Thank you, Madame President. Allow me to commend you for your able stewardship of the Security Council this month. Let me also thank Mr. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, for his informative briefing.
Almost two years ago, I came to New York to represent the Israel that I know and love: a vibrant, democratic state that shares the noble values enumerated in the charter of the United Nations. That is precisely why I have sat at this Council time and again to declare Israel’s commitment to peace. For words are the father of action; declarations of peace are the precursor of peace.
As such, Israel calls for direct negotiations between us and the Palestinians. No preconditions, no delays. With Jerusalem and Ramallah only 10 minutes apart, direct negotiations are the only path to bridge the existing gaps.
In anticipation of such direct talks, our partners and our neighbors have an essential role to embrace a language of peace and coexistence, and to reject one-sided narratives. And so I ask how many times in this chamber have our neighbors recognized Israel’s right to exist as the homeland for the Jewish people? Or condemned Hamas terrorism and violence against Israeli civilians? Or spoke out against those who call for us to be wiped off the map? Not once. The silence is deafening.
As we seek a way forward in our region, we applaud the important work of Senator George Mitchell on behalf of United States President Barack Obama. Senator Mitchell works to achieve our shared vision of two states living side by side in peace and security, one Jewish, one Palestinian.
Despite this important work and progress towards direct negotiations, there exists a dangerous phenomenon in our region. So-called activists, under the guise of humanitarian aid, support terrorist forces in our region, particularly in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The organizers of such efforts in Gaza – with the cooperation of Hamas and others who oppose peace – are fully aware of the internationally recognized and unimpeded channels to deliver aid to the Gaza Strip.
They are aware of the good offices available to them if they truly desired to assist the people of Gaza. Yet these provocateurs seek nothing but confrontation. They choose violence, escalation and instant media headlines in an effort to delegitimize Israel.
As we just heard from Under-Secretary-General Pascoe, the phenomenon of flotillas to Gaza are not conducive to the efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East, and indeed, in this respect, I wish to share with this Council Israel’s deep concern regarding new reports of yet another flotilla departing from Lebanon to the Gaza Strip.
We call upon the international community to exert its influence on the organizers of this provocative action. We also call on the Government of Lebanon to demonstrate its responsibility to prevent this from happening.
In Lebanon, the terrorist organization Hizbullah continues to build and embed its military infrastructure into the civilian population. Transfers of sophisticated weapons from Syria and Iran to Hizbullah systematically violate the arms embargo. At the same time, this terrorist group continues to place increasingly sophisticated and deadly weapons within villages, adjacent to schools, hospitals, and civilian homes.
This is a blatant violation of international law and basic dictates of humanity. As alarming, recent confrontations in southern Lebanon between UNIFIL and so-called "Lebanese civilians" reflect Hizbullah’s efforts to redeploy its forces and further harass and assault the critical work of UNIFIL. These most recent clashes against UNIFIL are a direct violation of resolution 1701 and a challenge to the members of this Council. In this respect, Israel commends the Security Council for holding a meeting on 9 July to address these most recent confrontations. Hizbullah’s provocations must not go unanswered by this Council. The Security Council has repeatedly and clearly stipulated that this terrorist organization must disarm and disband.
As we seek a way forward, certain basic principles must emerge. The first is security. Israel’s security will never be compromised by us. We must all recognize that since the advent of peace talks, the threats facing Israel have grown more diverse and dangerous: the rockets of Iranian proxies Hamas and Hizbullah, global terrorism, and the pursuit of nuclear weapons by Iran. In direct negotiations, we stand prepared to take political risks for peace. We have taken a major step with respect to Israel’s policy towards the closure of Gaza. All goods that are not weapons or materiel for war-like purposes are now entering Gaza. Beyond Gaza, we have worked with the Palestinian Authority to build a flourishing economy in the West Bank.
The second principle is that we must look towards a definitive end to the conflict that involves mutual recognition. A request that Israel recognize a Palestinian state as the nation-state of the Palestinian people must be met with an acknowledgement that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people.
Through such mutual recognition, we can take tangible steps towards promoting coexistence, eliminating incitement and combating terrorism. Through such mutual recognition, courageous decisions can be made for the sake of peace. Through such mutual recognition, we can speak with each other, not past one another or through intermediaries.
Before concluding, my comments today would be incomplete without expressing our ongoing deep concern that Gilad Shalit remains deprived of his most basic human rights, including any visit from the Red Cross, for more than 4 years. Israel expects the international community to do all in its power, more than has been done thus far, to bring about the swift release of Gilad Shalit.
Peace is not merely a signed document. It is a set of values that allows us all to live our lives in security and with hope – Israelis and Palestinian alike.