Text of Address by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. David Levy, before the UN General Assembly
Sept. 29, 1999

H.E. The President of the General Assembly, Mr. Secretary-General, My Colleagues, Foreign Ministers Ladies and Gentlemen,

The 54th General Assembly of the United Nations takes place at a time marking humanity’s crossing into the next millennium. It emerges as a link in the long chain of tumultuous events that have reshaped the map of the family of nations.

The United Nations was born against the backdrop of the destruction and desolation of the Second World War, the most bitter, deadly and inhuman of wars known to Mankind.

The descent of the Nazi regime to the depths of evil was like an eclipse in the history of civilization and will be recalled in the history of humanity as a nightmare in which Man created the devil, who wrought devastation, destruction, terror and annihilation upon the world.

The stand taken by the allied forces against the Nazi monster, and the creation of the United Nations in April 1945, on the brink of the defeat of the forces of destruction, was an act marking the return of humanity to its senses, to salvage the future of Mankind.

In the month when we mark 60 years since the outbreak of the most horrible of wars, we are strengthened even more than ever in our sense of hope and confidence in the necessity of the United Nations, and its activities that span the globe. The various agencies of the UN work to enhance world health and aid the sick; supply the needy with food and nourishment; bridge between cultures; promote education and overcome ignorance; instill hope into the lives of refugees and displaced persons; assist the victims of disasters, whether natural or man-made.

The soldiers of the United Nations Forces are the true peacekeepers of our age. In its corps are soldiers from all the nations of the world, at times risking their lives in areas riddled with conflict and violence around the world, whether their UN mandate is defined as "making peace" or as observers to safeguard the peace. These distinctions, important as they may be to the policy-makers and shapers of international relations, have no meaning to the lone UN soldier, posted far from his country, who brings hope and tranquillity to places fraught with tragedy, suffering and violence.

After many centuries of violence and war, of enslavement and destructiveness in the name of murderous ideologies, after decades of "cold war" and polarized world alliances, the human race is now making great strides down the paths of peace and reconciliation.

Before our very eyes, a process is enveloping the world, signaling hope for the future. Mankind is adopting a new path, the path of the prophet Isaiah, who already – close to 2,600 years ago, prophesied that the day will come when

"They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn the art of war anymore."

This prophecy which has been adopted by the UN as a source of hope, as the symbol of victory of the good in Man over the evil, should serve today more than ever as a beacon, a leading path, for all who support peace around the world and their representatives gathered here today.

The world has become more open. Satellites, internet and telecommunication networks shorten geographical and cultural distances. The political and ideological blocks of the past have disintegrated, and the walls of animosity fell along with the tyrants and dictators who built them.

In our region, too, the light of hope has been rekindled. We are now in the midst of a political process, the objective of which is to reach peace between states and reconciliation between peoples.

Israel aspires to reach a comprehensive peace with her neighbors, a peace of harmony. Israel does not satisfy itself with a political-strategic peace. In our eyes, the absence of war is not the peace we aspire to achieve.

May I be allowed to emphasize once again:

Peace is a culture of peace.

Peace means no more threats of violence, whether implied or categorical.

Peace entails the end of boycotts, the end of contempt and defamation, the end of incitement and confrontation.

Peace is also a language of peace; it is the way leaders address their nations; teachers teach their students; and religious leaders inspire their followers.

At a time in which different kinds of religious extremism rear their heads and erode human wisdom and human freedom, it is essential that inter-faith dialogue be strengthened, and that the religions be shown in their enlightened forms, which sanctify tolerance and co-existence.

Mr. President,

On the way to achieving peace in our region, we find ourselves confronted with contradicting realities.

Parallel to the political process, our negotiating partners are conducting a strident political war against Israel in different international forums, including the podium of this Honorable Assembly. This dualism is inconsistent with the peace process, and is intolerable, as are the extreme decisions taken by the Arab League against Israel, which are not harmonious with the spirit of peace, as expressed in the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum.

We hoped for, and expected, a different atmosphere, which would complement the impetus initiated by the new government in Israel. We were saddened to witness events that undermine the essence of peace. These events can only be defined as anti-peace resolutions.

Engaging in a peace process, on the one hand, and maintaining anti-Israel declarations and resolutions, on the other, raises some serious concerns about our negotiating partners and their concept of peace: Is it a peace of normalization with open borders, or is it only one of temporary initial recognition?

Will our relations with the Gulf and Maghreb countries — like Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, as also Qatar and Oman — will they be allowed to expand and develop? Or will these relations remain hostage to mood swings after each and every difficulty in the negotiations?

Continued doubts about these cardinal questions cannot be tolerated in light of the heavy price and grave risks which Israel takes upon itself in this process.

Three weeks ago, on the 4th of September, Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed the Sharm el Sheikh Memorandum, which for the first time, creates a direct, chronological, political and conceptual link between the Interim Agreements and the Permanent Status Agreement. On the 13th of the same month, the permanent status talks were renewed between Israelis and Palestinians.

We are determined to reach a framework agreement, which will form the basis of the permanent status agreement, by February 2000, as stated and agreed upon in the Sharm El-Sheikh Memorandum. In this framework, we will select the issues and set an agenda for the permanent status agreement. The topics at hand are known, as are the different vantage points of each side.

These differences can be resolved only by direct negotiations.

Regarding the final status, I wish to affirm, from this podium:

When we refer to political separation, as one of the prime concepts in the permanent settlement, we are also saying that, for the benefit of both sides, we should not necessarily sever essential ties vital to coexistence in the various spheres of living.

Mr. President,

From Israel’s perspective, there is not, nor has there ever been, any competition between the different negotiating tracks. Israel aspires to reach peace also with Syria, our neighbor to the north. This is, after all, in the common interest of both Israel and Syria.

However, along with the common interests, the following point must be made clear: A democratic country like Israel cannot accept a precondition to beginning the talks that demands a prior acceptance of the final outcome as dictated by the extreme and dogged formulas of the opposing side.

We must not again lose the momentum of good will, so that we can face our children, Syrian and Israeli alike, with a clear conscience, and say to them honestly: We tried everything and we did the utmost.

I call upon the leaders of Syria: Enough hesitation. It is time to talk. Meetings and discussion are not political sacrifices. They are basic necessities.

On the road to a comprehensive peace, we wish to see Lebanon join the camp of peacemakers. The anomaly which has developed in its territory must come to an end.

We have never had, nor do we have now, any territorial claims or disputes with Lebanon. Our one and only interest is to guarantee the safety and security of our citizens.

The government of Lebanon has failed in past years to enforce its sovereignty in the southern part of Lebanon, and to disarm the Hizbullah. I hope that this situation will take a turn for the better, and that Israel will be able to leave the southern part of Lebanon, as part of an agreement.

Yet, with that as our ambition, I wish to emphasize:

We will not be held hostage, on this track, to a stubborn and defiant attitude for much longer. We will make our own independent decisions, as we see fit, in order to ensure our protection and our vital interests, taking all options into consideration.

A reconciliation between Israel and its neighbors must extend the promise of reaping the benefits of peace to all the peoples in the region.

Normalization must not be viewed as a one-sided gesture. Normalization – as a natural product of peaceful coexistence – is not in the service of one particular party. It is in the interest of all the nations of the region.

We hope to renew the multilateral tracks already this year. There is a need for close cooperation in the regional multilateral projects. This region has tremendous potential. In order to fully realize this potential, we must establish a mechanism of true cooperation among the states of the region. This cooperation would clearly be to the benefit of all of us in the region.

The scarcity of water in our region, which will only get worse, may impose a new way of life on the inhabitants of the Middle East in the coming years. Israel anticipates this problem and prepares for it, but in this case, as in others, cooperation in the region is essential, and will benefit all sides.

The working groups of the multilateral tracks undertook different assignments of primary importance. Unfortunately, their activities are frozen due to irrelevant reasons. This is the time to resurrect them. Any delay or imposed condition is liable to undermine the peace process and delay the aid packages so essential the peoples of the region.

Throughout this important process, whether in the bilateral or in the multilateral tracks, we are accompanied by the international community. First and foremost was the USA, along with the Federation of Russia, the European Union, Canada, Norway, Japan, China and other countries and organizations that assisted and continue to assist. Their key contributions earn them special commendations in this forum, from this honorable podium.

Egypt and Jordan were our first partners in breaking the walls of enmity and in warming of relations in our region. Improving our relations with Egypt, as well as renewing the multilateral tracks, are essential to further the common objectives of the nations in our region.

The relations between Israel and Jordan are an example of appropriate and favorable relations between neighboring countries. We intend to strengthen and broaden the relations between the two nations, in the economic, social and political realms.

Mr. President,

As we march further along the difficult path of making peace, we look back with sorrow and sadness as we remember the pioneers, who broke new ground, and who are no longer with us today. The late Menachem Begin, Anwar Saddat, Yitzhak Rabin, King Hussein and King Hassan II – we are inspired, by their vision and by their work, to continue and to work towards completing their enterprise of peace-making.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We cannot afford to be disillusioned. Our region is not North America or BeNeLux. Even as we negotiate the peace process, we remain aware of the threats and dangers directed against us, endangering the stability of the entire region.

The mix of extreme fundamentalism, on the one hand, and the capabilities of using weapons of mass destruction, on the other, threatens the peace, the stability and the future of the entire region. This threat is not just part of academic debates in the study of international relations, but a hard reality, which we must all face.

From this international platform, I call for a halt in all technological, scientific and other kinds of assistance to countries looking to obtain unconventional weapons, while threatening the existence of the State of Israel and the region as a whole.

The Persian Gulf War demonstrated that leadership lacking reason and stability poses a threat to all the countries in the region, and to the world at large.

The monitoring groups in Iraq must be immediately resumed. That is the obligation of the international community, as long as the Iraqi regime seeks non-conventional weapons and threatens the region.

The United Nations is the largest, the most authoritative and the most recognized international body. Therefore, the United Nations should be the one to take the initiative and the responsibility in curbing the danger.

Terrorism is an additional strategic enemy, and we cannot come to terms with its existence. It is a threat not only to Israel but to many other nations across the world, as well. Terror knows no borders or civilized rules. There can be no co-existence with terror: not in the context of the negotiations conducted by Israel with its neighbors, nor in the broader regional context. Anyone who believes that terror is a nuisance which can be tolerated is mistaken. Terror is in essence a strategic threat. A synthesized, coordinated and unrelenting approach must be adopted against this threat.

Mr. President,

Here, in this glass building, reflecting the current image of our world today, with its points of light and shadows of darkness, counterparts and enemies meet as friends and allies, in the creation of a forum for discussion and coexistence. Discussion is the way to resolve conflict. It is also the way of tomorrow. Dialogue and common language are the tools of diplomacy; they are the raw material for the creation of a new reality, the foundation for a stable and safe society.

It was here, at the General Assembly, in the beginning of the decade, that I first met with my Chinese colleague. After 40 years of total dissociation between our two countries, we endeavored to reestablish diplomatic relations between Israel and China. It was also here that we laid the groundwork for establishing ties with the former Soviet Union, as well as with India, Nigeria, and other states. These are only small examples that demonstrate the possibility in this arena for bridging nations and states.

As a nation that experienced great difficulties, overcome only by accelerated development efforts, the State of Israel takes part in the international effort to aid others and share knowledge, experience and technology. The nation of Israel is proud of its ancient tradition of sharing and identifying with the world at large.

Through the Division for International Cooperation under the Israel Foreign Ministry, Israel maintains ongoing projects, professional training courses in Israel and across the globe, demonstration fields, and research. For example, a special medical center which we recently established in Mauritania, serves the many citizens of that state who suffer from chronic eye problems.

Similarly, Israel invests great efforts and resources in training professionals to acquire the skills and abilities necessary for challenging the various challenges that engage many parts of the world.

In the more than 40 years since its inception, the Division for International Cooperation has trained more than 70,000 trainees, from more than 120 countries, who passed its training courses in the areas of agriculture, water resources, health and medicine, science, education, management and others.

In 1998 alone, some 155 courses were held on a variety of topics, with the participation of more than 4000 trainees. Gladly, I can report that many of the trainees were from Middle Eastern countries. Fully 820 Palestinians participated in these courses over the past year, thereby helping to strengthen the bridges of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. In the same year, Israel ran more than 150 courses, in over 60 different countries, with the participation of over 7000 trainees. I am proud to point out that in many of the countries to which we sent experts, the local personnel managed to translate our goodwill into positive results on the ground, to the benefit of their people and their land.

The Division for International Cooperation is also one of the central addresses in Israel to which people can turn in times of disaster around the world, in part due to the reputation it has garnered. We have recently witnessed just how essential such assistance can be in times of natural disasters. Israel has always responded to requests for aid and relief, regardless of the political context or the state of diplomatic relations.

We wish to strengthen the hands of the United States of America, our friend and ally, an inspiration to us all in her efforts to promote the values of cooperation between nations. This is the time to express our appreciation to the U.S for its intensive efforts to bring true peace to the Middle East.

Mr. President,

Even in today’s times, here in the United States, we witnessed again the threat of boycott. The case at hand is the threat to declare a boycott against the American company "Disney ", due to the fact that the company dared to allow Jerusalem to be portrayed in an exhibition celebrating the millennium. We condemn these threats and the use by the Arab states of this anachronistic device. It has no place here or anywhere else in the world.

My colleagues,

Over thousands of years, since the time of the biblical King David, the builder of Jerusalem, until the present day, Jerusalem did not serve as the capital of any other nation in the world besides the nation of Israel. Even after our forced exile from the land of Israel, we continued, generation after generation, to stay faithful to Jerusalem. The flame of Jerusalem was carried on in our hearts, as a source of faith and hope.

In our wanderings, in the East and in the West, in the African deserts and in the outskirts of Siberia, from the Golden era of Spain through the dark inquisition, during the prosperous Europe of the Romantic era to the charred ashes of the holocaust, throughout all the above, the eyes of the Jews and their prayers were directed toward Jerusalem.

Year by year, from father to son, the anthem of the Jewish nation was "Next Year in Jerusalem".

With the passing of those previous generations and exiles, we have had the privilege of being deemed worthy to return to Jerusalem — to rebuild the ruins, to rededicate the city as a center radiating with beauty, open to all followers of all religions, where freedom of all religions is a fact of life.

It is so upsetting that even today, 51 years since the independence of the State of Israel, there are still those who would deny our natural right to decide the location of our capital, a natural right given to every nation in the world.

From Jerusalem, the city of David, I will quote from the original song of David on Jerusalem, which transcends the limits of time and retains its meaning in every generation:

"Our feet shall stand within thy gates, oh Jerusalem Jerusalem is built, like a city that is united together."

United Jerusalem, under the sovereignty of Israel, remains and will remain forever the capital of the State of Israel.

Thank you Mr. President.

* Translated from Hebrew