The following is Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein`s full address to the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament at the UN, organized by the Inte r-Parliamentary Union. The speech was delivered on Monday, August 31:
I am privileged to join my peers for this fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliament. President Chowdhury and Secretary-General Chungong, thank you for your vision and leadership in developing strategic goals to build a better future for us all. I would also like to thank our hosts at the United Nations who recognize the importance of the IPU as a promoter of the SDGs. They have laid the foundations that allow us to build a world that is more democratic, equal, open, and respectful of its many people and cultures.
“In the beginning,” the Bible opens, “G-d created the heavens and the earth.” The first lesson in this holy book is that earth, water, and air—and everything they contain—are Divine creations that we as humans must honor and protect. We have invested heavily to ensure that future generations inherit the technological, intellectual, and scientific innovations that have improved the world. But we risk denying these same descendants the right to clean air, clean water, and fertile land. We risk failing our most basic responsibility to ourselves, our children, and Mother Earth.
We adopted the SDGs to write a better future for our planet, but implementation is key to realizing their potential. I am proud that the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, has embarked on the Green Knesset initiative to put the environmental SDGs into practice. We recycle water and paper and, thanks to the solar panels on the Knesset’s roof and other advanced technologies, we have cut down on electricity use building-wide. We are now one of the greenest parliaments in the world; I challenge you, my distinguished colleagues, to make similar efforts.
Achieving many of the SDGs requires working across national borders, sometimes between states that do not share diplomatic relations. As speakers of Parliament, we share many responsibilities and duties. Defining borders and making peace are not among them. But neither can we afford to sit back and wait for our governments to reach agreements on their own. WE can lay the foundations for any future peace by fostering international and regional cooperation on issues that transcend national borders.
My friends and neighbors in the Middle East: Let us talk. People to people, parliament to parliament. Come to Jerusalem. Come to the Knesset. Meet with me. Sit with me. Talk with me. Let’s talk water. Let’s talk clean air. Let’s talk prosperity. Let’s talk partnerships. And peace? And borders? These talks, I assure you, will follow.
The IPU can get these partnerships off the ground. The Knesset has already proposed to gather information about Israeli technologies and innovations in agriculture, genetics, education, etc. and make them available through the IPU to the world at large. Mr. President, we are grateful that the IPU has agreed to serve as a repository for this knowledge. I urge my colleagues from other countries to join this effort so everyone the world over can benefit from our collective knowledge, technology, and expertise.
Honorable colleagues, this gathering, like those that preceded it, is based on developing shared goals. But though goals are necessary, they are insufficient on their own. We must breathe life into our lofty ideals by committing ourselves today to a plan of action that includes benchmarks and target dates. Let us establish a small monitoring committee to keep the IPU regularly informed of each member’s progress towards these milestones. If we adopt these steps, I will do everything in my power to ensure Israel’s commitment to our decisions.
Jews the world over will soon celebrate the New Year, which marks the creation of the world. It is a time to consider the tremendous power we have been given to shape the world and determine the course of global history, despite our short life span. Let us turn the joint declaration we will sign this week into a pact with Mother Earth to preserve the planet entrusted to our care. Let us partner with our Creator and with all our fellow men to make this a healthier, saner, and safer world for future generations.