on "The Situation in the Middle East"
(Agenda Item 34)
48th Session of the General Assembly
1 December 1993
After more than forty years of Cold War and polarization, the people of the world are striving to build a better future, trying to overcome ethnic, religious and national conflicts.
In Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, young democracies are struggling to lay the cornerstones of peaceful and prosperous futures.
In Western Europe, the European Union has drafted a plan of great vision. Together, these countries are building prosperous lives on the solid basis of regional cooperation.
In the Middle East too, historic changes are breaking down the battlements of a century of conflict and war. As we look forward to an era of prosperity and cooperation, I think back to a time when Jews and Arabs flourished together 1,000 years ago, in Spain, when we shared a Golden Age.
Now, the time has come for us to seize the opportunity to create a new Golden Age; to enjoy the right to our own lives and destinies. Now, it is time to lay the foundations for peace, stability, security, economic progress and human advancement in the embattled Middle East.
We broke ground fourteen years ago, with the Camp David Accords the first peace treaty between Israel and an Arab state.
This year, on September 13th, on the same table upon which we sealed these Accords, we signed the Declaration of Principles between Israel and the PLO.
And on September 14th, Israel and Jordan signed an agenda for negotiations towards a peace treaty.
We thank the United States for the constructive role it has played in all these achievements. And we thank the Russian Federation, Norway, and all the others whose support has helped encourage these developments.
These political breakthroughs must be accompanied by economic growth and development in order to build a stable peace. Economic and human progress are twin pillars that will support the political achievements.
On October 1st, forty-six countries and organizations came together at the International Donors’ Conference in Washington. They pledged two billion dollars over five years to finance social and economic development in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And the UN established a high level Task Force to achieve the same goal. This financial backing ensures that the agreements will stand firmly on two legs, one political and one economic.
Israel and the Palestinians are facing opposition, but we believe that those who look to the future will prevail over those who are trapped in the past. We both focus now on implementing the Declaration of Principles. Together, our coordinating committees are hammering out the details of implementation according to the agreed timetable.
We are making progress with the Palestinians and thirteen other Arab delegations in multilateral negotiations as well. There we are creating opportunities for regional cooperation.
Forty-seven countries and international organizations, including the United Nations, are participating in the multilateral talks. Five working groups are discussing refugees, arms control, regional economic cooperation, water and the environment. Alone, each country can do little about these issues. But together, we can make great progress.
For the first time, all states participating in the talks on regional economic development agreed on a plan of action. In this plan thirty-five projects, workshops and studies in diverse areas will be started.
For the first time in the multilateral negotiations, talks about the Middle East, among the countries of the Middle East, are being held in the Middle East. Egypt hosted the environment working group in mid-November, and Tunisia welcomed the group on refugees a month earlier. And in April 1994, the working group on water may convene in Oman.
For the first time, we are seeing true breakthroughs in both the bilateral and multilateral realms. But our work is not close to complete. The peace process would be greatly helped by a summit in Damascus or Jerusalem between President Assad of Syria and Prime Minister Rabin of Israel. Let us create another psychological and political breakthrough, as Egyptian President Sadat did, when he came to Jerusalem in November 1977.
Let us enjoy a quiet, secure border with Lebanon. Israel has no territorial claims in Lebanon. We look forward to a peace treaty and hope that the Lebanese government will assert its sovereignty, and disarm the terrorists who use its land as a base for attacks on Israel.
We also call upon King Hussein of Jordan to sign a peace treaty with Israel. As Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said in this hall, "We live side by side with the Jordanian Kingdom, and what is so obvious geographically must become clear politically." A treaty would be the capstone on the advancements we have already made towards peaceful relations between our countries.
We desire a comprehensive peace, based on individual treaties with the Gulf States, the North African States, and all other Arab and Moslem countries.
I want to express my regret over the expressions of violence, the many injuries and loss of human life, and over the absence of restraint and tolerance, despite the opening of new horizons before us all. I believe that the difficult situation will pass. I 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 economic and social progress.
During yesterday’s debate I said, "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."
Let us progress quickly, for threats to peace will grow with time. Nuclear proliferation and a spiralling arms race cast long shadows over the Middle East. And dangerous Moslem fanatics threaten to bring a dark age to the region.
Iranian-backed groups such as Hizballah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad have targeted the peace process and its Arab and Israeli supporters. This is part of their broad strategy to destabilize the entire region and fulfill their dreams of expansion and domination.
When we signed the Declaration of Principles with the PLO, and the world welcomed our progress with a shower of blessings and warm wishes, the fanatics responded with a hail of threats and violence.
Together with all responsible, moderate forces in the Middle East, who seek a better future, we shall fight terror with all our might and we shall pursue peace with all our resolve.
Albert Einstein once said, "The world is a dangerous place to live not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it."
It is time that the United Nations support the peacemakers by adopting an attitude that reflects the changes in the Middle East. When bitter enemies take bold steps towards reconciliation, the United Nations must give its support and encouragement.
We and the Palestinians have together chosen our road to peace. And we ask the United Nations to support this choice.
It is time to remove from the agenda resolutions that contradict the Declaration of Principles. It is time to abandon obsolete, anachronistic resolutions that don’t reflect the new realities in the Middle East. Resolutions wielded as political weapons at the height of the Arab-Israel conflict have no place in this era of negotiation and reconciliation.
In their place let us adopt resolutions that contribute to peace, and demonstrate that the United Nations will rise to the challenges and opportunities of a changing world. I am pleased that a new resolution was tabled yesterday by the United States and Russia, supporting the peace process and its achievements, and calling for international assistance, regional cooperation and a comprehensive peace.
Four Israeli soldiers remain missing in action: Tzvi Feldman, Zechariah Baumel, Yehuda Katz and Ron Arad. We call upon those countries and organizations holding them to abide by international law, display humanitarian sensitivity, and bring them home.
We also call upon our negotiating partners to lay down economic weapons and end the Arab boycott. The boycott can never be accepted, and certainly not when we are advancing peace. The boycott is an obstacle to peace that impedes prosperity and hurts all societies in the Middle East.
Arabs and Israelis should profit from economic cooperation, not suffer from economic warfare. Let us unite to create a better future a future of peace and security, economic growth and social advancement.
In this future, at least part of the seventy billion dollars we collectively waste on weapons and belligerency will be invested in human progress.
Science, education, health and technology will advance, as we divert human energies and resources away from conflict.
Economies will thrive, as peace and stability generate growth, and open opportunities for joint ventures. Consumer demand will increase as we shift funds from the military to civilian sector. The threat of war and instability will no longer scare foreign investment and tourism away. In this new era we will raise the standard of living and improve the quality of life for all.
Israelis and Arabs will prosper together, through cooperation. Indeed, with the Copenhagen Action Plan agreed to in November, we have already begun. We can integrate our infrastructure: seaports and airports, roads and railways, electricity grids and energy plants.
Cairo, Jerusalem, Amman, Beirut, Damascus all were joined by road and rail before 1948. We will renew these links, and we will create new ones. Commercial trucks will stream across borders on new highways. Tourists will flow from country to country on commercial flights and modern trains.
And in Eilat, Aqaba, Gaza, and Ashkelon we can build free trade zones that draw investment and create jobs. Israel and Jordan should jointly develop and maintain One deep water seaport and one modern airport on the tiny strip where Eilat and Aqaba meet on the Red Sea. And a new railway will become an overland bridge connecting the port in the Gulf of Eilat with ships in the Mediterranean Sea.
Open borders for tourism will bridge the gulf of understanding and create the economic interests to preserve tranquility and peace. Nature and history have endowed our region with many wondrous attractions. Pilgrims of three religions seek their spiritual roots in Hebron, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Mecca. Vacationers flock to Tel Aviv and Sharm-a-Sheikh for beautiful beaches under blue skies and balmy weather. And travellers marvel at the incredible sights of Luxor, Petra, Baalbek, and Timna.
Cooperation in tourism will generate hundreds of thousands of jobs, strengthen our economies and fortify peace.
We will reap great benefits, if we sow the seeds of peace and cooperation now. Speaking at a dinner in honor of Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the Secretary-General of the United Nations said, "Now there is a new moment in time… We have seen that negotiations can work… We have seen a small seed of trust start to take root."
We still face difficulties as we make the agreement a reality. The enemies of peace are trying to prevent our success. But we will continue striving to achieve a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. Peace is the foundation of security, regional cooperation, economic development and personal advancement.
This is our obligation to future generations to the young, to our children.
This is our obligation to ourselves, to our moral conviction.
This is our obligation to the nations and people we represent.
Let the international community represented here work in the same spirit, with the same sense of obligation and with the same dedication to this great goal.
Thank you, Mr. President.