Statement by Ambassador Gad Yaacobi Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations

Regarding the Massacre in Hebron

Security Council
United Nations

28 February 1994
New York

Mr. President,

Israel regrets and condemns the criminal murder of Palestinian worshippers in Hebron. We express our sincerest condolences to the families of those killed, and we wish all those wounded a speedy and complete recovery.

In an appeal to Israelis and Palestinians alike, the President of the State of Israel Ezer Weizman said, "At this difficult time, I call upon all the people of this land, leaders, clergy, Jews and Arabs, Christians and Moslems to grieve together over every needless loss of life."

Our Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin spoke by telephone with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. Prime Minister Rabin conveyed the sorrow of the Israeli Government and people to Chairman Arafat and to the Palestinian people. He said, "As an Israeli, I am ashamed of this deranged, brutal act." I join the Prime Minister in this sentiment, as do the overwhelming majority of Israelis.

Both Chief Rabbis of Israel condemned the massacre. The Sephardic Chief Rabbi Eliahu Bakshi Doron said, "I am simply ashamed that a Jew carried out such a villainous and irresponsible act, and I am distressed that it is viewed as the act of a religious person."

Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau said, "The attacker did not act in the name of the Jewish faith…. It is a desecration of God’s name to connect faith to this incident."

The fanatic individual I repeat, individual who committed the violence sought not only to kill people, but also to kill the chances for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Extremists on both sides believe that they can derail the peace process by creating a vicious cycle of violence and bloodshed.

They are wrong. We believe that all sides know that we have crossed the point of no return on our way to a new era of peace, security and cooperation. Difficulties will arise. Obstacles will have to be overcome. We were all reminded of this sad truth by the latest events. But the only way to put an end to the violence is peace and reconciliation. There simply is no alternative. We all have a responsibility to the future not to walk away from the historic opportunity which stands before us.

For this reason it is imperative that all people, Arabs and Jews alike, act with the utmost restraint, despite the sorrow, the grief and the anger.

Israelis, of all people, understand the pain of losing innocent lives. It is with this understanding that we call for restraint. We, the Israeli people, have faced decades of violence by fanatic Palestinians and others. We have mourned hundreds of Israelis killed in terrorist attacks.

I will not repeat here the long list of such incidents. Let me just say that since the signing of the Declaration of Principles on 13 September 1993, 33 Israelis have been killed in terrorist attacks in Israel and the territories and 213 have been wounded. These acts were committed not only by individuals, but also by organized terrorist groups. Despite this, we never lost hope for peace; We never came to the conclusion that they were justifications to abandon the search for reconciliation between our peoples.

Some Palestinian and Arab leaders have said that they want Israel to change its policies. Allow me to bring to your attention some relevant facts on this matter.

Following the formation of the present government on 13 July 1992, Israel made far-reaching changes in its order of national priorities:

* The Government of Israel stopped construction of new settlements in the territories.

* We reallocated resources away from the territories and into Israel.

* The Government of Israel decided to recognize the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people and commence negotiations with the PLO within the Middle East peace process.

* Israel signed the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self- Government Arrangements with the PLO on 13 September 1993.

* We announced our readiness to negotiate without preconditions a permanent settlement with the Palestinians by no later than the third year of the interim period.

* And we announced our readiness to negotiate a peace treaty with Syria on the basis of territorial compromise.

At two meetings held on February 25 and 27, the Cabinet discussed the massacre in Hebron and authorized a number of steps:

First, a Commission of Inquiry headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has been established to fully investigate the massacre.

Second, a series of measures has been taken against radical elements among the Israeli residents of the territories. These measures include

* the imposition of administrative detentions,

* the extension of restraining orders and supervisory orders against the entry of certain persons into the territories and especially into the Hebron area,

* and the disarming of specific individuals and the cancellation of their permits to carry weapons.

Third, the Attorney General will explore and propose options for outlawing the radical organizations "Kach" and "Kahane Chai."

Fourth, the Government decided to release up to 1,000 Palestinian detainees and prisoners within the coming week.

Fifth, new security and prayer arrangements will be made for the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. The site will be reopened when these new arrangements are made.

Sixth, the Government will provide compensation to the families of the victims.

Unfortunately, some Palestinian leaders have called the Government’s decisions "empty, hollow and superficial." This is very regrettable.

I want to stress here that the Government of Israel is fully committed to doing its utmost to protect Arabs and Jews alike. Measures are being taken to halt the activities of all radical elements which are a source of incitement in the territories.

The Israel Defense Forces will continue to do all they can to maintain public order and to prevent further incidents and bloodshed. Once the implementation of the Israeli-Palestinian agreement begins, the Palestinian police will take its part in ensuring security.

We believe that the only sincere solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is to enhance the implementation of the agreement between Israel and the PLO. We all have to focus on accelerating the progress towards peace.

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said that "peace is the true answer to the hate-mongers and the sowers of grief."

Faithful and speedy implementation of the agreement on Interim Self-Government Arrangements will frustrate the plans of extremists and swell the ranks of those who believe that Israelis and Palestinians can and should live in peace, dignity and mutual respect.

The Security Council has a responsibility to support these proponents of peace by calling for accelerated progress towards implementing the Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

I will conclude with these words, delivered by Prime Minister Rabin to Israel’s Knesset:

"I say to the Palestinians… we understand your feelings, and suffer this terrible tragedy together with you. We identify with the heavy sorrow, the distress and the tears, and we know that even when peace will come, both you and we will bear the scars of war.

"We call upon you to return to the negotiating table, to resume the talks. We shall sit down and continue the negotiations. For after the blood, after the tears, that which we have so long sought and dreamed about may lie waiting in the near future: To put an end to one hundred years of war and terrorism, and to begin to exist, to begin to live, like all nations."

Thank you, Mr. President.