Situation in the Middle East
Delivered to the Security Council by Ambassador Ron Prosor on 15 January 2015
Thank you, Mr. President.
I cannot begin without addressing the tragic events that took place in France last week in which radical Islamists launched an attack against our way of life. The slogan of the French Republic is Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité - liberty, equality, and brotherhood. These are the very values that are being attacked.
The terrorists that stormed the Charlie Hebdo office attacked liberty – the right of every person to express him or herself. The terrorist that targeted Jews in a kosher grocery store attacked equality – the idea that every person, no matter his faith, is equal. By aiming their attacks at innocent civilians, the terrorists also attacked brotherhood – the
bonds of our shared humanity.
The world responded in force. Je suis Charlie and je suis Juif became rallying calls to defend our way of life. Millions of people took to the streets of Paris and tens of thousands of people from Boston to Brussels to Buenos Aires rallied to honor the 17 victims who were murdered. Just as we stood united on the streets, we must remain united in our commitment to uphold freedom.
Make no mistake – freedom is under attack throughout the world. We see it in Nigeria, where innocent people were cut down by gunfire and a 10 year-old girl was strapped into a suicide vest and sent into a crowded market. We see it in Pakistan, where children were gunned down as they sat in their classrooms. We see it in Syria and Iraq, where journalists are savagely murdered. We see it in Saudi Arabia, where a blogger was sentenced to 1,000 lashes for running a website promoting free speech. And we see it in Iran, where 15 people were executed on New Year’s Day.
A war is being waged against human dignity and human rights, and we must fight back. Standing united with courage and conviction we can turn back the tide of violent extremism and safeguard the values we cherish.
Israel has been fighting to defend its values since its establishment. Surrounded by extremist groups committed to our destruction, we have been forced to fight wars and endure wave after wave of terrorism. We have buried too many sons and daughters and shed too many tears, but we never abandoned the dream of peace.
In 1967, eight Arab heads of state attended a summit in Khartoum to formulate the policies of the Arab states in conflict with Israel. They emerged with their famous three ‘no’s’ - no negotiations, no recognition of Israel, and no peace. Even when it seemed impossible, Israel continued to strive for peace.
Egypt and Jordan came to understand that while we are not brothers in faith, we are brothers in fate, with a shared destiny in the Middle East. Today, other Arab nations in our region also recognize that radical Islamists aren’t just a threat to Israel, but they are a threat to their own stability and existence. Egypt and Jordan abandoned the three ‘no’s’ and made peace with Israel.
The Palestinians, however, are chained to the past. Weighed down by resentment and bound up in hatred, the Palestinian leadership refuses to abandon the rhetoric and seek reconciliation. Decades after other Arab nations sought to end our conflict, the Palestinian leadership remains committed to the three no’s. It will not negotiate, it will not recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, and it will not make peace.
The Palestinian leadership has said no to negotiations.
The Palestinians are under the impression that the United Nations is their personal vending machine – they can insert grievances and dispense claims against Israel at will. Ever since the UN voted to accept the Palestinians as a non-member observer state in 2012, the Palestinians have discovered that the UN is the gift that keeps on giving. This institution gives and gives and doesn’t expect anything in return.
When it comes to making New Year’s resolutions, I can assure you that the Palestinian’s resolution imposing terms for a peace deal was not what we had in mind. I would be hard-pressed to conceive of a more biased proposal. It didn’t address Israel’s long-term security needs. It didn’t demand an end to Palestinian terrorism. And it didn’t recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.
All it did was impose an arbitrary one year deadline that would have allowed the Palestinians to run out the clock and get a state without giving anything in return. You cannot wave a magic wand and hope that all of the critical issues such as borders, security arrangements, water allocation, and the (quote unquote) ‘claim of return’ will magically be resolved.
Rather than engage in negotiations, President Abbas is cultivating impossible fantasies. In November he told an Egyptian newspaper that millions of Palestinian wish to return, and he will not close the door to them. Demanding that millions of Palestinians flood the Jewish state is a euphemism – no other word for it - for the destruction of Israel.
The proposals put forward in this Council dictate what Israel should do and the Palestinians should get. Aside from being deeply biased, you are indulging their delusions. Every nation that voted in favor of the Palestinian’s one-sided resolution encouraged them to continue their diplomatic triathlon - running away from negotiations, placing hurdles into the peace process, and cycling towards protracted conflict.
Some nations on this Council claim that they voted for the Palestinian’s resolution to encourage Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace negotiations. One government even explained that it was trying to prevent the Palestinians from joining the International Criminal Court. Really? You don’t have to be Inspector Clouseau to know that this is what the Palestinians wanted all along.
The international community endorsed a road map to peace, but the Palestinians have found every off-ramp and detour. They are looking for shortcuts and quick fixes where none exist, and in the process, politicizing another international body. It’s extremely convenient that the Palestinians Authority has asked that the court’s jurisdiction extend back to June 13, 2014 - the day after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian terrorists.
By choosing to go to the ICC, the Palestinians have reinforced the message that they aren’t interested in negotiating and they aren’t willing to compromise. The international community must stop encouraging this march of folly. Tell the Palestinians that the claim of return is a nonstarter, make it clear that peace requires compromise, and insist that they return to direct negotiations.
The Palestinian leadership has said no to the recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.
Israel is our historic homeland. When I walk the streets of Jerusalem, I am walking in the footsteps of our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When I stand at the Western Wall, I can feel thousands of years of Jewish prayers and dreams. When I traverse our small state, history comes alive. I see the valley where David battled Goliath, the hills where Isaiah prophesized about beating our swords into plowshares, and the mountains where Elijah saw a vision of peace. Israel has been our land for 3,800 years and we are here to stay.
Nothing can change the historical facts and yet, the Palestinian Authority has made a career of denying the facts.
Here’s a fact you may not know. President Mahmoud Abbas is currently in his tenth year of a five year presidential term. He is willing to say anything and do anything to cling to power.
Last year, the Palestinian Authority committed every form of diplomatic treachery. It abandoned peace talks, formed a government with the Hamas terrorist group, awarded honors to convicted terrorists, and broke its word by signing dozens of international conventions. It’s leadership delivered a hate-fuelled speech against Israel in the General Assembly, called for violent Days of Rage, and urged Palestinians to prevent Jews from visiting the Temple Mount using (and I quote) ‘all means’ necessary.
The international community has not challenged the Palestinian leadership on any of these crimes. Instead it is giving them a free pass and sending the message that they can incite violence that leads to terrorist attacks with impunity – you are literally letting them get away with murder.
President Abbas’s hateful speeches have sparked dozens of violent riots. Palestinian terrorists have shot and stabbed our citizens and driven their cars into crowds of pedestrians. The wave of terrorism shows no sign of abating. Just a few weeks ago, Palestinian terrorists threw a firebomb at a car carrying 11 year-old Ayala Shapira.
The little girl suffered third-degree burns over much of her body and face and is, as we speak, fighting for her life in hospital. Does this disgusting attack on a child merit condemnation? Because I haven’t heard one - not from the Palestinian leadership and not from this Council.
The international community must demand more from the Palestinians. Make it clear that fostering a culture of hatred is unacceptable. Make it clear that there is no impunity for intolerance. And send the message that the path to peace begins with the recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.
The Palestinian leadership has said no to peace.
Israel is committed to peace. No one understands what is at stake more than we do. It is our cities and our citizens being targeted by terrorists. At Camp David in 2000 and again at Annapolis in 2008, Israeli leaders made far-reaching offers that could have led to the creation of a Palestinian state. Those offers were met by deliberate evasion, outright rejection, and waves of terrorism. Israel has made concession after concession and received nothing in return.
Forging a lasting peace requires courage and political capital and the Palestinian leadership is in short supply of both. The Palestinian Authority has no authority over the Gaza Strip, hence it has no authority over nearly half of the territory and 40% of the population it claims to represent. And it certainly hasn’t demonstrated a willingness to assist the people of Gaza.
When this Council tried to pass a resolution to speed up the delivery of construction materials into Gaza, the Palestinian president dragged his feet, obstructed the process, and eventually abandoned the proposition altogether.
The Palestinian Authority agreed to take responsibility for monitoring the crossings and then never showed up. And what about the Arab nations? The oil rich Arab nations pledged funds, but the pipeline seems to have run dry. Israel, on the other hand, is taking meaningful steps to rebuild Gaza.
The Palestinian Authority is missing in action – its leadership couldn’t even find the time to visit Gaza. They have left their people to suffer under the tyranny of Hamas. The terrorist organization sends teenagers to terrorist training camps, condones honor killings, punishes homosexuality with death, and encourages public executions.
Instead of condemning Hamas for its crimes, the Palestinian president formed a government with a terrorist group that is more interested in tearing Israel down than building the Palestinian people up.
In December, Hamas celebrated its 27th anniversary by burning effigies of Jews and parading trucks carrying long-range rockets through the streets of Gaza. At the celebration, Hamas military spokesman, Abu Obeida, publically thanked Iran and Qatar for supplying the group with arms and support.
These rogue regimes have enabled Hamas and Fatah to commit countless war crimes. Over the summer Hamas and Fatah terrorists fired rockets from mosques, stored weapons in UNRWA schools, used Gaza hospitals as military headquarters, and sent children to rooftops as human shields. The evidence is overwhelming and yet the international community has failed to hold the Palestinians to account.
Hamas is once again preparing to go on the offensive by rearming, rebuilding its terror infrastructure, and reaffirming its commitment to wage war against Israel. It has test fired dozens of rockets, is aggressively taxing its people to fund its terror enterprise, and is stealing cement intended for humanitarian purposes to rebuild its terror tunnels.
I find it curious that many of these facts – not ‘alleged’ facts or ‘reported’ facts, but real facts - were omitted from this morning’s report. The great American statesman, Daniel Patrick Moniyhan once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, not his own facts.” Council would be better served if it were presented with more facts and fewer opinions in the monthly reports.
What has been the response from the international community? The more the Palestinian leadership says no, the more ‘yes’ votes it seems to get in this institution. European nations claim to stand for human rights and civil liberties, but with every passing day I am given more reason to be Euro-skeptic.
Every EU Parliament that voted to prematurely recognize a Palestinian state was rewarding terrorism. And the decision by the European court in Luxembourg to remove Hamas from its list of terrorist organizations was a victory for terrorism.
The court claimed the decision was simply a ‘technical matter.’ Really? Well I can tell you that there was nothing technical about the thousands of rockets that Hamas fired into Israel or the innocent civilians that the group kidnapped and killed.
No amount of Swiss chocolate or Belgian waffles or fine French wine can mask the unpleasant taste this leaves in our mouths.
It is time for the nations that believe in liberty and democracy to stand with the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. The results of unchecked extremism may have just arrived at your doorstep, but we have been combatting radical groups since our establishment.
Every day we confront Hamas in Gaza, ISIS in the north, jihadi groups in the Sinai, and Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon. Iran is bankrolling Hezbollah with $200 million a year to wage war on its behalf. It is training terrorists and smuggling weapons in blatant violation of resolutions 1701 and 1747.
Hezbollah has amassed well over 100,000 sophisticated missiles and rockets and senior Hezbollah officials regularly threaten to use them. Last month, a senior UN official declared that (and I quote), “UNIFIL has seen no evidence of unauthorized weapons transfers in its area of operations.”
Really? Clearly the UN is tuned out, because if it tuned in to the news it would know that Hasan Nasrallah and other senior officials regularly boast about the size and sophistication of Hezbollah’s arsenal.
Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem was quoted in an Iranian newspaper saying, “Hezbollah is in possession of missiles with pinpoint accuracy…and with the Islamic Republic’s support [Hezbollah will be ready] for any future war.” The terror group even published a map showing the locations of their Fateh missiles in Lebanon and threatening that they can strike anywhere in Israel.
Hezbollah has the capabilities and it has made its intentions clear. The threat to our region is real and it is imminent. The international community can no longer afford to ignore the warning signs. Israel will not stand idly by as Iran continues to arm its terrorist proxies. We will act to defend our citizens.
Winston Churchill once said that all the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, honor, and hope.
Israel stands for freedom and it stands for honor and it stands for hope. It is the only state in the Middle East that defends the right of all people to practice their religion as they choose. It is the only country in the region with a free press, free elections, and free speech. It is also the only country in the Middle East where women have presided over each of the three branches of government.
Israel is on the right side of the moral divide. The question is which side will you stand on?
If you oppose terrorism and you oppose oppression, then you must stand with the Middle East’s only democracy. Tell the Palestinians that while we might have a territorial dispute, Israel’s right to live in security is beyond dispute. Make it clear that unilateral actions are no substitute for meaningful dialogue. And send the message to the Palestinian leadership that they must say yes to the recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people; say yes to direct negotiations; and say yes to peace.
Thank you, Mr. President.