REMARKS BY FOREIGN MINISTER SHIMON PERES AT THE SIGNING CEREMONY OF THE GAZA-JERICHO ACCORD

CAIRO, MAY 4, 1994

Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

The reason for the conflict in the Middle East was the unhappy encounter between the Jewish and Arab renaissance at the same time, in the same place. Thus, for almost half a century, we experienced blood and hatred, terror and war. Today we declare that the conflict is over. Today we have agreed to promise mothers and children, Arab and Jewish, that no finger will pull a trigger to endanger the lives or to affect the dignity or happiness of their children.

Less than a year has passed since the night in Oslo, where Israelis and Palestinians gathered secretly to initial a dramatic turning point in the history of their people. What seemed in the eyes of many to be utopian, becomes today a reality. I recall the strenuous days and endless nights needed to cross the valleys of misery and suffering. And again, we did it. We referred to a dual commitment the moral history of our nation and the need of the people in the region. Our position stems from a moral call: govern yourself; don’t rule others.

So the agreement today is not a submission to the threat of weapons. It is in reality a return to the values of our heritage. We do not want to be the governor, the judges, or the police of the Palestinian people. It is for the Palestinians to elect their leaders, nominate their judges, appoint their policemen. All we wish is to become their friendly neighbors. All we hope is to see them as our good neighbors. Today we welcome you, the Palestinian people, as neighbors.

We must look ahead. We state earnestly to the Arab people that you and we need a Middle East, a geography of peace, a territory of prosperity, a community based on market economy, responsible diplomacy and a land that will regain its fertility.

We assure you that we shall not stop here that we shall reach peace with Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and make it comprehensive and durable. We shall continue to negotiate with the Palestinians for a permanent solution. Relations are more telling than borders. We are mapping today our relations, so that we shall be able to map borders in the future.

With the exception of war, the greatest menace is poverty. Nobody should pay for folly and belligerence. We can put to the right use our available resources the water we possess, the land we own, the knowledge we acquire for the benefit of our people. A Middle East for the people and by the people. The story of modern society is not of national separation, but of economic cooperation. No nation can dominate, and yet every nation must compete and ably so. We know already that computers are mightier than guns. We know that the new opportunities reside in the campuses of the scientists, rather than in the camps of the army.

Ladies and gentlemen, the future is inevitable, just as peace is a inevitable and for all of us. A year ago, a meeting like that of today would have been perceived as unreal. Yet today, it is reality. Alongside the magic river that held the cradle of Moses, at the foot of the pyramids that withstood the test of time, to see such a distinguished and unique gathering, like you and us here today, carries a new promise. The President of Egypt, the Foreign Ministers of the co-sponsors the United States and the Russian Republic as well as the Foreign Minister of Norway, respected delegates of Arab countries and Europe, sponsors and donors from all continents we thank you for a fresh beginning, for a new image and a new era for the people of our region.

Much work still lies before us. Many are the enemies, and many are the obstacles on the road of peace. Yet, if we do all we must, we can make this concrete beginning into a brilliant future. Then, looking upon the horizon, we shall know that the reddish lining is not of blood, but of a rising dawn.

In the words of the prophet Isaiah:

In place of of brass, I will bring gold. In place of iron, I will bring silver. Violence shall no more be heard in your land. No desolation, no destruction within your borders. (Isaiah 60:17-18).

Long live peace for all of us.