As we speak, the Middle East is in flames. This Council must not be divided in denouncing those nations, groups and individuals that distance us from peace by amassing dangerous weapons, using terror to further their ideology, or murdering innocent people. The world is watching and waiting to see what this Council will do.
Let me begin by congratulating the delegation of the United States led by Her Excellency, Ambassador DiCarlo, for their leadership of the Security Council this month.
I want to thank the United States and Secretary of State John Kerry, for their leadership and dedication to the peace process and for their efforts to resume the peace talks. Israel is committed to peace and welcomes the opportunity to resume direct negotiations. Israel faces many strategic challenges, but is nonetheless willing to take risks to bring about an end to the conflict.
Abraham Lincoln said (and I quote), “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” In this, the year 2013, you simply cannot say that you did not see, you did not hear, or you did not know.
As we speak, the Middle East is in flames. Millions of people have taken to the streets demanding better lives, better economies and greater opportunities. The façade of the so-called Arab Spring has fallen away. In its place, there remains the bloodshed, repression, chaos and instability that have long defined the region.
This Council must not be divided in denouncing those nations, groups and individuals that distance us from peace by amassing dangerous weapons, using terror to further their ideology, or murdering innocent people.
The world is watching and waiting to see what this Council will do. The decisions – or as is sometimes the case, indecisions – made in this hall will shape the world that we pass on to our children and grandchildren. Your responsibility is here and now.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the Security Council for extending the UN Disengagement Observer Force mandate for another six months. The UN troops deployed in the region have faced daunting challenges. I also want to thank the Secretary-General, Mr. Ladsous and the states that have stepped forward to maintain the UN’s strategic presence.
The stories that emerged from Syria have shocked the world. At this very moment, men, women and children are being tortured and murdered by the brutal Assad regime. Under this regime, iron-fisted repression has been the rule of thumb for the Syrian people. It is time to hold Bashar al-Assad accountable for his crimes. One hundred thousand people have been slaughtered and there is no end in sight.
The violence that has shaken Syria is sending shockwaves through our region. For two years, Israelis have lived with a war that threatens to spill over into their backyards. Mortar shells are raining down on our communities, and Syrian tanks and armored vehicles have violated the buffer zone in defiance of the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement.
Israel has shown maximum restraint and has no intention of interfering in the Syrian conflict. But we will not allow our citizens to be the ongoing victims of attacks. If provocations by the Syrian government continue, Israel will have no choice but to respond accordingly.
The situation on Israel’s northern border is precarious. I have said it before and I will say it again, Assad has chemical weapons and he has proven that he is willing to do anything to cling to power. The situation is made all the more dangerous by the fact that Assad has received advanced weapon systems. Israel simply cannot allow weapons of this nature to fall into the hands of terrorist groups like Hezbollah.
Assad’s accomplice, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, has also literally been getting away with murder in the Middle East. For years, we have heard members of the international community, including members of this Council, argue that Hezbollah is a stabilizing force in Lebanon. They insisted that Hezbollah is a political party representing the best interests of the Lebanese people. And they accepted the fact that Hezbollah has its own private army and is using it to hold Lebanon hostage.
I suppose these same countries believe Nasrallah was simply thinking of the best interests of the Lebanese people when he sent this army to kill his Arab brothers and sisters in Syria. And I suppose that the so-called stability that some states speak about can be seen from the car bombs and rockets that are exploding in the center of Beirut.
Nasrallah has been clear about his intentions. Last month he said (and I quote), “We will bear any sacrifices and all the consequences” to keep Assad in power. These are the deliberate words of a terrorist willing to drag Lebanon into the Sunni-Shiite divide and the broader region into war.
Despite all this, some states continued to argue that there is a difference between Hezbollah’s political and military wings. This is like trying to distinguish between your right hand and your left hand. Surprise, surprise, no matter how you look at it, they are both attached to the same body.
Yesterday, the European Union agreed to label the military wing of Hezbollah a terrorist organization. The EU’s decision is a welcome and important first step in shutting down the European channels that Hezbollah uses to launder money and fund its campaign of terror.
For decades, Hezbollah has murdered countless innocent people from Africa to South America and from Asia to Europe. At long last, having realized how dangerous Hezbollah is and what it is capable of, the EU showed up late to the party – to condemn the “Party of God.”
It was only after Hezbollah was found guilty of murdering Europeans in Bulgaria and attempting to do the same in Cyprus that the EU agreed to consider branding the military wing a terror organization. This semi-designation allows the EU to semi-join the ranks of countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, and the Netherlands, who long-ago branded all of Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
Hezbollah is a terrorist industry working around the clock to expand into new markets. It has a business development arm devoted to money laundering and fundraising. There is a human resources division that recruits new members. There is a marketing arm that uses the Internet to spread fundamental beliefs. And of course, there is an operations division that carries out its bloody campaigns.
The organization is as sophisticated as it is interconnected. Any attempt to distinguish between Hezbollah’s military wing and political wing, while politically convenient, is entirely impractical. The political wing raises the money to fund the military wing’s terror activities. Not even the great Houdini could pull off the illusion that there is a difference between these two groups.
Europe took a significant step in the right direction, but it must go one step further and demonstrate its unequivocal condemnation of terror. In doing so, it will prevent more innocent people from dying, it will bring justice to the victims of terror, and it will put a murderous group completely out of business.
There are brave decisions that need to be made, but as the saying goes – timing is everything. While the United States has been working to bring the parties back to the negotiation table, the EU prefers to table harmful and divisive measures. Instead of setting a course towards peace, the EU is steering the Palestinians in the wrong direction. Direct negotiations and only direct negotiations are the only way forward.
For years, the naysayers said that the sanctions imposed on Iran would not be effective. They said the sanctions were counterproductive and that they would do nothing but foster anti-Western sentiment.
Surprise, surprise, after years of crippling sanctions, when the people of Iran went to the polls last month, they wanted change. From the marketplaces of Tehran to the mosques of Qom, millions of people demanded the chance to have a better life.
Many in the international community hoped that the elections would bring about a new leader who would draw Iran back from the brink of self-ruin. Yet for all the wishful thinking, the facts on the ground tell a different story. Ayatollah Khamenei pre-screened every Presidential candidate and removed anyone that he considered too anti-establishment, too free-thinking, or too female. Rowhani may have been given a starring role in the charade of Iranian democracy – but Khamenei remains its choreographer, director, and executive producer.
The international community must judge Rowhani not by his words, but by his actions. And the reality on the ground is that Rowhani plans to put thousands of boots on the ground in Syria, to support the brutal Assad regime. I suppose if you consider that these troops may only kill a “moderate” amount of people then Rowhani could be considered a “moderate” leader.
If Rowhani hasn’t changed Iran’s policy towards Syria – why would you delude yourselves into thinking that he will change his policy on Iran’s nuclear program? Even with a new conductor, Iran’s nuclear weapons program continues to advance at the speed of an express train. In contrast, the international community’s efforts are moving at the pace of a local train, pausing at every stop for some nations to get off and some nations to get on.
Iran’s nuclear program remains the single greatest threat, not just to the Middle East, but to the entire world. This Council and every member of the international community must take action. The sanctions are working, but they are not enough. You must increase pressure on Iran until it stops all enrichment, removes all enriched material, closes its illegal nuclear facility in Qom, and ends its support for terrorism.
These Middle East debates are opened each month with a detailed report of all of Israel’s alleged infractions. Without fail, there are two distinct features to these accounts – they are very long and they are mostly wrong.
Month after month, these reports provide every nuance and every detail about every olive tree and every balcony in Judea and Samaria. It is no coincidence that they fail to address the thousands of terror attacks by Palestinians against Israeli men, women and children. Apparently, Israeli security concerns are of little concern to some in this chamber.
The reports we heard earlier are one-sided and short-sighted. Listening to these reports one would get the impression that Palestinians arrested by the IDF are saints. Let me be clear – these individuals are not Mother Theresa. The Israeli security forces are critical to ensuring security and stability in the region.
With respect to the rule of law mentioned by my colleague, the only thing the Palestinians should be commended on is their innovations in prison architecture. They seem to have patented the world’s first prisons with a revolving door. By some divine intervention everyone they arrest miraculously escapes the next day.
Why hasn’t this Council heard that Palestinian terror attacks doubled between 2011 and 2012? And why haven’t they heard about the 34 attempted abductions that were prevented by Israeli security forces so far this year? Just imagine the consequences if even one of these kidnappings had been successful.
Let me give you another number that you have yet to hear in these chambers – 2,736. Last year, there were 2,736 terror attacks against Israelis including shootings, rockets, IEDs and Molotov cocktails.
It doesn’t take the investigative skills of Sherlock Holmes to realize that these numbers are freely available and easily accessible to anyone willing to look for them. One would think that an open debate on the Middle East would include sources that are open to the public. After all, it’s elementary.
Facts are stubborn things. But the only thing more stubborn than these facts is the insistence on presenting unbalanced reports every month.
Instead of receiving reports that cloud the situation, it’s time for this Council to hear reports that clarify the situation. True friends of the Palestinians should remind them that a Palestinian State will only be built through direct negotiations and hard work.
Israel is committed to the peace process and looks forward to resuming direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Our vision is two states for two peoples – one Arab and one Jewish – living side-by-side in peace and security. Israel made peace with Egypt and we made peace with Jordan. These treaties are evidence that with honest effort and committed leadership, peace is possible.
But peace requires leaders who will reject terror and embrace partnership; leaders who oppose incitement and promote tolerance; leaders who will raise their people up, rather than tear Israel down.
As we speak, an earthquake is shaking the Middle East to its core. It is rattling the political structures and institutions that have held the region stagnant for decades.
The aftershocks of this earthquake are being felt throughout the world. The tremors of truth have penetrated this room. Winston Churchill said (and I quote), “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”
We have seen the photographs, we have read the stories, and we have heard the millions of people who are crying out for freedom, for opportunity, and for the chance to build a better life. It is the responsibility of every member of this Council, of every nation, and of every leader to advance the cause of peace.
There will always be a reason to wait or to delay, but the time to act is now. It is time to condemn terror, to denounce tyranny; and to stand up for the millions of people whose lives hang in the balance.
Thank you, Madame President.