Statement by H.E Mr. Shimon Peres
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel
at the General Debate of the
56th General Assembly of the United Nations

November 15, 2001

His Excellency, the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Han Seung Soo
Mr. Secretary-General, Nobel Prize Laureate, His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan,
My Colleagues,
Foreign Ministers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I would really like to congratulate you Mr. President for being elected to preside over the 56th General Assembly of the United Nations. I know that you bring with you a wealth of experience, a breath of understanding, and a hope for many people.

I would like also to express my highest regard for the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, who well deserved the recognition by becoming a Nobel Prize Laureate for his fresh ideas and great vision of how to meet a new world with an open mind and a sense of unity and hope.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There is a hidden light and needed hope in this gathering to overturn the darkness that has descended upon us. There is enough strength and resolve in the midst of the civilized nations to deflect evil.

Humanity woke up happy to welcome the twenty-first century. We turned and looked around and there was brightness and freshness in the air.

We had departed from the traditional history that was written with red ink – wars, skirmishes, conflicts, murders – many of them arising because human existence was dependent upon land and natural resources.

We had to protect our own lands.

Modern science emerged to supersede land, opening new horizons of limitless opportunities.

Science rendered borders became marginal, old prejudices and distances began to dissipate from our mind. Technology created a new interdependence. No longer were our connections dependent upon land or sea, namely, upon distances.

Air became the new means of communication for nations, peoples, businesses, and development. High technology introduced new promises and recalled the importance of old values.

The perception was that promise will be afforded to every person – no matter his location, his race, his religion, his sex – allowing him or her to climb to new heights. And then we learned that high technology is not just a technical matter. We cannot separate technology from values. It is impossible.

You cannot combine, for example, lies and science. You cannot lie scientifically.

To have a science-based economy, you have to pursue peace uncompromisingly and openness uninterruptedly.

Science requires an open society; it demands constant dialogue. You cannot have new innovations without free research.

You cannot have free research without being a free society.

You cannot develop a scientific economy without making education a top priority, available and accessible to all.

You cannot attract investments unless you have transparency.

To keep young scientists in a competitive world your land and water should be without pollution, your financial system free from corruption, your government without arbitrariness.

Truth, freedom, openness became conditions for science and high technology, and consequently, for the advancement of any society.

It is true that the world is still divided between haves and have-nots. But, for the have-nots, there is the new option: connecting themselves to the new age and the more developed part of our time.

It was a new beginning, but like many beginnings, it is mixed with shadows and revolt.

The shadows were not yet loaded, they looked, at the beginning, pale and distant.

So we felt like one promised world, like one assembly. The economy stopped being national and became global – open to every nation.

And since we could not form a global government, the national governments agreed that the global economy would be managed by private enterprises. Hence, privatization.

Globalization decreased the importance of classical states and increased the importance of NGO’s and worldwide connections. It looked as if borderless progress was evolving.

And then ambushing clouds, global in nature, arrived as a new horror.

The horrific events of September 11, the savage attack on innocent American people, signaled a new warning to the new world history.

On September 11th, we learned that the very same technology, openness, frontier-less, connected world, can also spread viciousness.

This attack was brutal because it was directed at everything we stand for, against everything nations, and the United Nations, has toiled for.

The emerging terror, like the emerging economy, is no longer national or delineated by boundaries. It is borderless and contains limitless, awesome potential. It can begin with knives, and it may wind up with germs.

Terror doesn’t have a marked address, a merciful lord in heaven, or a court, or an elected government. Neither does it need the approval of the many. It is built on the fanaticism of a small group of murderers, without the checks and balances of an accountable society.

It may arrive unexpectedly, uninvited, frightening every corner of the globe, paralyzing work and home, grounding flights, impeding movement, disrupting commerce and production. Eventually, it can endanger the freshness the air, the purity of water.

Global economy arrived as a historic surprise. Equally so, global terrorism arrived without prior warning.

But whereas a solution was found to relate to the global economy – through privatization – there is no private answer to meet global terrorism.

Many nations have armies without necessarily having enemies. Yet global dangers are left, for the time being, without global answers, without global armies.

The United States played a pivotal role in introducing the new economy. Now again, it falls upon the United States, as the first target of global terrorism, to offer a strategy, to take the lead, and again bring the promise of freedom and security to many of us.

We pay tribute to the United States, a nation that had the capacity to welcome new modes of creativity, planning, production, innovating, at home and abroad. And while becoming mighty, it did not stop caring for the rest of the world.

The United States has helped nations in Europe and Asia and elsewhere regain freedom and security in times of danger. American boys fought, and many of them lost their lives, in European and Asian wars.

They won wars, they gained land, but they didn’t keep those assets for themselves. They returned to Japan and improved Japan. They returned to Germany and improved Germany.

The Marshall Plan helped to rebuild Europe. Needy countries were offered food and assistance, industries were restored, economies were rehabilitated. There was generosity in their victory. Indeed, America has emerged as the "indispensable nation."

Now, America has become a target for reasons which are not necessarily her own.

Terrorism was directed at America to frustrate her democracy, to weaken her respect for human rights, to reduce her enterprise and threaten her individualism, so she would not be able to help others.

This was an assault on the very existence of humanity.

The Bin Laden group is scared of progress. They are proponents of backwardness. They want us to return and live in caves.

They represent the darkest ages in the annals of human history. They are self-appointed killers of any person who thinks differently from them.

They are not just evil. They are an agency of death.

America is not just a new world or continent. It is a great constitution, a shining city on the hill of freedom. It is not just a concrete structure, it is a solid idea. You can attack America, hurt her, but America cannot be destroyed.

America’s war on terrorism is the war of all of us. By "us", I mean every country in this Assembly, every human being on this planet.

Bin Laden claims that he fights crusaders who do not exist anymore.

Bin Laden claims that he is to help the Palestinians. But in the eyes of the Palestinians, he is an obstacle, not an aid. Israel made peace with Egypt, returned all the land and water, without Bin Laden.

We did likewise with the Jordanians. Not because of terror, but because terror came to an end.

We offered the Palestinians practically all the land at Camp David in July of 2000 without Bin Laden, without terror. And if there remained a difference of one or two percent, this does not justify the killing of thousands of men and women in America. Political differences don’t justify murdering even a single child, no matter of which nation.

Bin Laden and his abhorrent ideas can never contribute to peace. They offer no solution, nor hope for any nation, or religion, or individual person. They spread hatred, disseminate fear and plant mines. They are just a catastrophe at large.

Mr. President,

The new world economy enabled two of the most populous countries – China and India – to move forward and offer new life and opportunity to hundreds of millions of people.

It has changed the face of Europe. It has reversed the fortunes of Latin America. It has extended an open invitation to every country to acquire computers, widen education, open its gates and join a new age without giving up old values or traditions.

It calls for an assembly of responsible nations to build a dam against terror, knowing perfectly well that the fight against terror cannot be postponed, cannot be forgiven, cannot be compromised. It is a matter of life and death for humanity in the new chapter of our existence.

Either all of us, nations and individuals, will contribute to safety and freedom or become targets of death and backwardness.

Every country must choose its place in the new globe, either in the realm of science and technology, or in the wastebasket of the old land economy, dependent on the whims of nature, condemned to poverty and hopelessness.

It is the responsibility of affluent nations to share the wealth of knowledge so others can join. They should become a locomotive for the deprived, not a luxury liner for the privileged.

Mr. President,

We pray, full-heartedly, from the great and united city of Jerusalem, as we did in the early days of our existence, that we shall know again how to distinguish between good and evil, between TOHU VA’VO-HU and a new tomorrow.

Our region gave birth to the greatest prophets, their moral dictums setting the moral fabric of our society. They have guided us to trust and follow reason and realism.

But we were forced to follow funerals more than reason. It has exacted a heavy price from Jews, Muslims and Christians and Druze. It is time that we rediscover the Ten Commandments, holy to all of us.

Right now it looks like we are again sinking into the past. The emotional conflict is greater than the territorial gap. It is more difficult to muster the strength and summon the spirit than to divide the land.

In spite of these difficulties, I dare say there is a hidden opportunity in the vast divide.

I feel strongly that while we cannot recover lost time, we can introduce a new vista in the Middle East. Until now the world related to the Middle East. Now the Middle East has to relate to the new world.

Our neighbors – Palestinians and Arabs – know that Israel is committed to contribute whatever she can to renew a real peace process. Not by force, not by imposition, not by unilateral action, but through a negotiated agreement – an agreed peace.

There is no peace but an agreed peace. Just as you cannot applaud with one hand, you cannot have a one-handed peace.

Problems, naturally, have a date of birth. Solutions must reach their maturity. It may not happen at once, but it will happen.

Yesterday, you would hardly find, for example, support for a Palestinian State. And although this is not yet a formal policy of the Government of Israel, there is support for Palestinian independence, support for a Palestinian state.

We do not want to dominate the Palestinians. We want them to breathe freedom, to create a new economy, to maintain their traditions, to enjoy the highest level of education, and provide real security for all parties.

As far as Israel is concerned, we are convinced that good neighbors are better than good guns.

In modern times, you cannot have real security dependent only on fences, walls, fortifications or trenches. Not even on tanks and guns and missiles. All these measures have already become anti-measures, making them incomplete and temporary.

The only strategy that cannot be ignored is neighborly relations, like the common market in Europe, the Rio Group in Latin America, NAFTA in North America, ASEAN in Asia, the New Partnership for African Development in Africa.

All these frameworks have shown that answer to old historical, military and political conflicts may reside in the economic domain.

What endangers the new solution is terror. Terror is endangering again the world. There is no longer a division between east and west, or north and south, but between the union to stop terror and those who refuse to recognize its menace.

The assembly against terror comprises most of humanity – the United States, Europe, China, Russia, India, South America, many countries in Africa, many countries in the Moslem world.

Democracies must have a non-democratic institution to defend itself because armies are not democratic, but without them, democracy would not prevail. You may have many views in a democratic society, but only one authority that controls the military.

Armies must be subordinated to the elected political body. But if you have one political authority and several armed groups, you can have neither democracy nor security.

The Palestinian Authority, which is a state in being, must establish one authority over all arms, all armies, all use of arms. Not for the sake of Israel, but for the sake of peace, for the sake of their own destiny, so that bullets will not negate ballots.

As long as terror persists, Israel has no choice but to defend its people. The word "terror" doesn’t describe an abstract dilemma for us. It refers to a reality of between thirty to forty violent incidents every day – shooting, bombing, ambushing, killing.

It is perpetrated by suicide bombers that have no respect for life, their own or others. The only place they can be intercepted is at the point from which they depart.

Israel is, by definition, an experienced member of the anti-terror camp. We know that terror can never win if people protect and preserve their fundamental security.

Terror is strong as long as anti-terror is weak. And terror is frightening as long as people are afraid of it. Terror represents basically cowardliness and does not serve a real purpose. Terror follows neither justice nor serves goals. It is not a remedy, it is a malady.

Mr. President,

We are at a juncture. The world is pursuing new opportunities and frontiers. No longer will it be a world divided between developed and underdeveloped nations, between black and white or men and women. It will become a world where every person will have access to knowledge and opportunity to participate in a new genesis.

States became weaker economically and strategically because economy and strategy have themselves become global. Yet we don’t have organized world institutions to secure the globe and distribute wealth justly.

Two courses are open to every State – either join the new economy or submit to old terror, the creation of wealth, or the threat of terror.

Each must make its own choice between the promise of economy or the protest by terror.

The Global Compact, initiated by the Secretary-General, offers a roadmap to the former. It defines the functions and contributions of the United Nations and imposes responsibilities on all of us – nation states, the private sector, the civil society.

It provides us with hope that even as crises exist, obscuring the opportunities awaiting in the corner of our eyes, the path to progress is clear to all with the courage to embrace it.

Mr. President,

We woke up to the twenty-first century with such optimism.

We must overcome the dangers so that our children will be raised again in a world of almost limitless opportunities.

It can be done.

We have learned in Jerusalem that we can make a promised land into a land of promise for all of us.