Address of H.E. Mr. Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister of Israel at the 50th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

2 October 1995

Mr. President,

I would like to congratulate you on your election to the head of the General Assembly. We are glad that the representative of Portugal, a nation for which Israel has high regard, was elected to this distinguished post. I would like to express to the Secretary General, Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, a man from our region and a man of peace, our deepest appreciation for his contribution to world peace in general, and to Middle East peace in particular.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Tomorrow, the Jewish people will pray on the day of Yom HaKippurim: "In the book of life, blessing, peace, good livelihood, good decrees, salvation and consultations may you be remembered and inscribed." We pray for all humanity, for the whole world.

The United Nations, for us is not just a place for prayer, surely not a platform for speeches. We came here to state our convictions, to announce our commitments. In our address in 1987, I stated on behalf of the State of Israel I quote: "We found President Mubarak of Egypt to be a builder of a better life for his people and bridges for comprehensive peace in the region." Today, under the leadership of President Mubarak, Egypt is becoming a center for regional development, on its way to hosting the first regional bank of development.

In the same address, we stated: "An international conference is the door to direct negotiations. Once convened, it should lead immediately to face to face bilateral negotiations." On October 30th, 1991, the Madrid Conference took place.

In 1992, again, we declared the opportunity to select through democratic political elections the Palestinian administrative council to enable the Palestinian people to exercise a double measure of freedom: the freedom to govern their own lives and to do so democratically. Last week we realized what we had promised.

In 1993, we declared again from this podium, "geographically speaking we live side by side with the Jordanian Kingdom and what is so obvious geographically must become clear politically so we can offer the people of both sides of the river full peace. The Dead Sea can become a spring of new life." In October 1994, just one year later, Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty.

Last year, we said here, "All countries of the Middle East face a choice, to remain politically divided and economically stagnant or to become economically advanced and politically just. We shall try to establish instruments for development; a regional bank, channels for private investment, a framework for regional planning." A year later, in October 1994, the first Middle East/North African summit was held in Casablanca under the splendid presidency of His Majesty King Hassan. At the end of this month, a second summit will be held in Amman under the auspices of His Majesty King Hussein. And at the end of November, the first ground-breaking Euro-Mediterranean conference will be held in Barcelona.

Three years, five promises, all of them fulfilled.

And I would like to use this occasion to turn to the Syrians and to turn to the Lebanese to ask that they stop hesitating, stop wondering. They have to look at this record and come in and follow up. The President of Syria said that from experience he has learned that only through military negotiations and making security the major agenda one can achieve peace. Experience has shown that through negotiation on all levels, embracing all issues, without timidity, without fatigue, we can achieve peace. If leaders will meet and they won’t be successful at the first meeting, they will have another meeting. What’s wrong with that? To work day and night, ceaselessly, with new ideas and new approaches. They waste not the time of the leaders, they waste the time of their people, their fortunes, their happiness, the opportunities for the young generation.

And we tell all countries of the Middle East, not that we want to have a new Middle East, but that we want the Middle East to join in a new age, for the good of their people, not for the good of Israel. Israel is in good shape because we no longer live in a world where we have empires of power and colonies of poverty. Poverty and oppression are homemade, not imposed by others. The choice is before every country to become free and prosperous and democratic, like so many nations did in a relatively short while in Asia, in Latin America, in some countries in Africa. It is their choice, their occasion not just to build a different world but to introduce the new world for their own people.

For us the United States is not an empire of power. We are not afraid of the United States. For us, the United States is an empire of peace. We need the United States. For us, Russia is going through a process of change. Russia will remain great, but will become different. For us, we welcome the European contribution to other countries, those east of them, south of them, including by having a Barcelona conference, to offer the Mediterranean people funds and experience to build a new life. We are glad that Japan is escaping her economic horizons, by understanding and contributing to other nations. And we hope that other well-to-do countries in the Middle East, including Arab countries, will help the needy parts of our own region.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. President,

May I say, that in the best of my judgement, the greatest danger is a combination between high technology and deep hatred. Between modern instruments of war and feudalistic views. And the greatest hope, for all of us, is a doubled effort to respect human values and modern education.

May I say that Israel itself is in good shape. We are strong militarily, I don’t deny this. We have an excellent economy, an economy of brains, and of material resources. We absorbed a very large immigration of white and black Jews. Whites coming from Russia and black Jews coming from Ethiopia. But nobody can understand what made Israel, in such a relatively good position. What made us, is, first of all, to return to the moral choice. By the end of this year, latest at the beginning of the next year, no single Palestinian will remain under our control. For the first time in the history of the Palestinian people they are educating already their children without intervention by us, or anybody else.

Nobody forced us to do so. We are not weak. We are not poor. We are not under pressure. We have had to take serious risks because terror still continues. The Arab boycott is still intact. In our own country there is strong opposition to what we are doing. We have to spend a great deal of budgets to make peace and yet, in spite of all this, we decided to make a moral choice not to dominate another people. We said it at this respected audience that this is our intention. Now we have done it. Even politically, as difficult as it may be at home, because as a party, we may win historically, but we may also lose politically. But then, winning the peace is more important in our eyes than winning elections. Why should you be elected if you don’t use the mandate of the people to change the course of your history in a more reasonable way.

We believe that the strength of ethical judgement is as important as military exercises or triumph. We gave up land and we produced instead an economy of brains. Today, Israel is making out of her brains more than some other countries in our vicinity are making out of oil. What we expect from the Palestinians is to become democratic, to be prosperous, to fight violence and terror. What we are telling to our neighbors is a simple message: what we could do, everybody can do.

For many years there was a legend that only the North which is white and wealthy and permanent can be a success story whereas the South is condemned to backwardness, to poverty, to lagging behind. What happened in Asia, where there are the most vibrant economic endeavours today and what is happening in Latin America shows that economy has nothing to do with geographic location or the color of your skin. Make the right choice, serve your people and create a new future. What we are offering to whoever is interested is our experience.

We do not want to dominate anyone, surely not the economy of anyone. We give up the domination of people not to gain domination of markets. And we are telling our neighbors that we are happy that they have accepted our offer that the new frontiers between, for example, Jordan and Israel, will not be frontiers of mines and hostile fences but an occasion for joint ventures. The whole rift of Africa, the whole desert valley that separates the Jordanians and us, will become with godspeed a source of provision, of work, of development. We shall build there hotels and schools, desalinization plants and parks. People will be free to move from one side to another side, competing without hating, cooperating without dominating. We want to do the same about the dividing line between us and the Palestinians, to build alongside the line on the West Bank and Gaza, eight industrial parks, so the Palestinians will not have to cross the border and go through the checkposts of Israel but work will come to them and together we shall invest and together we shall develop.

A better economy is the best guarantee for peace. Actually, you cannot have economic cooperation if you don’t have political understanding. You know, in our negotiations, we created three zones of security sensibility on the West Bank: Zone A, Zone B, Zone C. We then turned to the water and to the electricity and we wanted the water and the current to submit to our political wisdom. But the electricity and the water said we can’t distinguish between A,B and C. Water flows according to nature and not according to artificial agreements, and electric currents don’t stop at A or B or C. They serve everybody.

Today in the Middle East, like elsewhere, the distinction is no longer ideological or religious or national. There is just one distinction between an old, poor, backward economy or a new age, where economy is based on technology and science: whether the natural resource is school for the children or mines of the gold. Everybody can postpone this choice, but nobody can escape it. And what we are aiming at is to have peace to serve our people, to have education, to equip our children to take advantage of the new age, to be equal to others, to compete with other children. And it cannot be, it cannot remain a peace between leaders. It must become a peace for people.

For them, for the future. I started by showing what happened in four or three short years. It’s a revolution. It’s a beginning. We shouldn’t stop in the middle. Let everybody pray to the Lord in the language he’s used to. Let everybody respect his own tradition, his heritage, his special experience as a nation, as a people, but let all of us give up unnecessary hatred, untold suspicion. Let us give up fortifying behind old dogmas and terrible prejudices. Let us serve the people and the future and then, the coming fifty years of the United Nations will offer not just fifty years without war but a coming fifty years with peace and prosperity.

Thank you very much.