Not by virtue of the United Nations resolution 181 on the partition of the Land of Israel was the millennia-long bond between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel created.
The Israel Knesset is today observing the 60th anniversary of the UN resolution passed on November 29, 1947, accepting the principle of dividing the Land of Israel into two states – one Jewish and one Arab.
Not by virtue of the United Nations resolution was the millennia-long bond between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel created. Not because of the UN resolution did the Jewish people pray, facing Jerusalem, for thousands of years to return to the Land of Israel and to build the center of their national life there.
It was not due to the UN resolution that the Zionist movement was established. And it was not because of the UN resolution that my grandparents immigrated to the Land of Israel in 1925.
These are the true sources of legitimacy for our lives here, and we have no need of UN resolutions in order to believe in this right.
And yet each year we newly rejoice at each “yes” and wince at each “no,” in an era in which the world is a global village; in an era in which the part of the world that shares Israel’s values of democracy and equality is compelled to defend its values against the other part, composed of extremists trying to exploit those values in order to annihilate them; in an era in which the national conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has not yet ended; in an era in the understanding and acceptance of Israel as the national home for the Jewish people is slowly being eroded.
What was taken for granted in 1947 is no longer taken for granted, and we have to fight for it again. We need a UN resolution to determine the basis for the establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, which was and remains the correct principle for resolving the conflict.
We demand from the world our due rights. Not just the right to live as Jews in the Land of Israel, not just Israel’s right to exist physically, but our full right as determined in 1947 – to exist in a Jewish state that constitutes the national solution for the Jewish people wherever they may be. A Jewish and democratic state that integrates those two values, and if they appear contradictory at times – it is our obligation to integrate them and prevent any incongruity between them.
At the same time, we say we shall not withhold from the Palestinians their right to self-determination in their own state, as long as it does not threaten Israel’s right to exist as a national home for the Jewish people, and its establishment will be the complete, full and sole response to the Palestinians’ national demands. Because the legitimacy of the demand for a Palestinian state is based on the demand for a response to their collective national aspirations.
Today we ask that the nations of the world adhere to the same principle of a solution. We appeal in particular once again to the Arab world that did not accept the resolution of November 29, 1947. What I said to the leaders of the Arab world last week in Annapolis, I reiterate today on this special occasion, and appeal to them from the podium of the Israeli Knesset and not only at that conference:
I say to my colleagues from the Arab world today that the right thing to do is not to relinquish our sense of justice or our belief in rights. This is the time to think about a different right – the right of our children to live in peace and mutual dignity, according to the values that I believe are the legacy of all the peoples in the region, and certainly the values of all the religions.
True, there is a national conflict between us, whose just resolution is to give expression to the national aspirations of each of the nations in its own state. This is exactly the principle determined 60 years ago, after years of bloodshed between the residents of this country – the principle of two states for two peoples: one – a Jewish state, as decreed by the UN resolution, and the other – an Arab state.
The decision to establish the State of Israel alongside an Arab state was meant to provide a response to the past conflict; it is not what created the present conflict. The decision did not determine who was more in the right, but rather what would lead to a life of peace between the peoples.
Even before the State of Israel was established, the Jewish public accepted the principle of the partition of Israel. We chose already then not to resolve the question of rights over the Land of Israel, or the question of historical justice. We decided to embark on a new life in a new state – even if only on part of the territory and I will add here in the Knesset – despite fierce internal controversy.
This choice, which was rejected at that time by the Arab world, is still a choice that can be made by the Arab world in general and the Palestinians in particular.
On the day that the State of Israel was established, May 14, 1948, our Independence Day, the day that you, my Arab colleagues, call the "Nakba" – the disaster, Israel proclaimed in its Declaration of Independence: "We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help…" Our hands are still outstretched in peace to the entire Arab and Muslim world without exception.
And here at the Knesset, I will add the corresponding appeal in the Declaration of Independence calling upon "Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to… participate in the upbuilding of the State, on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions."
Because, distinguished Knesset, there is no contradiction between Israel’s being a national home for the Jewish people and its being a democratic state, and anyone who tries to bring about a contradiction between these two values is undermining the fundamental principles of Israel.
I went on to tell the representatives of the Arab world, and I say to you again today – I am proud of where Israel is today. I am sorry that the Arab world rejected the principle of partition in the past, and I hope and pray that today there is an understanding that instead of fighting, the right thing to do is to build a shared future in two separate states: one – the State of Israel, which was established as a Jewish state, a national home for the Jewish people; and the other – Palestine – which will be established to give a full and complete solution to Palestinians wherever they may be, both those in Gaza and the West Bank, and those in the refugee camps in other Arab countries with temporary status, waiting for a sense of belonging to a national state – the same feeling of wholeness that the establishment of the State of Israel gave to the Jewish refugees who were forced to leave Arab countries and Europe and became partners in building Israel.
I believe that the solution of two nation states serves the interests of both sides. Not every celebration of ours is cause for sorrow on the other side, and vice versa. I say to my Palestinian colleagues: Do not bemoan the establishment of the State of Israel; establish your own state, rejoice in its establishment and we will rejoice with you, since for us the establishment of the Palestinian state is not our Nakba, or disaster – provided that upon its establishment the word "Nakba" be deleted from the Arabic lexicon in referring to Israel.
Knowing that the conflict has a solution is not enough. Reaching the solution depends first of all upon us – on the two sides themselves and their ability to conduct negotiations, to touch on the most sensitive points and to provide answers based on the understanding that neither side can obtain everything it wants and that compromises are necessary on both sides.
The solution also depends on the ability of the leaders to cope with extremists and terrorism, and we are not speaking here only of the leaders of the sides directly involved in the conflict. This is the central task of the entire world leadership, and especially of the Arab and Muslim world.
This is the time for decision. Everyone must decide which side they are on, and the sides, ladies and gentlemen, have changed. They are no longer Israel on one side and the Palestinians on the other side. They are no longer the Arabs on one side and the Jews on the other side.
In one camp is everyone who came to the summit. You know who did not go there – those who worked and are working against the conference. The states that did not come are those that support terrorist organizations and radical elements in their home countries – those who just yesterday called for an annulment of the resolution – those who wish to cause instability in the region. The organizations and leaders who use God’s name to sow hatred, to send children out to be killed. The same God we see as the God of mercy and peace.
This is the battle that must be won.
We have all paid a heavy price over the years of the conflict. Families have lost their loved ones and we are powerless to soothe the pain of a bereaved mother. We cannot turn the wheel of history back, bring our dead back to life, restore the maimed to health, and return people to their homes. We cannot change decisions that we have made. There is no point in regretting decisions that we could have made in time and missed the opportunity. We can make decisions that will affect the future, and the journey to peace in the region now begins once again, and the objective is the same objective that was determined 60 years ago, on November 29, 1947.