Yesterday, the people of Israel went to the polls. Israeli democracy continues to flourish. We long for the day when the scenes of real elections built on the foundations of real democracy spread to all corners of a safe, stable, and secure Middle East.
Thank you, Mr. President.
As we begin a new year, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the five new members of the Security Council. I wish each of you the best of luck in navigating the sometimes stormy waters of this Chamber.
Yesterday, the people of Israel went to the polls. Millions of men and women cast their ballots. Israeli democracy continues to flourish.
Elections are just one component of Israel’s vibrant democracy. Our government guarantees the protection of minorities, women, and gays. Our courts ensure that everyone is accountable under the law. Our educational system teaches tolerance and peace, not violence and hate.
We long for the day when the scenes of real elections built on the foundations of real democracy spread to all corners of a safe, stable, and secure Middle East. Such a day would mark a great turning point in the history of our region.
My question to this chamber is … how long must we wait?
Today we see a far bleaker picture in much of the Middle East. Repression, instability, and horrific violence continue to plague the region.
More than 60,000 have been killed in Syria in just the past two years. Assad’s victims include hundreds of Palestinians. Since we have heard so much about the Palestinian cause this morning, let me take the opportunity to remind this Council that Assad has used fighter jets to bomb the refugee camps where Palestinians live in Syria – and they are fleeing the country by the thousands.
In Lebanon, more than a million live under the brutal oppression of Hezbollah, which has transformed the entire south of the country into an Iranian terror base.
The world’s most dangerous weapons are moving within reach of our region’s most dangerous actors. We face the frightening possibility that Assad’s vast stockpiles of chemical weapons could fall into the hands of Hezbollah or Al Qaeda. The Ayatollah regime in Iran threatens to combine its extremist ideology and advanced missile technology with nuclear weapons. The lives of millions hang in the balance.
These are just a few of the great challenges that hang over the Middle East. Once again, none of them were prioritized for discussion this morning. Instead, the Security Council continues to use its monthly Middle East debate to single out, scrutinize, and criticize Israel – an island of democracy in the world’s greatest hotbed of tyranny.
I have a novel idea. Perhaps this discussion could occasionally spend some time examining why the situation in the Middle East remains unstable, undemocratic, and violent. I’ll give you a hint: it has nothing to do with Israel.
There are many threats to security in our region. But the presence of Jewish homes in Jerusalem – the eternal capital of the Jewish people – has never been one of them. Jews have been building homes in Jerusalem since the time of King David 3,000 years ago. Jewish communities witnessed the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. They lived in Jerusalem through crusades and pogroms.
Some here say that the preliminary building plans announced last month prevent a two-state solution, even though it’s clear that all of these neighborhoods will remain part of Israel in any final peace agreement. I can’t understand how people conclude that a Palestinian state cannot exist if there is contiguity between Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem, which are 7 kilometers apart. Those who make this claim are the same people who stand up and speak about a contiguous state between Gaza and the West Bank, areas divided by more than 70 kilometers. Connecting Gaza and the West Bank would cut Israel in two. Yet, Israeli contiguity never seems to be a concern for some in this hall.
The briefing that we heard this morning was particularly selective in the facts it chose to present.
For instance, it does not take an NYPD detective – or Sherlock Holmes – to see that the fingerprints of senior PA officials were all over the recent provocations staged in the area known as "E-1". Conveniently, the involvement of these Palestinian leaders in these activities was miraculously omitted from the briefing this morning.
Since selective perception is one the great hallmarks of this debate, I’d like to take a moment to set straight a few facts about the past two months.
Last November, President Abbas stood in these halls and submitted a unilateral resolution in the General Assembly. He claimed that it was an act of peace. He insisted that it was "the last chance to save the two-state solution." The Palestinian delegation promised that they would immediately return to the negotiating table after the vote, without preconditions.
I know that some in this hall voted for this resolution on that basis. Today, those nations who supported Abbas’s bid have a duty to ask themselves: what, exactly, did we vote for?
Well, suffice it to say that the Palestinians have not lifted one finger to restart negotiations. We have seen not a single gesture, not a single statement, not a single indication that they want to return to negotiations. Just ten days after President Abbas spoke to the entire world about his commitment to a two-state-solution, his political party – the Fatah – released a new logo that completely erased Israel from the map.
Make no mistake. The major obstacle to the two-state solution is the Palestinian leadership’s refusal to speak to their own people about the true parameters of a two-state solution; to speak a lexicon of peace, not a litany of war. You will never hear President Abbas or any other Palestinian leader say the phrase "two states for two peoples." You won’t hear them say it because they call for an independent Palestinian state, but want millions of their people to flood the Jewish state. This would mean the destruction of Israel. Let me be clear: this is not a solution of peace. And no one who truly believes in peace could ever accept it.
Some in this hall say that the Palestinians know they will have to give up the "claim of return" at the negotiating table. Some Palestinian leaders might even whisper it quietly behind closed doors. But they have never, ever said it publicly. And the Palestinian people have no idea that they will one day have to give up the "claim of return".
Since the Palestinian leadership refuses to tell the Palestinian people the truth, the international community has the responsibility to tell them the truth. Those truly interested in peace will begin by speaking out forcefully, publicly, and unequivocally against this claim. We cannot abide by the voices of the selectively principled.
Last December, a few days after President Abbas appeared at the UN, we heard a very public statement from Khaled Mashal, the Political Chief of Hamas. At a rally for hundreds of thousands in Gaza, he called for Israel’s complete and total destruction. He said, and I quote, "Palestine is ours, from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on an inch of the land."
You would think that this call for Israel’s destruction might merit a joint statement of concern from some prominent – and permanent – members of this Council.
I was told that some of these prominent and permanent members said something about this casual call for Israel’s destruction. Israel is known for its amazing listening devices. These members must have whispered something so quietly that even our most sensitive equipment was not able to pick it up.
Apparently Mashaal’s speech was not of any concern to President Abbas. Instead of seeking peace with Israel through negotiations, he has devoted all his energy to seeking unity with Hamas.
Hamas is the same terrorist organization that fired thousands of rockets into the heart of Israeli cities last November. This is the same terrorist organization that commits a double-war crime as a matter of policy, using Palestinian schools to fire rockets at Israeli schools. The Hamas charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the genocide of Jews. It has turned Gaza into a destination of choice – a Club Med – for global jihadists.
Some in this hall have the audacity to suggest that Israel should also welcome Hamas with open arms. I ask: would you say the same if Islamic militants were firing rockets into your backyard? Would you say the same to France, which is now working with the Government of Mali to fight Al-Qaeda in the Sahel?
France’s Foreign Minister said this month that his country was fighting to prevent the creation of an Islamist terrorist enclave "at the doorstep of France and Europe". If Mali is on France’s doorstep, Gaza is in Israel’s living room. France’s principled stand should be commended. We only ask that France and all the countries who are supporting its principled stand today support Israel tomorrow when we fight Islamic terrorism on our borders.
The Palestinian delegate speaks in these halls as if he represents a Jeffersonian democracy. Yet, no amount of rhetoric, spin, or bluster can change one simple fact: the Palestinians clearly fail to meet the most basic criteria for statehood. The only Palestinian state in these halls is the Palestinian state of denial.
Last month’s resolution did not confer Palestinian statehood. It did not constitute recognition of a Palestinian state. Many member states made that clear on November 29th – and in the days that followed.
Israel has placed its view on record in connection with the adoption of GA resolution 67/19. This position remains unchanged.
The recent resolution does not entitle the Palestinians to participate in UN meetings and international conferences, join treaties, or seek membership in international organizations as a state. The change in terminology and titles risks creating a false impression of Palestinian statehood when no such state exists. This is clearly not mandated by resolution 67/19.
In the real world, statehood comes with control of territory. Yet, this resolution did not change the fact that the Palestinian Authority has no control over Gaza. That is 40 percent of the territory that President Abbas claims to represent! Any efforts to alter the Palestinians’ status, outside the agreed negotiating framework, directly violate the agreements between the parties. These agreements include specific limitations on Palestinian capacity in the sphere of foreign relations. They contain express obligations to resolve all outstanding issues through negotiations – and to refrain from any step that seeks to alter the legal status of the West Bank and Gaza pending the outcome of negotiations.
Acting to facilitate violations of these agreements undermines the credibility of this organization, which has repeatedly – repeatedly – affirmed that a Palestinian state can only emerge as a result of bilateral negotiations. Moreover, resolution 67/19 cannot serve as an acceptable terms of reference for future negotiations. The resolution not only contradicts agreed terms of reference, it seeks to predetermine some issues explicitly reserved for negotiation, while ignoring others – such as security and the end of claims – which are core components of any future agreement.
The campaign that the Palestinian leadership has waged at the UN is a false idol for the Palestinian people. There is only one route to statehood. It does not travel through this chamber in New York. It runs through direct negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah.
There are no shortcuts. No quick fixes. No instant solutions. Peace must be negotiated, it cannot be imposed.
Exactly 67 years ago this week – on January 17, 1946 – the Security Council held its very first meeting at Westminster in London. On that day, the Security Council clearly defined its mission: to advance global peace and security, to oppose tyranny, and to safeguard the rights of all peoples.
It would be a true understatement to say that this monthly debate on the Middle East falls far short of that standard. Most of the millions in our region who live under oppression, fear, and violence are completely ignored in this debate. They are cast aside to make way for a litany of half-truths, myths, and outright lies about Israel.
Repeating a lie does not make it true. Repeating a constant flood of falsehoods does not – and cannot – change the facts. And the simple fact remains that …
Israel is not what’s wrong in the Middle East. Israel is what’s right in the Middle East.
Make no mistake. Cynical politics do no favors for the Arab world. The silence of this Council in the face of terror does no favors for those seeking a brighter future.
It’s time to do some soul-searching in this chamber. This Council needs a GPS system to find its moral center in this debate on the Middle East.
Just weeks after this Council’s founding, Winston Churchill outlined the challenge facing us today. He said the following about the newly formed United Nations, (and I quote): "We must make sure that its work is fruitful, that it is a reality and not a sham … that it is a true temple of peace…and not merely a cockpit in a Tower of Babel."
Thank you, Mr. President.