Rosh Hashana Greeting from
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom to the Diplomatic Corps in Israel

President’s Rosh Hashana Reception for the Diplomatic Corps
Jerusalem, 13 September 2004

According to the Jewish tradition, Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is a time when God determines the fate of each and every individual for the coming year. These are days of reflection, prayer and repentance for our entire people.

Rosh Hashana also coincides, usually, with the annual opening of the UN General Assembly, which also serves as time of reflection and renewal of purpose, for the international community as a whole.

In this spirit allow me to list what I see as the key issues on our collective agenda:

Firstly – the war on terror.

This is the key challenge of our age. Just in the past year, terrorists have blown airliners out of the sky, taken hostage and destroyed an entire school, bombed commuter trains, buses, synagogues and banks. Hundreds of lives lost. Thousands more devastated.

But it is not only the raw human cost that we all pay for this ongoing campaign. Terrorism strikes also – intentionally – at our ability to reconcile differences, negotiate accords and rebuild war-torn societies. This is a global phenomenon and it requires global solutions.

Beyond the many operational successes in preventing attacks around the world in the last year, the international community has also made considerable progress in the diplomatic war on terror.

• Hamas and Hizbullah have been added to some countries’ terrorist lists
• The issue of anti-Semitism and incitement is being addressed more seriously than before
• Syria’s support for terror and its occupation of Lebanon have been challenged by the Security Council
• International efforts to block Iran’s nuclear program have also intensified

But more still needs to be done.

• Cooperation in the field of law enforcement against terrorist organizations must become universal
• States like Iran and Syria, who aid and assist the terrorists, must be held to account for their crimes
• Incitement on the internet and in the media must be curtailed

In short, we must work even harder to build a united and effective international coalition against the terrorists and the murderers of children.

The second key issue on our agenda is the battle for peace.

On this issue, sadly, the record of the past year is not as positive as we would like.

On the Palestinian front, the Palestinian Authority has proven unwilling to fulfill its part of the Roadmap deal. Instead of a year of anti-terrorist action and renewed dialogue with Israel, we have suffered yet another year of inaction and evasion of responsibility by the Palestinian Authority, which has forced the Prime Minister to promote his own initiative to break the deadlock. Even this week, Palestinian leaders refused to sit down with Israel and the international donor community to promote ways to assist the Palestinian economy.

Such terrible leadership is a betrayal of the Palestinian people and of the good intentions of the entire international community. New leadership is desperately needed. We are seeing on the ground in Gaza and Ramallah the burning desire to see it come. Sadly, while Yasser Arafat remains in power and while he continues – despite his direct involvement in terrorism – to enjoy international legitimacy, such change is unlikely.

On the Syrian front we have also seen no positive movement. President Assad has made some comments suggesting his interest in peace, but his actions on the ground in support of terror tell a very different story. Syria under Assad continues to occupy Lebanon and to actively support terror against Israel’s citizens and to undermine the efforts to promote peace in our region.

Indeed, determination to combat terror is a central component of the diplomatic battle for peace. No peace initiative can survive if terrorists continue to enjoy a free hand to undermine it.
The Roadmap recognizes this, calling in Phase One for Palestinian reform and sustained action against terror.

At this time of reflection, we look to the international community to work with us and to redouble its efforts to bring the Palestinian campaign of terror to an end, and to promote genuine progress towards peace.

Dear Ambassadors,

The Zionist vision of Israel’s founders was to bring into the world a state in our ancient homeland to serve as a refuge for our people from persecution. Our founders also made a promise – not just to the people of Israel, but to the people of the Middle East as a whole – to pursue peace and to work for the common advancement of our region.

I am proud, on the eve of Rosh Hashana, once again to reaffirm the commitment of my country to these goals.

I also wish to pay my respects to you, the diplomatic corps in Israel. You and your families live amongst us, and share with us not only the joys of our wonderful country, but also the pressures of our existence, under the constant shadow of Palestinian terror. Your efforts to convey the reality of life here in Israel are crucial to the international understanding and support for our country.

As we usher in the New Year, may we see progress towards greater cooperation and dialogue between us, may we see real improvements in our personal and national security, and may our prayers – and the prayers of all peoples – for peace and for life, be answered.

Shana Tova!