today to issue a warning to the world. At this time of turmoil and transition for our region, the stakes are very high. The decisions that you make in these halls in the coming weeks could echo for years to come, well, well beyond the Middle East.
Your duty is clear: to support democratic institutions and aspirations; to promote negotiation as the road to resolving conflict; to ensure that all in our region abide by the agreements that they have signed. These are founding principles of the United Nations – principles that are now being put to the test.
Today there is a clear choice between constructive solutions and destructive resolutions.
Last April, Israel put a serious and a comprehensive proposal on the table to the Palestinians in Amman. We spelled out our position. Most people in this chamber know that.
The Palestinians never responded. They walked away. And the world said nothing.
Many of the countries represented in this hall today did not utter a single word calling on the Palestinians to respond to Israel’s offer. They have stood idle as that proposal gathers dust.
Instead of sitting with Israel in direct negotiations, the Palestinian leadership is pursuing the path of unilateralism at the UN. This is no road to real statehood. It is a march of folly.
Peace must be negotiated. It cannot be imposed from the outside. There are no shortcuts. No quick fixes. And no instant solutions.
The Palestinian’s unilateral actions are a clear breach of every agreement that they have signed with Israel, including the Oslo Accords, the Interim Agreement, and the Paris Protocol. These agreements form the basis for 40 spheres of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation.
I know that some in this hall think that the Palestinians can breach these agreements with no consequences. Some of you think that afterwards we will be able to go back to business as usual. Well, you are mistaken.
Every Member State that lends it hand to supporting Palestinian unilateralism at the UN will be responsible for the grave consequences that follow.
How can Israel be expected to abide by the same agreements that the Palestinian leadership ignores whenever it is convenient?
How could anyone expect the Israeli public to trust this Palestinian leadership when it signs future agreements?
Would you make painful sacrifices – would you give up tangibles – in exchange for pieces of paper that the other side has proven more than willing to throw into the garbage?
Symbolic declarations will change nothing on the ground. They will only raise expectations that cannot be met. This is a recipe for instability and, potentially, violence.
A General Assembly resolution will not pave the road to peace. No — it will encourage the Palestinians to drive recklessly toward conflict, with both feet on the gas, no hands on the wheel, and no eyes on the road.
You will not be planting the seeds of peace, but fanning the flames of conflict.
You will be encouraging the Palestinian leadership to intoxicate its people with fantasy when it needs to sober them up with reality – inflating a dangerous bubble that will inevitably burst.
You will be responsible for affixing a seal of approval onto an entity that does not meet the most basic requirements for statehood.
Make no mistake. We in Israel, hope that the day will come when they meet those requirements. But let me be clear: today the Palestinians are a long, long way from meeting the basic criteria for statehood.
The Palestinian Authority has absolutely zero authority in the Gaza Strip – an area where nearly half the population of their proposed state resides. President Abbas has not seen Gaza even through binoculars since 2007. The mandate for his presidency expired in 2009. Three years later, President Abbas continues to personally extend his term, with no regard for any democratic process.
I am sure that many people from countries around this table might be just a bit concerned if their politicians decided to personally extend their terms of office for years on end. Yet, you do not hear the leaders of many great democracies – some who are around this table – uttering a word publically about the fact that the Palestinian people have not seen the inside of a voting booth since 2006.
Palestinian leaders claim that they are building the institutions of a modern and “peace-loving” state. Yet, these same leaders name public squares after suicide bombers, fill textbooks with incitement, and seek unity with Hamas – an internationally recognized terrorist organization committed to Israel’s destruction; the same organization that fired 40 rockets into Israel in just the past week.
The speakers during this debate so far forgot to mention anything about a Human Rights Watch report on Hamas human rights abuses. I am sure that these were accidental omissions – mere oversights.
For the sake of clarity, I would like to highlight a few of the findings that were released last week.
This report documented how Hamas police arbitrarily arrest, torture, and, in some cases, execute innocent people, with absolutely zero judicial protection.
This report documents 147 instances of torture by Hamas from just 2011. It makes clear that Hamas brutally subjugates anyone who dares to dissent from their extremist agenda: political opponents, human rights activists, criminal defense attorneys, women who go out in public unaccompanied by a man. The only crisis on the ground in Gaza is Hamas – a crisis that is too often overlooked in this chamber.
The Palestinian Authority claims it is “peace-loving”, but dedicates $54 million in its annual budget to sponsor convicted terrorists – mass murderers with blood on their hands. This year, as the PA threatened to delay payroll for many employees, it tripled its monthly payments to convicted terrorists.
Talk about priorities. The PA devotes 6 percent of its budget to terrorist salaries and less than 1 percent to higher education. What message does this send? Instead of investing in their children’s future, they offer incentives for future terrorists. Instead of using their funds for nation building, they use them for nation sinking.
The money the PA lavishes on terrorists does not materialize from out of thin air. It comes from many donor countries that are sitting in this chamber.
The EU sends more than 500 million Euros in annual EU aid to the Palestinian Authority. How many taxpayers in London, Paris, Berlin and Lisbon know that some of their money is going to convicted terrorists with blood on their hands?
The unrestricted flood of international aid to the PA will not bring us any closer to peace as long as it is used to sponsor, encourage, and elevate terrorists.
It is time for the international community to finally to speak publically about this reality – to acknowledge the many unresolved questions about a future Palestinian state. These issues cannot be swept under the carpet. They go to the core of resolving our conflict. They are critical for ensuring lasting peace.
Today there is a clear choice in the Middle East between peace and conflict; between reconciliation and provocation.
During the opening of the 67th General Assembly, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demonstrated, once again, that he chooses peace. He extended his hand to President Abbas. He reaffirmed Israel’s desire to resume direct negotiations with the Palestinians, without preconditions and without delay. He reiterated his vision of two states for two peoples.
On the same stage, President Abbas made a very different choice. Once again, he used the platform of the United Nations to demonize the State of Israel and deny the Jewish people’s historic connection to their ancient homeland. He said that the presence of Jews in Jerusalem is altering (and I quote), “the City's historic character and the glorious image of the Holy City etched in the minds of humankind".
The truth is plain and simple. Jerusalem had a Jewish character long before most cities in the world had any character. It was the capital of the Jewish people long before Homer composed the Iliad, before Romulus and Remus founded Rome, and before the armies of Alexander the Great swept across the Middle East. Jews have lived continuously in Jerusalem for three thousand years – from the time that King David built his great palace in the City’s rolling hills.
By denying the history of the Jewish people, the Palestinian leadership plants the seeds of intolerance in their next generation. They raise doubts about their commitment to peace. It is time for the international community to speak clearly, openly, and publicly against this incitement. It is time for all in this chamber to say that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people – and Jerusalem – our capital – is its beating heart.
Mutual recognition is the key to securing lasting peace. I often point out during this debate that you will never hear any Palestinian leader 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 wants millions of its people to flood the Jewish state. This would mean the destruction of Israel. No one who believes in peace could ever accept it. It is a non-starter.
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. Yet, many who are so vocal in telling Israel what it needs to do for peace, stutter, mumble and lose their voices when it comes time to tell the Palestinians this basic truth.
Today there is a clear choice between complacency and leadership.
Over the past 30 years, the Hezbollah terrorist organization has killed tens of thousands of men, women, and children in attacks spanning dozens of countries and five continents. Working with its Iranian patrons, Hezbollah has killed families on vacation, peacekeepers sleeping in their barracks, and diplomats carrying out their official business.
Iran has provided Hezbollah with the funds, training and advanced weapons to hijack the Lebanese state and transform it into an outpost for terror. Just last week, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah publically admitted that Iran provided the military drone that his organization sent over Israel. One does not need any further evidence that Hezbollah is a direct proxy of the Iranian regime.
Hezbollah’s continued provocations could have devastating consequences for the region.
I want to make it perfectly clear so that no one in this chamber will say that they did not hear me or did not understand me: Hezbollah’s continued provocation and military buildup could have devastating consequences for the region.
Not all Lebanese are so happy that Hezbollah uses their country as its playground. As Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Harari said last week, “Lebanon is not an unmanned drone.” He reiterated (quote), “deep concerns over the uncalculated risks which Hezbollah wants to drag Lebanon into.”
Nasrallah claims that he needs a private, independent army—with more missiles than many NATO members – to defend Lebanon against Israel. Today on the streets of Homs, Hama, and Damascus, we see that Hezbollah’s army is far more preoccupied with butchering their Arab brothers and sisters in Syria.
Ahmadinejad and Nasrallah sit on Bashar al-Assad’s advisory board, offering the Tyrant of Damascus guidance on how to butcher the Syrian people more efficiently. Together they form what I call a “trio of terror”.
I know that there is no shortage of those willing to express their (quote) “commitment to Israel’s security” in these halls. Yet, displays of commitment to Israel’s security have been difficult to find over the past six years as Hezbollah has turned Southern Lebanon into one giant storage facility for 50,000 missiles.
And some countries around this table continue to define Hezbollah as a charitable and political group, not a terrorist organization. This is no less ridiculous than describing the Mafia as a gentleman’s social club. In many European countries, Hezbollah is raising money from supporters as if it were the Red Cross. Nasrallah recently admitted that being placed on a European terrorist list would “destroy Hezbollah”, drying up many sources of financial, political and moral support.
How much longer must this absurdity continue? How many more innocents must fall victim to Hezbollah terror before Europe acts? It is time for all responsible nations to call Hezbollah exactly what it is: a global terrorist organization.
In this hall today, the need for leadership is clear.
Later in this debate, Iran will speak on behalf of the non-aligned movement. In other words, the world’s greatest sponsor of terrorism will speak to the Security Council on behalf of roughly 2/3 of the countries represented in the United Nations.
What a sham. What a shame. It is time for all those NAM countries that care about peace and security to realign the non-aligned movement.
And it is time for the international community to finally act to stop the Iranian regime from acquiring nuclear weapons. With every day that passes, the enriched uranium in Iran piles higher and higher.
One can only imagine what this Ayatollah regime would do with the dangerous combination of extremist ideology, advanced missile technology and nuclear weapons. An Iranian nuclear bomb would be the Mullahs’ greatest dream and the world’s worst nightmare. And with the very worst nightmares, sometimes the only way to stop them is to wake up.
The hour is getting very late. The red line is very clear. The world must stop Iran before it is too late.
For Israel, the lessons of history are very clear. Real security – and real peace – can only be secured in the real world, not the fantasyland of vague statements and empty resolutions.
To those truly committed to the security of Israel and the Middle East, to those committed to a two-state solution I say: act tangibly, speak out publically, and show us concretely.
Your choices are very clear.
You can recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, or allow the Palestinian leadership to deny our history without any consequence.
You can work to end PA incitement and support for terrorists, or allow hate and extremism to take root for generations to come.
You can say publically that the so-called “claim of return” is a non-starter. Or you can allow this claim to remain an obstacle on the road to peace.
You can choose to support direct talks at the negotiating table or to undermine them with unilateral resolutions at the UN.
You can choose to look the other way at Hezbollah terror, or show the political courage to stop the organization in its tracks.
You can choose to stand idle as an Iranian nuclear bomb becomes a reality in the Middle East. Or you can take action before it is too late.
Today I say to the leaders of our region, to the members of this Council, and to each and every member of the UN: these choices are yours. The fate of the Middle East hangs in the balance. The time to act is now.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.