on "The Question of Palestine"
(Agenda Item 35)
48th Session of the General Assembly
30 November 1993
I am pleased to congratulate you on your unanimous election to the presidency of the General Assembly. I am confident that your wealth of diplomatic experience will be of invaluable assistance in guiding the Assembly’s current session.
I would also like to extend my congratulations to the former president, H.E. Mr. Stoyan Ganev, and compliment him on his skillful direction of the General Assembly’s affairs.
One hundred years of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians have exacted a heavy price. The human loss has been tragic. The social and economic loss, enormous.
But now, we have witnessed a great victory of those with a vision for the future over those who are blinded by the past.
We believe that the Declaration of Principles signed on September 13th, and the Letters of Mutual Recognition between Israel and the PLO are significant steps towards peace and prosperity in the Middle East.
This progress follows the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, which shattered the stalemate in the Middle East, fourteen years ago.
Now, we have reached another historic crossroad. Change is inevitable. The old status quo could only bring more suffering and despair. The alternative to peace and reconciliation is war and devastation.
The time has come to depart from conflict and move towards cooperation, so Israelis and Palestinians can enjoy the fruits of peace and the shelter of security. In the words of Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, "Let us bid once and for all farewell to wars, to threats, to human misery. Let us bid farewell to enmity, and may there be no more victims on either side."
It is time to depart from violence and terror. It is time to establish good relations between Israel and its neighbors.
We are now working together, Israelis and Palestinians, according to the mutually-agreed timetable, as we turn the agreement from principles into reality. This is not an easy task, but there is no other way but to walk the path that we have chosen. The interim period will provide needed time for the seeds of trust to grow.
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said, "The basis for our advance and progress in the implementation of the agreement is that each side must keep its commitments." From these roots, mutual confidence will grow.
Far from the limelight, Israeli-Palestinian committees are hard at work, focussing on the details.
The Coordinating Committee is negotiating security arrangements and other modalities of the transfer of authority in Gaza and Jericho.
Of course, there are, and will be, ups and downs in the process; this is a time of transition. But now is the time to realize the simple truth: We can choose either painful compromise or perpetual conflict.
The implementation will succeed if both parties work persistently, pragmatically and professionally towards this end. I believe both sides are proceeding in this spirit, despite moments of hardship and outbreaks of violence.
A constructive atmosphere also marks our negotiations on economic matters. As we face the great challenges that lie ahead of us, progress towards economic development is essential.
Two weeks ago in Paris, the Economic Cooperation Committee began its work, guided by the principles of reciprocity, equity and fair relationships.
The committee is exploring joint action in diverse fields: water, energy, industry and infrastructure, among others. Working groups have been established to specifically address these issues. Three subcommittees are meeting to deal with trade and labor, fiscal matters, and finance and banking. The work these groups do, will become the economic foundations during the interim period.
We also seek progress in our negotiations with other partners. Israel desires a comprehensive peace, based on treaties with all our neighbors: Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, as well as with the Gulf States and North African States, and with all other Arab and Moslem countries.
The United Nations should encourage peace by adopting an attitude that reflects the positive changes in the Middle East. Resolutions wielded as political weapons are relics of a bitter past. It is time for a change, it is time to move forward. Let us adopt resolutions that support the peace process and its accomplishments and indicate a wish for a better future.
In the wake of things said here yesterday, I would like to set the record straight.
Yesterday, forty-six years ago, the United Nations General Assembly decided on the establishment of two states in British Mandatory Palestine: the State of Israel and an Arab state.
The Jews living under the British Mandate accepted this resolution, and established the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. The Palestinians, with the support of all the Arab countries, rejected the resolution and launched a war on the State of Israel.
At the war’s end, a year later, the State of Israel survived and grew. Some Palestinians became citizens of Israel, some became citizens of Jordan, which captured the West Bank, some became subjects of Egypt, which captured the Gaza Strip, and some became refugees in Arab countries.
I hope that we have learned the lessons of the past, and now turn to build a new future.
As we continue the work of implementing the agreements, we confront many problems. Among the most severe are the continuous acts of terrorism designed to undermine the peace process and sow unrest and anarchy.
Some of these terrorists are driven by radical Islamic fanaticism. Others are political opponents of the PLO, and some are rebellious members who have ignored their leadership’s renunciation of terror.
In a prosperous environment, the fanatics would have no support, because they rely on despair and recruit the despondent.
The international community should help the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza through the transition period, by helping improve social and economic conditions, by improving the infrastructure, expanding education and health centers, and by creating jobs that put more people to work.
In the short run, economic aid will finance services until other arrangements are made. In the long run, it will spur growth and prosperity.
In October, the International Donors’ Conference in Washington raised two billion dollars in pledges for development in the territories. The United Nations established a high level Task Force to achieve this same goal.
UN agencies are doing excellent work in the territories. UNDP has improved infrastructure and irrigation networks, and built a fishing port in Gaza. UNRWA has established clinics and hospitals, and has done commendable work with children.
But the UN could do more. I repeat here the appeal made by Prime Minister Rabin to the Secretary-General of the United Nations: "Double the budget of the agencies which work in the territories….double the effort."
We also appeal to the countries and organizations that promised economic aid: Meet your pledges. Time is precious.
The Palestinians have taken upon themselves an enormous responsibility. The challenges they face are immense. International assistance is critical, but it alone will not suffice. The Palestinians know that they themselves will have to create an economic environment that will generate growth and maintain prosperity.
There is an answer to the "Question of Palestine." The answer is in the Declaration of Principles and in its implementation, and should be left for the parties to resolve.
The United Nations and the Member States have an historic responsibility to support this agreement. Help the Palestinians meet the enormous challenges, and encourage us all to stay on course: Mobilize Resources. Increase investment. Avoid distraction. Refrain from rhetoric. Create a positive political and economic environment.
Help the peacemakers make their own peace.
Thank you, Mr. President.