Yesterday Hamas, by its own account, launched more than 28 Kassam rockets and 61 mortar shells at Israel.
Israel needs no further evidence to know that Hamas’s ways are not the ways of peace.
Statement by H.E. Ambassador Dan Gillerman, Permanent Representative
During Open Debate before the UN Security Council on the "Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question"
At the outset, allow me to congratulate your Ambassador and the UK delegation on their able stewardship of the Council and impressive leadership during the month of April. I would also like to thank Under-Secretary-General Pascoe for his informative briefing.
I would also like to commend the Secretary-General on his timely and intensive visit to the region last month. Having accompanied him during his visit to Israel, I was privileged to witness first hand his commitment, dedication, and integrity.
I must admit that while heartened and encouraged by the Members of this Council who recognized the changes on the ground and highlighted the opportunities, I was saddened by the sense of déjà vu all over again, as demonstrated by the Palestinian Observer. There is something very distressing and worrying if this statement indeed speaks for the Palestinian people.
Speaking of Gaza as a massive prison blatantly ignores the fact that Israel left every inch of Gaza nearly two years ago, and it is the Palestinians who turned it into a prison for their own people by turning it into a terror base and launching pad for missiles into Israel.
Speaking of the poor Palestinian prisoners as victims is a blatant attempt to portray them as poor victims who were imprisoned for parking violations rather than bloody murderers who committed horrifying acts of murder, and who are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians, including women, children, and infants.
Yesterday, we, in Israel, celebrated our independence day, marking Israel’s 59th year of statehood. It is, of course, a time of great joy and festivity.
We celebrate the greatest miracle to happen to our people in contemporary history – the gift of our own country, to be a free people in our homeland. We celebrate the vibrancy and vigor of the State of Israel. We celebrate its remarkable renaissance and growth, especially for such a small country – and after only 59 years of existence. And we celebrate the beauty and openness of Israeli democracy, the bountiful and rich contributions of Israelis to international arts and culture, science, and medicine, and the resilience of a people who fervently dream of peace, each and every day.
And yet the reality of Israeli history means that Independence Day is also a solemn time, when we remember the difficulties of the past. We honor the valiant courage of our soldiers, who were killed while defending the people of Israel, and the great tragedy that befell the victims of terror. We mourn them, and we miss them. They would have contributed so greatly to life in Israel – and to the betterment of the entire world.
But it is not only the reality of history that lingers in our minds. It is also the reality of the present day and the challenges ahead.
That harrowing reality, Mr. President, was demonstrated yesterday when Hamas, by its own account, launched more than 28 Kassam rockets and 61 mortar shells at Israel. The rockets detonated across a large area of land, and as far north as the city of Ashkelon. These attacks, which came as Israelis woke up to celebrate Independence Day, were nothing short of an act of extreme provocation.
Later in the day, we learned that Hamas’s fierce rocket fire was just a front, to divert attention away from its truly evil plans, to kidnap an Israeli soldier. Thankfully, the IDF thwarted the kidnapping.
Yesterday Hamas declared the ceasefire that had been in place in the Gaza Strip null and void. Since the ceasefire began at the end of November 2006, Israel has continually exhibited restraint to the more than 200 rockets fired at it by Palestinian terrorists. Israel always reserves the right to defend itself and its people, as enumerated in article 51 of the United Nations Charter, and will do so if the attacks do not stop.
I strongly advise the Palestinians, and the world, not to mistake this restraint for acquiescence or take it for granted. We will not just lay back and take it. And we will do all that is necessary to put an end to this violence.
If there are still any skeptics out there, yesterday the Hamas-led Palestinian government showed its true colours. Israel needs no further evidence to know that Hamas’s ways are not the ways of peace. Hamas has shown it will not stop its campaign of terror until its unholy ambitions of destroying Israel are fulfilled.
The international community, represented by the Quartet, has made the obligations of the Palestinian government very clear – to recognize Israel, renounce violence and terror, and abide by previous agreements. Hamas also still holds the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, kidnapped by its terrorists last June. These basic conditions are principles of peace. As the Palestinian government flaunts these conditions and sees terror as a legitimate goal, the international community should continue its policy toward that government.
Nothing – no initiatives, summits, or declarations – can take the place of an end to Palestinian terror. We will continue to engage with President Abbas, as Prime Minister Olmert is continuously doing by holding their bi-weekly meetings. But we will fight Hamas as if there is no Abbas.
Nine months after the adoption of resolution 1701, the situation along the Blue Line in the north remains a matter of great concern. In particular, Israel has identified three major areas that demand attention: the presence of armed Hizbullah elements south of the Litani River and the transfer of weapons from Syria to Hizbullah in Lebanon in violation of the arms embargo; the concern that some of these weapons are destined for southern Lebanon; and the continued detention of our soldiers, Udi Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, kidnapped by Hizbullah terrorists nearly ten months ago. Their continued detention and the absence of any sign of life pose a grave humanitarian crisis.
I would like to mention at this time that there are five more Israeli soldiers being held captive, without any information given on their safety or whereabouts. They are: Ron Arad, Zachary Baumol, Yehuda Katz, Tzvi Feldman, and Guy Hever. We pray for their safety, and await their return home to us. We urge the international community and this Council to do its most to make this happen. We also pray for the safe return of the British journalist Alan Johnston.
Resolution 1701 is unequivocal in its demands for the disarming of Hizbullah south of the Litani River, for an end to the transfer of arms to Hizbullah terrorists, and for the immediate and unconditional release of our soldiers. The blatant actions of Iran and Syria, the sponsors of terror in Lebanon, who are rearming Hizbullah and sending weapons in defiance of resolution 1701, must end now.
Lastly, I wish to note that Israel welcomes the latest report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of resolution 1701, and is encouraged by the Presidential Statement adopted by the Council during its 5564th meeting on 17 April 2007.
In particular, Israel is pleased with the attention given to the illegal movement of arms across the Lebanese-Syrian border and the call to enforce the arms embargo. Israel is hopeful that a concerted effort in both areas will lead to greater stability and security.
As Israel looks forward to a prosperous and peaceful coming year, our 60th year of independence, we know there is no shortage of challenges ahead of us. But we are prepared to meet each and every one of them, no matter what it takes.
Israel yearns to live in peace with all her neighbors. Though we know that these efforts can be strengthened by moderates in our region, we also know that no one can make peace for our neighbors. It is up to the parties themselves to show the courage to face down the extremists and embrace their responsibilities.
In the meanwhile, Israel will continue to defend itself, while praying for peace, taking strength in one another, and putting trust in our faith and traditions, in our social fabric and human values, and in our people wherever they may be.
Thank you, Mr. President.