Statement by Ambassador Yehuda Lancry,
Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations at the 10th Emergency Special Session of the UN General Assembly

18 October 2000

Mr. President:

For the second time in two weeks, a United Nations body is being forced to consider the grave situation we are currently facing in the Middle East. We hope that the statement made this week in Sharm Al-Sheikh will succeed in restoring calm and quiet to the region. I must note, however, that the deliberations of this special session threaten, and are contrary to, the spirit of that declaration, and have the potential to aggravate and disrupt efforts underway to bring an end to the violence.

While it is important that we continue to focus on the future, and to enhance the spirit of the peace process, I feel it is my duty to speak on behalf of both my Government and my people concerning the events of the past few weeks.

These events, which have been so graphically and tragically portrayed in the media, call out to us on a personal and political level. Personally, because of the immense human tragedy which has unfolded, but politically as well, for these events imperil the future of peace and stability in Israel and in the Middle East.

As I’m sure we are all aware by now, this past Thursday morning, two Israeli reserve soldiers were lynched by an angry mob after they mistakenly entered the Palestinian controlled town of Ramallah. The soldiers were apprehended by Palestinian police and brought to their headquarters. A violent mob of Palestinians, having followed the soldiers to the station, stormed the building and proceeded to torture the soldiers to death, mutilating and defiling their bodies beyond recognition. The entire world watched with disgust as the soldier’s body was thrown from a window, as Palestinians proudly displayed their bloody hands, and frenzied crowds competed for the questionable privilege of inflicting one more blow on the soldier’s already lifeless body. That this unspeakable act could have taken place inside an official building of the Palestinian Authority only contributes to the degradation of mutual trust and confidence that we have worked for so many years to establish.

I believe it would be instructive at this juncture to note the divergent reactions among Israelis and Palestinians to losses suffered by the other side. With every funeral procession, replete with images of anguished family members and painful suffering, Israelis expressed their sorrow and regret for the tragic deaths of Palestinians. During Security Council deliberations last week, I expressed the profound sadness that both myself and the Israeli people share with the Palestinian community over their losses.

In stark contrast, my distinguished colleague, the Permanent Observer of Palestine, Ambassador Nasser Al-Kidwa, in a statement quoted last week by Reuters, had the audacity to defend the killing of the two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah, saying (and I quote): "The amount of anger… frustration… pain is beyond belief. The Palestinian people, we believe, have the right to feel that way and it is absolutely understood for them to react in a way which probably is not acceptable under normal circumstances."

I feel compelled to inform my Palestinian peace partner that it is not understandable how human beings could carry out such a grossly inhuman act, to take such macabre pleasure in the taking of life, and display such pride and insensitivity to a horror- stricken worldwide audience. Peace will not come while such acts remain possible, and while senior Palestinian officials fail to express contrition for them.

Thursday’s brutal lynching is not the first instance in which official organs of the Palestinian Authority have tolerated, encouraged, or even directly engaged in, violent actions against Israelis. As we have already stated, before the Security Council and in our letter to the Secretary-General, Palestinian policemen, security personnel and armed militias have directly participated in many of the recent bloody clashes. There have been numerous instances in which Palestinian forces turned their weapons on Israeli soldiers and civilians, in a flagrant violation of both the letter and the spirit of our signed agreements.

One incident in particular sparked tremendous outrage and sorrow among Israelis, Jews and believers around the world. Joseph’s Tomb, a site holy to both Jews and Muslims that is located in the Palestinian-controlled town of Nablus, has been the target of gunfire and violent attacks by Palestinian civilians, police and armed militias in recent weeks. In an effort to reduce tension, an agreement was reached on 6 October whereby the Israeli personnel on duty at the site would be temporarily removed, and the Palestinian Authority would ensure its continued protection and preservation. With the removal of Israeli personnel, a frenzied Palestinian mob, together with members of the Palestinian police, entered the site, set it ablaze, sacked it, violated it, and commenced dismantling the historic and sacred structure of the Tomb. This insufferable act of sacrilege, directed at the most sacred and fundamental tenets of the Jewish tradition, as well as of civilized society, has shocked and outraged the Israeli people. We hold the Palestinian leadership fully responsible for this intolerable act in light of its incitement and encouragement of mob violence in the area.

I must stress yet again that events such as these are not occurring spontaneously. The Palestinian Authority, rather than using its position to prevent violence and urge restraint, has allowed its official television and radio to be used for the purposes of incitement, calling on its people to carry out violent attacks on Israeli citizens and soldiers.

For example, this past Friday, 13 October, Dr. Ahmad Abu Halabiya, a member of the Palestinian Authority’s "Fatwa Council", appeared on the PA’s official television station calling for jihad and murder of Jews. In the same breath he further called upon Muslims to kill Americans wherever they may be. He said (and I quote): "Wherever you are, kill those Jews and those Americans who are like them – and those who stand by them – they are all in one trench against the Arabs and the Muslims."

Hassan Asfour, a Minister in the Palestinian Authority and a member of the Palestinian negotiating team, was quoted by Reuters on 9 October as saying that "every Palestinian must place the settlers as a target," and, on the following day, called for an escalation of the conflict on the Voice of Palestine Radio.

Other Palestinian officials have made similar remarks, calling on their people to engage in violent acts against Israelis and Jews, and to carry on the war to liberate Palestine. Israel has repeatedly called upon Chairman Arafat to fulfill his obligations under our agreements and to cease all forms of incitement and calls to violence.

In another disturbing development, the Palestinian Authority last week freed scores of terrorist prisoners who had been convicted in Palestinian courts of committing violent acts against Israelis. Some reports have even indicated that not a single member of the terrorist group Hamas remains incarcerated in Palestinian jails. Members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad were even invited to participate in a meeting of the Palestinian Cabinet, an act which legitimizes their stated commitment to terrorism as an alternative to peaceful negotiations. This is a move that will certainly be interpreted by other extremist elements as a green light to renew deadly terrorist attacks on Israeli cities, such as those which occurred in the winter of 1996, and which still burn in our memory.

Taken together, these actions all point to an alarming pattern of behaviour by the Palestinian leadership. They are sending a clear signal to their people, to Israel, and by now to the world, that they are choosing the path of violence. It must be understood, that only a negotiated solution, satisfactory to both Israelis and Palestinians, can lay the foundation for coexistence.

It is unfathomable that, despite the incitement and repeated calls for holy war on Israel, the Palestinians continue to place the blame for the escalation squarely upon Israel.

Throughout the eruptions of the past few weeks, Israel has exercised the utmost restraint in responding to Palestinian provocations. In dealing with the near daily barrage of rocks and Molotov cocktails, Israeli soldiers have responded in a measured fashion, and with all precautions taken to prevent loss of life. Allegations that Israel used "excessive force" in these confrontations are completely unfounded. There is no nation on earth that would tolerate such violent life-threatening attacks against its citizens and not respond in kind. More importantly, can there be any doubt, after witnessing the brutal lynching of two Israeli soldiers, that an angry Palestinian mob poses a real and immediate threat to human life?

Similarly, in the attack on the Palestinian police headquarters in Ramallah where the Israeli soldiers were savagely murdered, extreme precautions were taken to minimize loss of life. Not only did the IDF take steps to prevent damage to surrounding areas, but it went so far as to provide advance warning to the Palestinian Authority to evacuate the buildings. Despite these extreme precautions, the Palestinian Observer insisted on categorizing these actions as "tantamount to a declaration of war" in his letter of 12 October 2000, and erroneously making reference to a "heavy loss of Palestinian lives". I wish to state emphatically that not a single Palestinian was killed in the pinpoint attack on the police station in Ramallah.

I must state unequivocally that Israel has never declared war on the Palestinian people, and this allegation has absolutely no grounding in reality. As our restraint has clearly demonstrated, Israel has no interest whatsoever in inflicting pain or damage on our neighbours, and it serves no one’s interest for Mr. Al-Kidwa to portray this situation as such. Moreover, one needs merely to glance at a Palestinian newspaper or television program to determine who is declaring war on whom.

In addition, Israel has permitted, and will continue to permit, the passage of humanitarian aid to Palestinians in the territories, including those packages originating in countries with which Israel has no formal diplomatic ties. Israel’s actions are intended not to harm, but to maintain order in the area, and are in full accordance with international law. While we deeply regret the loss of life that has occurred, we maintain our right, in fact our obligation, as a sovereign nation to protect our people.

Finally, it must be recalled that the current violence comes on the heels of unprecedented Israeli concessions in the peace process. At the Camp David summit, Prime Minister Barak went far beyond what any previous Israeli Government had ever been willing to consider, let alone offer, in order to reach a permanent settlement with the Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority has responded to these overtures with violence and provocation, rather than with serious and earnest negotiation. This is a blatant violation of the Trilateral Statement issued at the conclusion of that summit whereby both parties agreed to "create an environment for negotiations free from pressure, intimidation and threats of violence."

As a side matter, I wish to make one procedural note on the convening of this emergency special session. The formal basis for holding an emergency special session is contained in Resolution 377A(V) adopted by the General Assembly on 5 November 1950, and in the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly as amended in the annex to that resolution. The resolution stipulates three conditions which must be satisfied in order to convene such a session. They are (1) the existence of a situation where there is a threat to peace or an act of aggression, (2) the failure of the Security Council, due to lack of unanimity of its permanent members to fulfill its responsibility for peace and security, and (3) the lack of a General Assembly regular session at time of such a failure. It is clear to all that at least the last two conditions do not apply in this case, and therefore, the convening of this session constitutes a disgraceful abuse of the rules of procedure.

Mr. President:

Only a negotiated solution, arrived at in an atmosphere free from violence, can put a permanent end to bloodshed and unrest in the Middle East. We call yet again on Chairman Arafat to order his security forces and his people to stop the confrontations and the provocations, to disarm the militias as he has previously agreed, and to re-arrest members of Hamas and other terrorist organizations that are still at large. We call upon the Palestinian Authority and all its officials to refrain from inflammatory rhetoric and from using the official media to disseminate messages of hatred, jihad and calls to murder. We insist that the Palestinian leadership take immediate and concrete steps to halt this scourge and to act to restore peace and security to our region.

Monsieur le Président,

Arrivé à ce stade, je m’en remets à la langue française, celle-là même apte à nous permettre, sur un plan strictement personnel, d’ajuster la tonalité et la portée de notre propos quant au projet de résolution en cours, amplement révélateur de l’issue de cette session spéciale.

La résolution annoncée, au demeurant fortement alignée, par où se distillent, dans une conviction introublée, l’arbitraire, l’inique et le partial, stipule la condamnation obstinément unilatérale d’Israël. Ce texte — tel qu’il se présente — ne souffle mot sur aucune forme d’excès palestinien. L’éviscération de deux militaires israéliens à Ramallah, dans une station de police palestinienne transformée en boucherie humaine, n’imprègne en rien l’immaculée gestation de cette résolution. Selon le mot de Stéphane Mallarmé, il s’agirait bien, dans ce cas de figure aussi, pour si peu poétique que fût le projet de résolution, d’une "page que sa blancheur défend".

La profanation inouïe du Tombeau de Joseph à Naplouse, comme celle de l’antique synagogue de Jéricho, n’inspire elle aussi aucune réserve à l’encontre des Palestiniens. Le silence résolu de la résolution sur la barbarie humaine vécue à Ramallah, comme sur l’atteinte à des Lieux Saints multiséculaires à Naplouse et à Jéricho, semble porteur d’une sourde reconnaissance aux Palestiniens et à leur leadership.

Ce silence, aussi trouble que révélateur, décerne un brevet de respectabilité à l’instinct primaire et au déchaînement profanateur. Manifestement, ce silence, même dans ce qu’il a de symptomatique, consolidera le Président Arafat dans sa nouvelle vocation de Navigateur Spirituel Suprême, porte-parole auto-déclaré d’un milliard de chétiens et d’un milliard de musulmans.

Pour autant, ce silence nous apparaît comme une profonde source de nuisance à l’esprit de paix et de réconciliation. Alors qu’il véhicule une implicite et impuissante résignation face au défoulemement gravissime palestinien, ce silence risque, dans la béance d’injustice qu’il inflige à Israël, de figer pour longtemps les israéliens dans leur instinct de conservation et dans leur psychologie obsidionale.

Dispenser ce type d’opprobre magistralement "aligné" à Israël, tout en soulageant les Palestiniens de leurs inqualifiables impairs, revient à desservir la paix, à subvertir son esprit et sa parole.

C’est la raison pour laquelle, Monsieur le Président, nous rejetons catégoriquement ce projet de résolution qui, dans sa forme comme dans son fond s’inscrit, de flagrante manière, à contre-courant de la paix.

Pourtant, la paix est à nos portes. Les acquis politiques concrets issus des accords d’Oslo, comme les linéaments prometteurs d’un statut final conçus à Camp David, mais surout le vécu quotidien tissé de peuple à peuple sept années durant, ne peuvent s’anéantir dans la tragédie des trois semaines écoulées.

C’est à nous, Palestiniens et Israéliens, de susciter rapidement notre sursaut salutaire, de nous regénérer en énergies créatrices pour qu’advienne la paix. C’est ici, du fin fond de l’abîme dans lequel nous nous sommes précipités, que notre reconnaissance mutuelle, scéllée à Oslo, doit faire reculer tout instinct de négation mutuelle.

Force motrice du processus d’Oslo, la reconnaissance mutuelle est le vecteur par excellence de l’enracinnement de notre paix dans une région d’irréversibilité. Apte à transcender nos dérives tragiques et à contenir les douloureuses contradictions inhérentes au passage de nos désordres à un nouvel ordre, elle — la reconnaissance mutuelle — fera triompher la sagesse et la raison. En elle se vérifiera la transmutation de nos spasmes, de nos maux et tourmentes en trêves et rêves germinateurs de paix et de réconciliation.

Plus que d’une résolution, trophée de l’indignation pour l’un, vase d’amertume pour l’autre, c’est à leur propre recours et à leur commun secours que doivent s’acheminer Palestiniens et Israéliens. C’est à travers les résonateurs d’une récitation plurielle de la paix que doit s’articuler et se conjuguer la parole de paix israélo-palestinienne.

Je formule le souhait, mes chers collègues, pour que ce prestigieux réceptacle de l’Assemblé Générale, puisse dans un proche avenir, témoigner de la mue des frontières de l’adversité en membranes vibratoires de coexistence et de réconciliation entre Israéliens et Palestiniens et entre Israël et les pays de notre région.

Merci, Monsieur le Président.

 Statement by Israel Ambassador Lancry to 10th Emergency Session of the UN General Assembly-18-Oct-2000
 Statement by Israel Ambassador Lancry to 10th Emergency Session of the UN General Assembly-18-Oct-2000
Outbreak of Violence in Jerusalem and the Territories – Sept/Oct 2000