Ladies and gentlemen, in Israel our hope for peace never wanes. Our scientists, doctors, innovators, apply their genius to improve the world of tomorrow. Our artists, our writers,enrich the heritage of humanity. Now, I know that this is not exactly the image of Israel that is often portrayed in this hall. After all, it was here in 1975 that the age-old yearning of my people to restore our national life in our ancient biblical homeland — it was then that this was braided — branded, rather — shamefully, as racism. And it was here in 1980, right here,that the historic peace agreement between Israel and Egypt wasn’t praised; it was denounced! And it’s here year after year that Israel is unjustly singled out for condemnation. It’s singled out for condemnation more often than all the nations of the world combined. Twenty-one out of the 27 General Assembly resolutions condemn Israel — the one true democracy in the Middle East.
Well, this is an unfortunate part of the U.N. institution. It’s the — the theater of the absurd. It doesn’t only cast Israel as the villain; it often casts real villains in leading roles: Gadhafi’s Libya chaired the U.N. Commission on Human Rights; Saddam’s Iraq headed the U.N. Committee on Disarmament.
You might say: That’s the past. Well, here’s what’s happening now — right now, today. Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon now presides over the U.N. Security Council. This means, in effect, that a terror organization presides over the body entrusted with guaranteeing the world’s security.
You couldn’t make this thing up.
So here in the U.N., automatic majorities can decide anything. They can decide that the sun sets in the west or rises in the west. I think the first has already been pre-ordained. But they can also decide — they have decided that the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Judaism’s holiest place, is occupied Palestinian territory.
Ladies and gentlemen, when I first came here 27 years ago, the world was divided between East and West. Since then the Cold War ended, great civilizations have risen from centuries of slumber, hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty, countless more are poised to follow, and the remarkable thing is that so far this monumental historic shift has largely occurred peacefully. Yet a malignancy is now growing between East and West that threatens the peace of all. It seeks not to liberate, but to enslave, not to build, but to destroy.
That malignancy is militant Islam. It cloaks itself in the mantle of a great faith, yet it murders Jews, Christians and Muslims alike with unforgiving impartiality. On September 11th it killed thousands of Americans, and it left the twin towers in smoldering ruins. Last night I laid a wreath on the 9/11 memorial. It was deeply moving. But as I was going there, one thing echoed in my mind: the outrageous words of the president of Iran on this podium yesterday. He implied that 9/11 was an American conspiracy. Some of you left this hall. All of you should have.
Since 9/11, militant Islamists slaughtered countless other innocents — in London and Madrid, in Baghdad and Mumbai, in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, in every part of Israel. I believe that the greatest danger facing our world is that this fanaticism will arm itself with nuclear weapons. And this is precisely what Iran is trying to do.
Can you imagine that man who ranted here yesterday — can you imagine him armed with nuclear weapons? The international community must stop Iran before it’s too late. If Iran is not stopped, we will all face the specter of nuclear terrorism, and the Arab Spring could soon become an Iranian winter. That would be a tragedy. Millions of Arabs have taken to the streets to replace tyranny with liberty, and no one would benefit more than Israel if those committed to freedom and peace would prevail.
This is my fervent hope. But as the prime minister of Israel, I cannot risk the future of the Jewish state on wishful thinking. Leaders must see reality as it is, not as it ought to be. We must do our best to shape the future, but we cannot wish away the dangers of the present.
And the world around Israel is definitely becoming more dangerous. Militant Islam has already taken over Lebanon and Gaza. It’s determined to tear apart the peace treaties between Israel and Egypt and between Israel and Jordan. It’s poisoned many Arab minds against Jews and Israel, against America and the West. It opposes not the policies of Israel but the existence of Israel.
Hezbollah and Hamas fired thousands of rockets against our cities from the very territories we vacated. See, when Israel left Lebanon and Gaza, the moderates didn’t defeat the radicals, the moderates were devoured by the radicals. And I regret to say that international troops like UNIFIL in Lebanon and UBAM (ph) in Gaza didn’t stop the radicals from attacking Israel.
We left Gaza hoping for peace.
We didn’t freeze the settlements in Gaza, we uprooted them. We did exactly what the theory says: Get out, go back to the 1967 borders, dismantle the settlements.
And I don’t think people remember how far we went to achieve this. We uprooted thousands of people from their homes. We pulled children out of — out of their schools and their kindergartens. We bulldozed synagogues. We even — we even moved loved ones from their graves. And then, having done all that, we gave the keys of Gaza to President Abbas.
Now the theory says it should all work out, and President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority now could build a peaceful state in Gaza. You can remember that the entire world applauded. They applauded our withdrawal as an act of great statesmanship. It was a bold act of peace.
But ladies and gentlemen, we didn’t get peace. We got war. We got Iran, which through its proxy Hamas promptly kicked out the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority collapsed in a day — in one day.
President Abbas just said on this podium that the Palestinians are armed only with their hopes and dreams. Yeah, hopes, dreams and 10,000 missiles and Grad rockets supplied by Iran, not to mention the river of lethal weapons now flowing into Gaza from the Sinai, from Libya, and from elsewhere.
Thousands of missiles have already rained down on our cities. So you might understand that, given all this, Israelis rightly ask: What’s to prevent this from happening again in the West Bank? See, most of our major cities in the south of the country are within a few dozen kilometers from Gaza. But in the center of the country, opposite the West Bank, our cities are a few hundred meters or at most a few kilometers away from the edge of the West Bank.
So I want to ask you. Would any of you — would any of you bring danger so close to your cities, to your families? Would you act so recklessly with the lives of your citizens? Israel is prepared to have a Palestinian state in the West Bank, but we’re not prepared to have another Gaza there. And that’s why we need to have real security arrangements, which the Palestinians simply refuse to negotiate with us.
Israelis remember the bitter lessons of Gaza. Many of Israel’s critics ignore them. They irresponsibly advise Israel to go down this same perilous path again. Your read what these people say and it’s as if nothing happened — just repeating the same advice, the same formulas as though none of this happened.
And these critics continue to press Israel to make far-reaching concessions without first assuring Israel’s security. They praise those who unwittingly feed the insatiable crocodile of militant Islam as bold statesmen. They cast as enemies of peace those of us who insist that we must first erect a sturdy barrier to keep the crocodile out, or at the very least jam an iron bar between its gaping jaws.
So in the face of the labels and the libels, Israel must heed better advice. Better a bad press than a good eulogy, and better still would be a fair press whose sense of history extends beyond breakfast, and which recognizes Israel’s legitimate security concerns.
I bring up these problems because they’re not theoretical problems. They’re very real. And for Israelis, they’re life-and- death matters. All these potential cracks in Israel’s security have to be sealed in a peace agreement before a Palestinian state is declared, not afterwards, because if you leave it afterwards, they won’t be sealed. And these problems will explode in our face and explode the peace.
The Jewish state of Israel will always protect the rights of all its minorities, including the more than 1 million Arab citizens of Israel. I wish I could say the same thing about a future Palestinian state, for as Palestinian officials made clear the other day — in fact, I think they made it right here in New York — they said the Palestinian state won’t allow any Jews in it. They’ll be Jew-free — Judenrein. That’s ethnic cleansing. There are laws today in Ramallah that make the selling of land to Jews punishable by death. That’s racism. And you know which laws this evokes.
Israel has no intention whatsoever to change the democratic character of our state. We just don’t want the Palestinians to try to change the Jewish character of our state. (Applause.) We want to give up — we want them to give up the fantasy of flooding Israel with millions of Palestinians.
President Abbas just stood here, and he said that the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the settlements. Well, that’s odd. Our conflict has been raging for — was raging for nearly half a century before there was a single Israeli settlement in the West Bank. So if what President Abbas is saying was true, then the — I guess that the settlements he’s talking about are Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jaffa, Be’er Sheva. Maybe that’s what he meant the other day when he said that Israel has been occupying Palestinian land for 63 years. He didn’t say from 1967; he said from 1948. I hope somebody will bother to ask him this question because it illustrates a simple truth: The core of the conflict is not the settlements. The settlements are a result of the conflict. (Applause.)
The settlements have to be — it’s an issue that has to be addressed and resolved in the course of negotiations. But the core of the conflict has always been and unfortunately remains the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize a Jewish state in any border.
There’s an old Arab saying that you cannot applaud with one hand. Well, the same is true of peace. I cannot make peace alone. I cannot make peace without you. President Abbas, I extend my hand — the hand of Israel — in peace. I hope that you will grasp that hand. We are both the sons of Abraham. My people call him Avraham. Your people call him Ibrahim. We share the same patriarch. We dwell in the same land. Our destinies are intertwined. Let us realize the vision of Isaiah — (speaks in Hebrew) — “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.” Let that light be the light of peace.
I apologize for not posting this sooner, but it is quite a long speech and I haven’t really had the time to read it fully. Having said that, it is a great speech. Mr. Netanyahu makes some excellent points, both about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and about the UN, which is, indeed, a theatre of the absurd.
I do not understand anti-Israeli activists. It does not make sense that they would ignore facts and so zealously condemn a modern, liberal nation in favour of one in stark contrast, one that, unlike Israel, oppresses its women and homosexuals. I guess it’s the cool thing to do.
Furthermore, I want to applaud Stephen Harper for his firm support of Israel.
In spite of my often-critical tone toward my country, I am proud of Canada right now. I am proud that the majority of Canadians elected Stephen Harper’s Conservatives into a majority government, despite the controversy that preceded the election; and I am proud to belong to a country whose leader is a such a firm ally of Israel’s. Canada’s “progressive values” notwithstanding, these things give me a reason to be patriotic.