Statement by Ambassador Gad Yaacobi Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations
Regarding the Peace Process
28 February 1995
New York Mr. President,
At the outset, I would like to congratulate you on the able manner in which you have conducted the affairs of the Security Council during the past month. I would also like to congratulate your predecessor, H.E. Dr. Emilio Cardenas, for his skilled conduct of the Council’s affairs.
I would begin with some comments regarding the issue of settlements. Here, I wish to emphasize: The PLO’s initiative to debate this issue in the Security Council is incompatible with its signed commitments vis-a-vis Israel. In the first place, the PLO has committed itself repeatedly, in its agreements with Israel, to resolve all outstanding permanent status issues, such as settlements and Jerusalem, in direct and bilateral negotiations. Second, in these same agreements, the PLO committed itself to settle these issues at a specific time namely, in the negotiations on the permanent status, at the final stage of the process. It has been agreed not to address these issues at the present time.
These commitments were made numerous times throughout the agreements. I will spare the Council of having to listen to a detailed account of every specific instance. However, I do wish to call your attention to Article V, Paragraph 3, of the Declaration of Principles, whereby Israel and the PLO agreed that the issue of settlements would be dealt with in the permanent status negotiations not at the present time.
I would also draw your attention to the fourth paragraph of Chairman Arafat’s letter to Prime Minister Rabin, dated September 9, 1993, as well as to the Preambles to the Declaration of Principles and the Gaza-Jericho Agreement. In these documents, the PLO committed itself to resolving outstanding issues through negotiations not through the intervention of outside parties.
Further, we find it difficult to understand why the PLO seeks to address its concerns in the Security Council, rather than through the agreed mechanisms for settling differences and disputes that were specified in Article Fifteen of the Declaration of Principles, as well as in Article Seventeen of the Gaza-Jericho Agreement.
For all these reasons, Israel considers it highly inappropriate for the PLO to have initiated a debate on this matter in the Security Council, in contradiction to the agreements it signed with Israel.
For the record, I wish to explain the basic elements of Israel’s settlement policy. Immediately after the present Government of Israel was formed in July 1992, it changed substantially Israel’s settlement policy. This was not done because of any external pressure or legal claims. The new policy was adopted long before the agreements with the PLO. Rather, it stems from our deep conviction about the kind of Israel we want to have, and out of our profound belief that the best alternative is peace based on security, understanding and cooperation.
Therefore, no new settlements have been established in the territories since then, nor will they be. The Government stopped allocating public resources to support the extension of existing settlements. No land has been or will be confiscated to establish new settlements.
Yes, we continue to build in Jerusalem, as the Arabs do. They have not stopped building, and this is their right. We have not stopped building, and this is our right.
The peace process has faced challenges and difficulties since Israel and PLO signed the Declaration of Principles in September 1993. But the significance of this agreement and the subsequent ones must not be ignored. Israel regards the agreements with the PLO as a historic breakthrough. We firmly believe that there is no better alternative than peace, freely and directly negotiated by the parties themselves.
In the past year-and-a-half alone, more progress was made towards comprehensive peace in the region than in the entire half-century preceding. For the first time in their history, the Palestinians are taking responsibility for their own affairs. The Israel Defense Forces have withdrawn already from the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area, and the Palestinian Authority has been established there.
Israel and Jordan signed three agreements, one outlining peace, one ending the state of war, and one, a full-fledged peace treaty. This is the second between Israel and an Arab state following the ground breaking peace treaty with Egypt sixteen years ago. In addition, Israel established formal relations with Morocco and Tunisia through the exchange of liaison offices.
These developments are part of a growing recognition that direct dialogue is the only way to solve the issues that divide us. Military conflict, and solutions imposed from the outside, have not solved the Arab-Israeli conflict. As we turn our gazes from the past to the future, we also find new problems that don’t distinguish between Arab and Israeli economic, environmental, humanitarian, etc. We can solve them only by working together.
October’s Economic Summit in Casablanca brought Arab, Israeli and other businessmen and government leaders together to promote regional cooperation. Another conference is expected to take place in Amman, Jordan, next October.
These significant developments which all took place since the signing of the agreement between Israel and the PLO bring us closer to a comprehensive peace.
Yet, at the same time, opposition to the peace process has become more and more violent. Terrorism is now the major obstacle to peace. Radical fundamentalists, with ties to Iran, lead the campaign.
Their goal is to derail the peace process.
Their strategy is to provoke a cycle of violence, and to sow anger, hatred and resentment of further progress.
Their method is to kill Israeli men, women and children who are going about their daily lives.
Israel has already paid a high price. 116 killed since the signing of the Declaration of Principles. 634 injured.
On April 6, 1994, Hamas terrorists detonated a car bomb next to a bus in downtown Afula, in the north of Israel. They killed eight people, including three teenage students and two teachers.
One week later, on April 13, Hamas bombed another bus this time in the coastal town of Hadera. Five people died in the attack.
In October 1994, Hamas terrorists kidnapped the twenty-year old Corporal Nachshon Waxman. They held him, tortured him, and shot him to death.
Hamas also claimed responsibility for the October 19th bombing of the No. 5 bus on Dizengoff Street, in the heart of Tel-Aviv. 21 Israelis and one Dutch national were killed.
And just last month, on January 22, 1995, Islamic Jihad exploded two consecutive bombs at the Beit Lid bus stop near Netanya. 21 Israelis were killed. After the first bomb was detonated, the terrorists attacked the people who had rushed to help the first victims. Twenty of the people killed were young men and women, ranging in age from 18 to 24. After the attack, we were shocked to see thousands celebrating at the terrorists’ houses in the Gaza Strip.
Israel cannot view these attacks with indifference. We cannot sit idly by and allow our people to be slaughtered. Morally, humanly, we are obligated to protect our people’s lives. We are a democratic country rooted in our Jewish heritage. Both teach sensitivity to the value of human life. Our sages teach us, Kol adam hu olam umlo’o. "In every person is an entire world."
We believe the Palestinians understand the value we ascribe to each life. Certainly, Hamas and Islamic Jihad try to exploit it. But, for the sake of its own people as well as ours, the Palestinian Authority must fulfill its obligation to combat terrorism.
As we all know: in Israel, like in all other democracies, the people ultimately decide. Therefore, the most important task before all supporters of peace is: To credibly address the growing sense in Israeli public opinion that the Palestinians are unable to meet their commitments to fight terrorism.
Israel believes that the Palestinian Authority, too, does not want terrorism to hold the peace process hostage. The Palestinian Authority can and should do more to respect its commitment, "to prevent acts of terrorism, crime and hostilities," as it says in Article Eighteen of the Gaza-Jericho Agreement.
The means are there The Gaza-Jericho Agreement provided for 9,000 Palestinian police. A recent study by the donor countries identified 15,000 policemen on the rolls. And 2,000 more will be added according to the agreement made by Israel and the PLO in early February. Clearly, the means are there.
We expect the Palestinian Authority to disarm all those who are forbidden to possess arms. We expect it to do all in its power to combat terrorism and bring to justice all those involved in murderous activities.
Here, I believe it is appropriate to address the issue of closing off the territories. Closure is neither a policy nor an act of collective punishment. Rather, it is an act of self-defense in the face of repeated terrorist attacks from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Israeli people expect that they will be protected. As the elected leadership, it is the Government’s responsibility to ensure the personal security of all citizens.
Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Rabin informed Chairman Arafat of certain measures to ease the closure. These are under way, and we hope that the security situation will enable us to continue with the normalization, which is our policy.
Allow me to address our Palestinian partners let us not lose sight of our shared hope. We have made great progress. Irreversible progress, I believe.
These are not easy times. They demand wisdom and leadership. The role of leadership is to pursue the best path for the people in the long run not to lose for a minute the long-term perspective.
Yes, we have differences. But we also have an overriding common interest that has to come first: To create a better future for our peoples and for the people of the Middle East. The opponents of peace want nothing more than to see us fail in achieving our vision. We must not give up. We have to pursue our shared goal.
Yes, we have differences. We have to address them. The place to do it is at the negotiating table as we agreed.
Thank you, Mr. President.