Address by Ambassador Yoav Biran, Director General of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
to the OSCE Ministerial Council

Maastricht, December 1, 2003

Chairman in Office, Your Excellencies Ministers, Distinguished Delegates,

I would like first to congratulate the Government of Netherlands for its superb organization of this important international event and for the warm hospitality. I would also like to commend the leadership you provided the organization during the course of your presidency. We wish the best of luck and success to Minister De Hoop Scheffer as he embarks on his new challenging mission.

Let me wish the best of success to the Government of Bulgaria, the new chairman of the OSCE for 2004 and thank them for the effective leadership of the Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation.

We look forward to continue working in the same spirit of cooperation with the Government of Slovenia, the incoming chairman of the Mediterranean Partners.

Distinguished Delegates,

Our meeting here is dedicated to the formulation of a strategy on threats to security and stability. Israel supports your work on addressing these challenges. Unfortunately, we in Israel are all too familiar with them.

The global security environment has undergone significant and alarming changes in the last decades. Terrorism is now one of the most important causes of instability and will remain a key challenge to international peace and stability. It is a plague of an international dimension, knowing no boundaries and attacking all humanity, without "discriminating" by creed, race or color. Terror aims at the heart of the ideals of the OSCE – the values of peace, sovereign equality and human rights and the commitment to solve disputes through peaceful means. To face this challenge, we must align in a unified global coalition. This should be based on a zero tolerance toward terrorism in all its forms as well as the eradication of any safe havens or support systems for terror activities.

The weakest link so far in developing this global approach are regimes which are able but unwilling to take the necessary actions to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure and put an end to its activities. The OSCE must condemn this kind of behavior and send a clear message that it will not be tolerated.

An additional emphasis should be put on education. The spread of global terrorism can be directly linked with incitement to hatred and violence at the local, national and international levels. In this context, diplomatic-political verbal warfare against Israel in U.N. organs and in international fora encourages hatred and hostility rather than accommodation and peace.

Israel supports efforts within the OSCE to encourage stricter regimes for the protection of air transport, including in the field of biometry. In this field, we also are actively engaged with the ICAO to establish norms to protect civilian air traffic and encourage the OSCE to adapt these measures as well.

Honored Delegates,

We remain greatly concerned with the resurgence of anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe. For the past three years we have witnessed a wave of anti-Semitic incidents on the European continent. These incidents have taken many forms; attacks on synagogues, schools and cemeteries, physical assaults on Jewish people in the streets of European cities, anti-Jewish expressions and invective used in public fora and in the press. It is deeply disturbing that mass media is exploited to further anti-Semitic rhetoric, mainly but not only in the Arab world.

This past November matters took a more ominous turn when a Jewish school was burned in Western Europe and when anti-Semitism and international terrorism were combined in the attacking of two synagogues in Istanbul and a few days later the British Consulate and a bank in the same city.

We commend the OSCE for holding its first conference on anti-Semitism this past June, and trust that this Ministerial Meeting will endorse the recommendation of ODIHR to hold a second conference in Berlin in 2004. The current situation requires both foresight and concrete actions; we trust that the Berlin conference will fulfill these mandates.

We should like to take this opportunity to express our high appreciation for the principled stand taken by many European leaders against anti-Semitism and call upon all political leaders in Europe and in OSCE member countries and their Partners, to join in condemning this abhorrent phenomenon.

We fully support the OSCE efforts at combating all forms of racism, discrimination and xenophobia. Everything must be done to eradicate these phenomena.

Dear Colleagues,

Ever since its establishment, the OSCE has been instrumental in the spreading of democracy and human rights throughout Europe and beyond. The Helsinki Decalogue enshrines these principles. Israel, as a thriving democracy with an unequivocal commitment to freedom of religion and human rights shares these ideas and continues to be your enthusiastic partner.

And yet our democracy is under attack. The scourge of terrorism has tested our values and we use every tool to maintain these norms even in the face of such brutal violence. In this battle we never lose sight of our final goal – Peace. We will do all in our power to create a secure and flourishing Middle East, a peaceful region of good neighbors.

No nation in the Middle East wants peace more than Israel. No nation has been suffering more than Israel from repeated wars of aggression against it, aimed at terminating its existence as a sovereign state and faced for so long with ongoing inhuman acts of terror and suicide bombings.

Israel wants peace and is ready to make painful compromises in achieving peace. Israel is anxious to put the Road Map back on its track once the Palestinians fulfill their obligation under the Road Map by stopping terror and incitement, dismantling the infrastructure of terrorist organizations and reform the security organization, forming one unified force accountable to a responsible government.

The OSCE can play an instrumental role in an attempt to reach this goal. This can be done through the forum that has been created in 1994 with the formation of the Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation. This forum can be used for building bridges, for creating links and enhancing cooperation. We support the proposal to further enhance the cooperation with the Mediterranean Partners.

Israel also welcomes the cooperation with the OSCE in the economic field. We attach great importance to the economic forum as an additional tool that will enable more stability and cooperation. In this context, we support coordinated and concerted efforts to combat all forms of trafficking: guns, drugs and persons.

In the spirit of our support of OSCE goals and norms we have participated in various activities including:

  • Participation of the Knesset members in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly alongside their Arab colleagues
  • Participation of diplomats and experts in the Mediterranean Seminar in Aqaba.
  • Participation of our representatives at the OSCE forums including the ODIHR annual conference and the Economic Summit in Prague.
  • Participation of Israeli observers at the recent elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia.

We look forward to continue to contribute to the work of the OSCE in Eastern European and Central Asian regions. Israel is ready to share its expertise in various fields such as education, economic and social development, science and many others. Our International Cooperation department at the Foreign Ministry is ready for any joint projects with the OSCE. Our Ambassador to OSCE will be in contact with the secretariat to examine the possibilities of cooperation on these issues.

We look forward to continue working with OSCE in order to pursue our mutual goals towards achieving a safer more peaceful environment in the 21st century.

Thank you.