ADDRESS BY H.E. MR. SHIMON PERES
MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
TO THE 49TH SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

SEPTEMBER 29, 1994

Mr. President,

I would like to congratulate you on your election to the Presidency of the General Assembly. We are pleased that the representative of Cote d’Ivoire – a nation for which Israel has high regard – was elected to this distinguished post. I would like to express to the Secretary General our deepest appreciation for his contribution to world peace in general, and the Middle East in particular.

A year ago, I offered a concept for a new Middle East. Many applauded, more remained skeptical. What seemed then lofty, is today a reality. I feel I can submit today an invitation to a further journey in a new Middle East.

Last year was a year of remarkable events. The Palestinian people, as a result of our agreement, gained authority in Gaza and Jericho; Jordan and Israel, in the Washington Declaration, agreed to end the state of war and move towards an agreement of full peace; voices of promise are exchanged between Damascus and Jerusalem; multilateral meetings produced a network of regional cooperation; Morocco and Israel established formal relations; and an agenda for a new Middle East will emerge from an unprecedented economic conference in Casablanca next month.

The desire for peace is rooted in the millenia of Jewish existence. Generations prayed for it, a young generation in Israel is today engaged in it. The search for peace is shared by young people all over the Middle East, Arabs and Israelis alike. We have to meet their hope.

I address this Assembly, for the first time, not as a party to a controversy, but as a representative of a country that has shown a capacity to solve conflicts that seemed insoluble.

The U.N. should play a role facing the changing time. It can define new destinies and adopt new means.

As the United Nations celebrates its 50th anniversary, it may adopt models for new endeavors by mobilizing builders to construct peace, not just be deploying troops to keep it. Economic structures will offer more than military deployment.

Gaza, as an example, has a new authority. It needs a new economy. The United Nations can provide an answer. The 7,000 years of Gaza are mainly a history of suffering. Its density today is among the highest in the world.

The role of the United Nations in Gaza started by stationing troops that were recalled, unfortunately, on the eve of the Six Day War. Then, UNRWA supplied food, health and education to the refugees. The UNDP contributed to the construction of an infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.

The United Nations can help Gaza today depart from want. It can introduce there the necessary economic and proper social institutions. An enlarged allocation for Gaza, with the existing UN administration, will produce immediate results and may make Gaza a new model of the United Nation’s endeavors.

The world is moving from military might to social priorities. It is time to turn from political confrontation to economic cooperation. In the Middle East, economic growth can compensate for political compromises.

We no longer live in a closed world. The intensive flow of information opened the eyes of the people. No longer can tyranny blind their perceptions. Iron curtains cannot arrest any more the spread of the true story. Knowledge finally overcame propaganda.

This current is profound and permanent. The sources of strength and wealth are today universal rather than national, intellectual rather than material. The size of territory, the number of people, the wealth of raw materials, no longer decide the fate of a nation. The scope of education, the niveau of science, the applied technology, the up-to-date information make all the difference.

Intellectual sources are not partitioned by traditional divides. Science has no territorial limits. Technology has no national flags. Information can travel without visas. Armies cannot conquer wisdom. Borders cannot protect knowledge. The talent of creation is replacing the strategies of destruction. Computers, not rifles, mark the difference. The hunting season in history is disappearing.

It does not mean an end to agonies. Starvation, maladies, terrorism, desertification, nuclear weapons, ecological damage, dangerous drugs, overflow boundaries of land and reason.

Violence employs new tactics, it has not disappeared. Confrontations in the future may not be wars of conquest, but bloodshed of protest. The strong know that they will not be strengthened by dominating the poor, or by owning the deserts. The poor cannot, and will not, comply with their conditions, tolerated by the difference of the well off.

Existing institutions were initiated in different times. They are based on memories. Ministries of foreign affairs and defense were structured to confront enemies. Now we face dangers more than enemies, yet without our being organized to handle them. Diplomacy and strategy should be mobilized to face the undefined dangers. Maladies will not be overcome by the traditional diplomatic demarches. Starvation cannot be eliminated by guns. Deserts will not bloom by air raids. Remedies will not arrive automatically. They should be invented and introduced.

Israel is on the side of this current. We are committed to end the conflicts. We are determined to uproot their causes. We do not intend to stop this momentum or allow its interruption. For the last five decades, the mere existence of Israel served as a temptation to try and destroy her. For half a century, we had to give security top priority. To this very day, we shed tears on the tombs of our children, who paid with their youthful lives to overcome menace. When wars became futile, suspicion succeeded fighting. The allegation was that Israel is trying to expand territorially, and is unwilling to compromise geographically. But reality ended this allegation.

Egypt, first to negotiate peace, found an Israel willing to exchange land for peace. The Palestinians, next in line, gained jurisdiction over territory they never controlled before. With Jordan, we agreed to delineate a permanent border without one side encroaching on the land of the other. Syria was told at the outset of negotiations that the nature of peace will affect the depth of withdrawal. Lebanon was told that Israel has no demands on her territory and no intention to compromise her integrity.

Negotiations have not been easy. With the Palestinians, we negotiated on uncharted grounds. Never had they experienced self-rule. Today they possess a territorial address, an administrative authority. For the first time in their history, their children’s education is solely Palestinian.

Israel will hand over, in coming days, additional responsibilities to the hands of the Palestinian Authority. The Declaration of Principles will be fully implemented in spirit and letter. We shall fully support a Palestinian readiness to hold democratic elections.

Israel, as well as the Palestinians, may discover that Palestinian democracy and Israeli security are complementary. We have demonstrated that we are true to our moral choice not to govern the destiny of another people.

We shall continue to negotiate with Syria. We are negotiating out of conviction, not weakness, and we hope to conclude the negotiations with a settlement that will respect the interests of both sides, without harming Syria’s dignity, or compromising Israel’s security.

Syria insists on a narrow path for the negotiations, postponing meetings of the leaders, thus slowing the pace of negotiations. Israel is ready to accelerate it. We address the Syrians by saying: Let us talks face to face. Let’s negotiate, as proclaimed in Damascus, with courage to attain peace with honor. Eroding suspicion, introducing creativity and allowing flexibility, we can transform a promising climate into a solid terrain. Syria declared its strategy of peace. We appreciate it.

Military threats and territorial positions should be transformed by security arrangements, diplomatic rapport, full peace, and economic endeavors. It will erode the motivation of conflict. Without peaceful relations, balances of power are meaningless. The range of understanding can serve as the only answer to the danger of ballistic missiles.

President Clinton, Secretary Christopher, are relentlessly pushing for peace. European, Russia and many other leaders are genuinely supportive. Important Middle Eastern leaders are actively engaged in the same direction. Still, much depends on direct negotiations. Yesterday’s enemies, tomorrow’s partners, should become today’s interlocutors.

A peace treaty between Israel and Syria may produce an historic result greater than just an agreement between two countries. It may well become the crowning of a comprehensive peace. It may become an opportunity for the leaders of the region – kings, presidents, prime ministers – supported by the prominent leaders of our time, to gather and announce the end of the conflict, to proclaim full peace in the totality of the region.

Peace can hardly emerge from stinginess. By definition, it calls for generosity.

Peace is more than a ceremony. It requires ongoing maintenance. It awaits a passionate cultivation of new relations. We hope that our neighbors, from Saudi Arabia to Lebanon, from Djibouti to Algeria, will become constructive partners. Dark clouds are still hanging over the horizon – shadows of missed opportunities.

We have to build a coalition to prevent subversive turbulence from undermining legitimate governments, from harassing the stability needed for the inflow of investment. All countries of the Middle East face a choice – to remain politically divided and economically stagnant, or to become economically advanced and politically just.

A high standard of living for all the people is the best promise for the stability in our midst. Israel is willing to participate in achieving it. There are skeptics who do not believe that the Middle East is ripe for a common market, similar to the European one. They forget that Europe did not do it in one leap. It started with a community of coal and steel. We can start with a community of water and tourism.

Nor do they believe the Middle East is ready for a free trade zone, like the one in North America. Yet NAFTA, in a short while, emerged as a success, linking geographic proximity with economic growth.

They claim that generations are needed to cement a new market. The skeptics can see that in ten short years, Asian countries attained unpredicted prosperity. They achieved it by adopting market economy.

The profile of market economy is clear. It is made of comprehensive education, open borders, free movement, science-based industries, competitive trade. Market economy is a fabric woven from political silk and durable threads of welfare. The time is ripe for its rendezvous with the Middle East.

At the end of October, under the presidency of King Hassan II, we shall take the first step to implement a regional design. We shall try to establish instruments for development – a regional bank, channels for private investment, a framework for regional planning.

The wealth of the Middle East should be convinced to remain at home. Over the last decade, it has invested the better part of its fortune abroad. Homebound wealth will attract foreign investment as well.

We should cut the enormous expense, 70 billion dollars annually, of the arms race. The saving can be directed to development. The arms race can be reduced by regional consent. No single country will do it alone.

To transform the region and make it stable and attractive, we need the emergence of the region as a whole, committed to a new future. Nature, not only politics, calls for it.

The waters, the winds, the environment, call for responsibility responsibility and cooperation: desalinization plants, energy stations, highways, railways, runways, piers, telecommunication networks, high-tech industries, tourism infrastructure, banking systems, computer terminals and ecological considerations. A landscape that will meet the future – a state of prosperity is a regional challenge.

The Middle East was the cradle of civilization, and has a capacity to contribute. It experienced the golden ages economically and culturally. It should be our collective ambition to make it happen again, and make is happen soon. Shortages can be bridged today rapidly. Computers can carry children not only from grade to grade, but from age to age. The software of knowledge will better replace the hardware of weapons.

Mr. President,

I have served my country since its birth. I learned that complex problems call for unconventional solutions.

I feel that over the last year, we won a license to build a new Middle East, to make it part of the globe in its new age – free of wars, free of enemies, free of terrorism. A Middle East which will be nuclear-free, missile-free, hunger-free, discrimination-free, tyranny-free. A constituency of peace, a domain of freedom, a land of prosperity.

There is morning awaiting us after a long night, calling to direct our energies and aim our prayers for that great opportunity.

Thank you, Mr. President.