Statement by H.E Mr. Shimon Peres
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel

at the General Debate of the 57th Session of the
United Nations General Assembly

New York, September 18, 2002

His Excellency, the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Jan Kavan
Mr. Secretary General, His Excellency Kofi Annan,
Foreign Ministers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to congratulate my friend Mr. Jan Kavan for assuming the position of the President of the General Assembly and wish him success.

I thank the Secretary General of the UN for his leadership and dedication to right the wrong and light the lamps of hope.

September 11th exposed a new world. We find ourselves facing a new confrontation: borderless, merciless. Indiscriminate and inhumane.

The target this time was the United States. A United States that in the past helped so many nations defends their freedoms and liberty. Now the U.S was challenged again to defend also our freedom by protecting her own. Safeguard our lives by securing her own. The attack on the World Trade Center precipitated a new division in our epoch, and in years to come: A divide created by groups that preach and cause death and agony.

On the wrong side of the divide are those trying to destroy the free world, which is diversified and heterogeneous. Cherishing the right of every thought and any religion. And the principle that every human being has the right to be different and yet to prosper and live in security.

The front from Bin Laden to Saddam Hussein, is a menace to us all. It won’t enable peace nor permit freedom. Neither to all people, nor to their own people.

In countries that harbor terror, women are discriminated against. Men are oppressed. Civil and human rights are violated. Poverty cannot escape its own poorness.

They force us to defend our inalienable right to look ahead with hope. They imposed on us a war of self-defense. Defense of pluralism. Defense of the promise of science. They reject the unbelievable technologies that may carry us from the limits of land to the discovery of uncharted provinces.

The culture of death forces us to defend the culture of life. To win battles that we had not initiated. To triumph in this uninvited war.

We never imagined, and will never agree, that it would be dangerous to walk our streets. Or safely fly our skies. Or eventually breathe unpoisoned air or consume uncontaminated water.

We cannot allow dark forces to possess weapons of mass destruction, aware of their whim to destroy the life of innocent people. We shall not turn our lives to sleepless nights and nightmare days.

We don’t have the right to ignore the danger. We don’t have the option to postpone its imminence.

We have to win. As soon as possible.

Terror is condemned to lose. It will be defeated because it carries no hope. It respects no human being, nor the values of humanity.

Science and technology made economy global. Science and technology globalized terror as well. Now strategy was globalized as well. Because ballistic ranges replaced geographic distances. Because non-conventional warheads replaced measurable explosives. Because terrorism transcends frontiers and fronts.

Terrorism does not respect the rule of law. They do not answer to independent judges nor relate to elected leaders. They mock international lines. They destroy universal norms. They shed blood. They introduced dullness and stop affluence. Nothing is to be expected from them but death.

Terror creates poverty more than poverty creates terror. Terror leads to backwardness.

We have to offer the economic potential, to open prospects and horizons for all – for all nations, poor and rich. New opportunities can bring enfranchisement.

We have to close ranks, to prevent distorted dreams becoming a raging typhoon covering all four corners of the globe.

We experienced in our country the effects of terrible terrorism. Babies were shot in the arms of their mothers. Prayers were killed while praying. Yes, it hurt us, but it didn’t change our goals.

We mourn, but we didn’t bury peace.

It harmed the Palestinians in the United States, in other countries. It prevented the end of occupation. It introduced additional problems, yet it didn’t solve a single problem.

Alas, the Middle East is still replete with national, religious and territorial disputes.

The land is small. The agony is great. But the real tragedy is that without terror we could have already resolved them. Terror entrenched them.

Terror changed priorities – security before policy. It affected resources. Arming young men, for example, instead of desalinating vital water. If continued, battlefields will create deserts of sorrow, days of darkness. Campuses of learning will be replaced by camps of violence.

This is neither a decree of heaven nor the verdict of man. It can, it should, it will be different.

South Africa, Ireland, Yugoslavia and the Congo achieved by talking more than by shooting. By dialogue more than by dispute.

We offered the Palestinians a comprehensive solution without the terror. A solution that was close to their national aspirations. We related to their desire to be free, to be equal, independent. We agreed that they would have their land in accordance with United Nations resolutions. Terror postponed their destiny. Terror postponed our willingness to end control over their lives. Smoking guns replaced the torches of peace.

Now we are following the profound debate taking place in the Palestinian midst. We respect it. Debate is the beginning of democracy. When democracy will prevail, peace will arrive undoubtedly.

Fatah apparently signed a call that contains some new approaches. I will quote one of them

"We will build an independent State of Palestine and a political system in accordance with the principles of democracy, the rule of law, with an independent judicial system, separation of powers, respect for human rights, civil liberties and a market economy. "

We look upon these words as a first dawn of a different season. We hope it is spring. Reducing violence will shorten political distances. Political horizons are, in my judgment, within reach.

Israel accepts President Bush’s vision. This vision is supported by the "Quartet". It is endorsed by Arab countries. It outlines a political goal and a timetable. It can be considered as a road map and a calendar as well.

What is needed now are wheels to ignite and propel the vehicle of peace.

An economic wheel that leads to a global market economy. That leads to science-based industry. Market economy can open gates and skies.

An ecological wheel: To let air and water flow cleanly. Pollution is not national. We have to work together to control it.

Ecology changed history. In the past, bloodshed was about real estate. Real estate created division and demarcation, and unfortunately wars as well.

In our era, the battle is for non-real estate: for air, for water, for energy, for the land’s fertility more than for its size. Non-real estate is neither marked nor can it be divided. Either we respect it unanimously, or we shall be victimized by its loss.

Then the cultural wheel. Three civilizations were born in the Middle East. They were manifested in the Bible, in the New Testament, in the Koran. We read them in different languages, yet we pray to the same heavens.

The descendants of Abraham should behave family-like with tolerance, with solidarity. Spiritual leaders should pray peace, but they also need to preach it, to call upon it, to contribute to it.

The political wheel should not rotate in the same misguided past orbits. In five decades, we went through five wars. Palestinians, Egyptians, Jordanians lost their young generations. Three terror campaigns. Time has come to comprehend that the real triumph is in the harvest of peace and not in the seeds of another war. When we shall replace the war maps with peace maps, we shall discover that the differences were minimal. The wars were appalling. We shall then see that the Promised Land could have become, already a long time ago, the land of promise.

Without wars our region can bloom again.

We can separate politically into two states and coordinate one economy. It will enable us to take advantage of the exceptional invitation, that came both from the United States and united Europe, to partake in their economic opportunities.

Tourism can flourish at the end of terrorism. Islands of high-tech excellence can be established. Millions of trees can be planted to produce a new climate. We can green our arid lands.

We can become contributors, not dependents.

The call of the future cannot be harmonized with the voices of the past. Only new solutions can evince a grandeur, equal to the past.

We don’t have the right to suspend it in the face of our children. Young Israelis, young Palestinians, are entitled to a new life, a life of their own.

While fighting terror, let’s not fight people.
While seeking freedom, let’s not extend subjugation.

Mr. President,

Permit me to direct a sentence to Syria. The same basis that enabled them and us to participate in the Madrid conference a decade ago, is still valid.

And a word to Lebanon.

Israel is committed to the territorial integrity of Lebanon. Israel respects her need for real political independence. Lebanon should not permit Hizbullah to destroy its own country. Hizbullah is not a party, it is a dangerous agenda.

Lebanon should immediately free Israeli prisoners and prisoners of war.

The people of the Middle East should let bygones be bygones. Let’s return to our tradition, where prophets, not terrorists, told the future. Let’s return to our landscape, where the blue skies did not surrender to the heavy clouds of despair. To a time when justice promised equal opportunities for individuals, for nations.

Let’s join together in the march of mankind toward new discoveries. They will make life more purposeful. They may bring security to posterity.

We were born in the cradles of hope, not in the tombs of despair. We guard our spiritual heritage, and it is not contradictory to build a new Middle East. The world is new.

Mr. President,

Permit me to conclude my remarks with an old verse from our scriptures:

"The Lord led Adam through the Garden of Eden and said to him: ‘All I created – I created for you. Beware lest you spoil and destroy my world, for if you spoil it, there is no one to repair it after you.’"

We are here to repair.

Thank you.