Delivered to the Security Council by Ambassador Ron Prosor on 29 October 2014
It is barely a week since this Council met to discuss the situation in the Middle East. One would think that we have reconvened today to address the rampant violence and bloodshed that plagues the region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Arabian Sea. After all, the past few days have seen untold suffering.
In Iraq, a suicide bomber drove into a security checkpoint and killed 38 people.
In Lebanon, militants linked to al-Qaeda launched an attack on the central market leaving 42 people dead and 150 wounded.
In Syria, 500 people were killed and injured in seven days of the regime’s aerial bombardments.
In Iran, a 26 year-old woman named Reyhaneh Jabbari was executed for killing a man who tried to rape her.
In Saudi Arabia, three lawyers were sentenced to eight years behind bars for tweeting messages that (quote) “undermined the judiciary.” This is a relatively light sentence in Saudi Arabia where 59 people have been beheaded so far this year.
Most of the millions of men and women being oppressed in our region are completely ignored by this Council. They are cast aside to make way for a litany of half-truths, myths, and outright lies about Israel.
I am here to convey one simple truth. The people of Israel are not occupiers and we are not settlers. Israel is our home and Jerusalem is the eternal capital of our sovereign state.
There are many threats in the Middle East, but the presence of Jewish homes in the Jewish homeland has never been one of them. And yet this is the issue that we have convened to discuss today.
It says a great deal that the international community is outraged when Jews build homes in Jerusalem, but doesn’t say a word when Jews are murdered for living in Jerusalem. The hypocrisy is appalling.
I have said it before and will say it again. The primary obstacle to peace is not settlements. This is a just a pretext for the Palestinians to avoid making painful compromises. The primary obstacle to peace is the Arab World’s refusal to acknowledge that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people.
Throughout history, Jerusalem has been the capital for one people and only one people – the Jewish people. I am holding a Bible which details almost 4,000 years of Jewish history in the Land of Israel.
In it we read about our forefathers - Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – who travelled Jerusalem’s rolling hills. We read about King David who laid the cornerstone for his palace over 3,000 years ago. That’s King David from Bethlehem, not King David from the West Bank, and certainly not King David from the occupied territories. And in the Bible we read about King Solomon who constructed the First Temple.
Jerusalem is a Divine promise to the Jewish people. Following the destruction of our Temple and the Babylonian exile, the great Jewish leader Nehemiah led the Jewish people back to Israel saying:
וָאֹמַר לַמֶּלֶךְ אִם עַל הַמֶּלֶךְ טוֹב וְאִם יִיטַב עַבְדְּךָ לְפָנֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר תִּשְׁלָחֵנִי אֶל יְהוּדָה אֶל עִיר קִבְרוֹת אֲבֹתַי וְאֶבְנֶנָּה
“Then I prayed to the God of heaven...let him send me to the city in Judah, Jerusalem, where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”
Jerusalem is central to our identity and tradition. The holy city is named more than 900 times in the Bible. On holidays we sing לשנה הבאה בירושלים – “Next year in Jerusalem.”
For thousands of years, through persecution and massacres, expulsions and crusades, blood libels and pogroms, Jews turned their hearts in prayer towards Jerusalem.
The connection between the Jewish people and our capital cannot be denied. Jerusalem is Mount Zion and Mount Moriah and the Temple Mount. To walk in this place is to follow in the footsteps of our forefathers and to feel the hopes and dreams of the Jewish people.
The Palestinians and others have had the audacity to accuse us of trying to alter the historic Jewish character of our ancient city. Really?
The truth of the matter is that 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.
Jerusalem is steeped in Jewish history. In an effort to erase all traces of the religious and historical ties between Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, the Waqf is deliberately destroying archeological evidence. For decades, it has acted unlawfully to destroy untold Jewish artefacts. They even brought in a fleet of bulldozers and removed 6,000 tons of earth from the southeast corner of the Temple Mount, known as Solomon’s Stables. With every shovelful of soil, they are trying to shovel away Jewish history.
If the Palestinians wish to secure a brighter future, they must stop rewriting history, and start making history by making peace. They must abandon the destructive rhetoric. A people can only build a brighter future if it can make peace with the past. If not, it will be held captive by the chains of resentment and hatred – and pass a legacy of violence and intolerance to the next generation.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin said that if an enemy of the Jewish people says he seeks to destroy us, believe him. Don't doubt him for a moment.
If history has taught the Jewish people anything, it is that we must take calls for our destruction seriously.
Hamas’s genocidal charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews worldwide.
Some in the institution don’t have the courage to mention Hamas by name, nevermind condemning the terrorist group for its crimes. Hamas deliberately targets our civilians by blowing up buses and restaurants, kidnapping and murdering teenagers, shooting rockets into our cities, and building terror tunnels into our towns.
That’s Hamas. What about the leader of the Palestinian Authority, President Abbas?
Well, he is the reason that we are sitting here today. You see, he is orchestrating a campaign to vilify Israel and you seem willing to play second fiddle. Let me remind you about the conductor behind the accusations.
Palestinian President Abbas wrote a dissertation denying the Holocaust and educates Palestinian children to hate Jews. In schools, mosques and media, generations of Palestinians children are being taught to hate, vilify and dehumanize Israelis and Jews.
In his remarks to the General Assembly last month, President Abbas delivered a hate-fuelled attack and accused Israel of the worst crimes including genocide.
Earlier this month, he called on Palestinians to prevent Jews from visiting the Temple Mount using (quote) “all means” necessary. Are these the words of a leader committed to making peace?
The video of his hateful remarks was broadcast on official Palestinian Authority television 19 times in three days -19 times in three days. The results of these inflammatory remarks were almost immediate. Hundreds of Arabs rioted in Jerusalem damaging the light rail system and a Hamas terrorist deliberately drove full speed onto a Jerusalem train platform and killed two people.
Did President Abbas express outrage or remorse over the senseless killings? Of course not. He couldn’t even muster the courage to denounce an attack that left a three-month-old baby dead.
Rather than trying to extinguish the flames of conflict, the Palestinian leadership is adding fuel to the fire. First they incite violence on the Temple Mount and then they run to the Security Council to complain about the consequences. If this isn’t manufacturing a crisis, I don’t know what is.
Try to follow the logic. Palestinian extremists have turned the Temple Mount into a battleground by throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at visitors and police. In doing so, they are preventing Muslims from praying at their holy site. Israeli police are forced into harm’s way to restore quiet and then the Palestinians come to the Security Council complaining about Israel’s activities on the Temple Mount.
Do you have trouble following the logic? I certainly do - but I can tell you this, it both starts and ends with the irresponsible actions of the Palestinian leadership.
The Palestinians had the audacity to come to this Council and speak about religious freedoms.
Let me tell you just how much the Palestinian Authority cares about holy sites.
Take Shechem, which has been under the control of the Palestinian Authority since 1995. Shechem was home to the grave of the biblical patriarch Joseph. Palestinian vandals broke into the sacred site, burned Jewish prayer books and reduced the building to rubble.
In Bethlehem, which is also under Palestinian Authority control, violent extremists have looted and desecrated the Church of the Nativity, one of Christianity’s holiest sites. As a result of the persecution that they face, the city’s Christian population has fallen from 35,000 to 5,000 people.
It isn’t just the Palestinians that have impinged on religious freedoms. I would like to remind this Council that from 1948 to 1967 Jerusalem was under Jordanian rule. Jerusalem was divided and everyone could visit Judaism’s holiest sites, except the Jews – they were denied access.
Following Israel’s victory in the 1967 war, Israel reunited Jerusalem. Since then, all people, regardless of religion and nationality can visit the city’s holy sites.
And while we were victorious and assumed control over all of Jerusalem, Israel extended a hand in peace to the Muslim world. According to the status quo brokered between Israel and the Waqf, Muslims would enjoy access to pray at their holy sites, while all other religions would be allowed access to the Temple Mount.
Israel went one step further and decided that Jews would not be allowed to pray on the site. I want to make sure you understand this. The Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest place, but we were willing to restrict our own freedoms for the sake of peace. Can you think of another nation that would make this compromise? Can you think of another religion that would make this sacrifice?
Today, Jerusalem under Israeli authority is united for Muslims, united for Christians, and united for Jews. As Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated this week, “We are maintaining the status quo and allowing everyone access to the holy places, and we will continue to do so.”
Israel is doing everything in its power to minimize tensions. Even when riots break out, Israeli security forces, acting in coordination with the Jordanian government, refrain from entering the mosque and its courtyard unless there is an imminent threat to the site and its visitors.
The Palestinians, on the other hand, are doing everything in their power to inflame tensions. The Waqf has violated the status quo agreement by restricting access to Judaism’s holiest place – the place where we believe that God began the act of creation, where Abraham brought his son Isaac, and where Jacob fell asleep and dreamed of angels.
Today a Jew who wishes to visit this sacred site is threatened with violence. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Earlier this month, Hanan Ashrawi, a prominent member of the PLO Executive Committee, said that allowing Jews to visit the Temple Mount is a (quote) “declaration of war against Islam.”
There are the irresponsible words of a person trying to ignite a religious war. You don’t have to be a Catholic to visit the Vatican. You don’t have to be a Jew to visit the Western Wall. But the Palestinians would like to see the day when the Temple Mount is only open to Muslims.
I speak before this Council today as a proud representative of the Jewish state and the Jewish people – a people whose bond to the Land of Israel and its eternal capital of Jerusalem extends back almost 4,000 years.
I am proud to represent an ancient people who have outlived history’s most daunting empires. Where is the Ambassador of Babylon? Where is the Ambassador of Caesar’s Rome? Where is the Ambassador of Mesopotamia?
They have been relegated to history, while we, the Jewish people, continue to stand tall against the trials and tests of time. We are a nation with deep roots in the past and bright hopes for the future.
It is time for the Palestinians to realize that the children of Abraham - all the children of Abraham - Jews, Christians and Muslims alike - are not doomed to live together in war, but rather destined to live together in peace.
Israel will continue to strive for peace while fulfilling the prophesy of Isaiah:
עַל חוֹמֹתַיִךְ יְרוּשָׁלִַם הִפְקַדְתִּי שֹׁמְרִים כָּל הַיּוֹם וְכָל הַלַּיְלָה תָּמִיד לֹא יֶחֱשׁוּ
On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; all day and all night, they shall never be silent.
Israel will never be silent. We will stand guard and we will safeguard Jerusalem – not just for the Jewish people, but for people of all faiths.
And so today I issue this promise from the people of the Promised Land - under our watch, Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people, will remain a free and open city for all people and for all time.
Thank you, Madam President.