Address by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to the United Nations General Assembly

September 28, 1993

Mr. President, Congratulations upon your unanimous election to preside over the 48th General Assembly of the U.N.

We feel strongly that the time has come for all of us, communities, nations, peoples, families, to finally lay down the last collective wreath on the tombs of the fallen combatants and on the monuments of our beloved. It is the right way to honor their memories and to answer the needs of the newly-born. We have to lay the foundations for a new Middle East.

The peace agreement between us and the Palestinians is not just an accord signed by political leaders. It is an ongoing profound commitment to the next generation, Arabs and Israelis, Christians, Moslems and Jews.

We know that it is not enough to declare an end to war. We have to try to eradicate the roots of all hostilities.

If we shall only bring violence down, but ignore misery, we may discover that we have traded one menace for another peril.

Territorial disputes may have been the reason for wars among nations, poverty may become again the seed of violence among peoples. While signing the documents on the lawn of the White House, I could almost sense the breeze of a fresh spring and my imagination began to wander to the skies of our land that may have become brighter to the eyes of all people agreeing and opposing. On the lawn you could almost hear the heavy tread of boots leaving the stage after a hundred years of hostility. You could have listened to the gentle tiptoeing of new steps making a debut in the awaiting world for peace.

Yet, we couldn’t depart from reality. I know that the solution to the Palestinian issue may be the key to a new beginning, but it is in no way the answer to the many needs awaiting us upon returning home.

The last decade was comprised of great changes. It saw the finale of East-West confrontation. It opened the gradual disappearance of the North-South polarization. The great continent of Asia, the picturesque continent of South America, introduced the dynamics of an economic making of their own. The dramatic event in South Africa is a great declaration to the same effect. So, contrary to all assumptions it has been demonstrated that neither geography nor race is a harassment or an advantage to an economic promise.

We witnessed the end of some wars only to discover that the warriors did not reach their own promised land. Some colonized people gained their independence, but they hardly enjoyed its fruits. The dangers may have been over but their hopes evaporated. We have learned that the end of a war should be the beginning of a new genesis which will end belligerency, and put an end to psychological prejudices.

No nation, rich or poor, is able nowadays to attain security, if the region in which they live becomes secure. The scope of the regional security must exceed the range of ballistic missiles which may hit each and all of us. We are striving to achieve comprehensive peace. No wound must remain unhealed.

Geographically speaking we live side by side with the Jordanian Kingdom, and what is so obvious geographically, must become clear politically. We have agreed already with the Hashemite Kingdom on many complicated issues and there is no doubt that we can complete the story fully, that we can offer the people of both sides of the river full peace. The Dead Sea can become a spring of new life. The old water of the Jordan River can easily be a source of prosperity flowing from side to side.

We hope to, as a matter of fact we are determined to, make peace with Syria. Yet we ask the Syrian leadership if it has chosen peace, why does it refuse to meet openly? If Syria is aiming at the Egyptian fruits of peace, it must follow the process that led to it. Both of us have to look ahead and realize that the threats of war are no more than an illusion that one can return to an unbearable past.

We shall not give up our negotiations with our Lebanese neighbors. We do not have any territorial claims, nor any political pretensions concerning Lebanon. We pray, together with many Lebanese, that their country will no longer be a backyard for troublemakers. It is for Lebanon to make a choice between a Hizbullah that operates from its territory, and takes orders from another country, or to insist on having one army, one policy, and a real offer of tranquility to its people and security to its neighbors. Lebanon does not need a license to regain its independence, and Lebanon should not postpone its return to a balanced policy.

I am not sure if there is a new order in the world, but all of us feel there is a new world awaiting an order.

We are encouraged by the new attempt of the united nations to answer the social and economic call of the present era. The United Nations was created as a political answer. Today it must face social and economic challenges.

The Middle East which has been an important agenda of the United Nations history, must become prosperous, not only peaceful. To construct a modern Middle East we need wisdom not less than financial support.

We have to rid ourselves of the costly follies of the past and adopt the principles of modern economy. Who will and who should pay the cost of oversized armies? Who will and who should bear the price of the price of An arms race which has reached the level of 50 billion dollars annually? Who will and who should pay for the inefficiencies of old systems? Who will and who should compensate for outmoded censorship of mail, of trade, or travel and who will comply with the state where suspicion intercepts the enterprising spirit of the people.

We can and should turn to the promises of scientific development, of market economy, of comprehensive education. We must base our industry, our agriculture, our services on the height of the current technologies. We have to invest in our schools. Israel, a country of immigration, is blessed with many scientists and engineers. We shall gladly make this wealth an available contribution.

I know that there is a suspicion that when referring to a common market in the Middle East, or announcing an Israeli contribution, it may be perceived as an attempt to win preference or to establish domination. May I say sincerely and loudly that we did not give up territorial control to engage ourselves in economic superiority. The age of domination, political or economic, is dead. The time of cooperation is open.

As a Jew, may I say that the virtue, the essence of our history since the times of Abraham and the commandments of Moses, have been an uncompromising opposition to any form of occupation, of domination, of discrimination.

For us, Israel is not just a territorial homeland, but a permanent moral commitment as well. There are other questions concerning the building of a common market in the Middle East. Questions are raised as to how to attain this when the governments are so varied and the economies are so different. The differences in government and economies should not prevent us from doing together what can be done together in combatting the desert and offering fertility to an arid land.

The FAO declared that the Middle East must double its agricultural production in the twenty five years to come. The population of the region in the same period will double itself anyway. The land is cut by many and large deserts and its water resources are stingy and scarce. Yet we know that in a similar period of time, the twenty five years between 1950 and 1975, Israel was able to increase its agriculture production twelve-fold.

During the last decade 95 percent of the growth of our agriculture resulted from research, planning, training and organizing.

High technology permits nations to attain real independence, and to experience genuine freedom, political as well as economic. There is nothing new about the scarcity of water in our midst. Jacob and Esau drank from the same wells even when their paths were separated. But then, unlike today, they could not desalinate the sea water, computerize irrigation or enjoy the potential of biotechnology.

We are meeting again with an entirely different opportunity. Greening the land can be accompanied by creating many jobs for all people in the Middle East.

The most promising opportunity may be the development of tourism. No other branch of modern industry assures an immediate growth of the Middle East like this one.

Our area is blessed by nature and history. A history which is still alive. The eternity of Jerusalem, the magnificence of the pyramids, the symbols of Luxor, the hanging gardens of Babylon, the pillars of wisdom in Baalbek, the red palaces of Petra, the inimitable charm of Marakesh, the old winds which still blow in Carthage, not ignoring the beaches of Gaza and breathing the perfume of Jericho’s fruits.

We have to open roads to those wonders and keep them safe and hospitable. Tourism depends on tranquility and enhances tranquility. It makes friendship a vested interest.

Thirdly, we have to build an infrastructure with modern means so as to dodge the chasms of the past.

Modern transportation and revolutionary communications, crossing the air, covering the ground, connecting the seas will turn geographic proximities into economic advantages. We should not ask taxpayers of other countries to finance follies of our own. We have to correct them ourselves. We do not have the moral right to ask the financing of unnecessary wars or wasteful systems.

If the thumping of hammers will replace the thunder of the guns, many of the nations will be more than willing to extend a helping hand. They will invest in a better future. They will support the replacing of unwarranted confrontation with much-needed economic competition. Markets may serve the needs of the people not less than flags may signify their destinies. The time has come to build a Middle East for the people and not just for the rulers.

Mr. President, it wasn’t simple to open the locked doors to peace. In the name of God, let them not be closed again so that peace will be comprehensive, embracing all issues, all countries, all generations.

We suggest that we all negotiate together as equals. We offer a common ground made of mutual respect and mutual compromises. Thirteen years have passed since we made peace with Egypt. We are grateful to Egypt and its President for expanding understanding, identified and hidden. In a world in which so many insoluble problems reside, the Palestinians and we have finally shown that in fact there are no insoluble problems – only people who tend to believe that many problems are insoluble.

We are grateful to both President Clinton and Secretary Christopher for their crucial role. We have negotiated one of the most complicated issues of the last hundred years. We are grateful to the United States for its support and leadership. We appreciate the Egyptian role and the Norwegian encouragement, the European interest and the Asian blessing. Maybe we now have the right to say to other people in conflict: "Don’t give up. Do not surrender to old obsessions and do not take fresh disappointments at face value." What we did others can do as well.

Mr. President, we are determined to make the agreement with the Palestinians into a permanent success. Israel would consider am economic success of the Palestinians as though it were its own, and I believe that a newly-achieved security will serve the aspirations of the Israelis and the necessities of the Palestinians.

Gaza, after 7,000 years of suffering, can emancipate itself from want. Jericho without her fallen walls can see her gardens blossom again.

As the twentieth century comes to a close, we have learned from the United States and Russia that there are no military answers to the new military dangers, only political solutions. Successful economies are no longer a monopoly of the rich and the mighty. They represent an open invitation to every nation ready to adopt the combination of science and open-mindedness. We see at the end of this century that politics can achieve more by goodwill than by power, and that the young generation watching their televisions, compare their lot with the fortunes or misfortunes of others. They see freedom, watch peace and view prosperity in real time. They know that they can attain more if they work harder.

If we want to represent their hopes, we have to combine wise policies and regional security with market economies. Historically we were born equal and equally we can give birth to a new age.

"Behold days are coming, says the Lord, when the ploughman shall overtake the reaper and the trader of grapes, him who sows the seeds and the mountains shall drop sweet wine and all the hills shall melt."