The Tragedy of Palestine – Rendering Two Complementing Israeli – Even Though at First View Opposing – Points of View – and They Are Both Right. Ambassador Ron Prosor’s wide range presentation at the UN (Seconded by Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird) and Former One-Man Conscience of the Israeli Knesset the sage Uri Avnery in Tel Aviv.
Below is posted the full transcript of Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor’s address at the United Nations General Assembly
before the UN voted to upgrade the Palestinian Authority’s status November 29, 2012.
Today I stand before you tall and proud because I represent the world’s one and only Jewish state. A state built in the Jewish people’s ancient homeland, with its eternal capital Jerusalem as its beating heart.
We are a nation with deep roots in the past and bright hopes for the future. We are a nation that values idealism, but acts with pragmatism. Israel is a nation that never hesitates to defend itself, but will always extend its hand for peace.
Peace is a central value of Israeli society. The bible calls on us:
“seek peace and pursue it.” ??? ???? ??????
Peace fills our art and poetry. It is taught in our schools. It has been the goal of the Israeli people and every Israeli leader since Israel was re-established 64 years ago.
Israel’s Declaration of Independence states, “We extend our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help…”
This week was the 35th anniversary of President Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem. In a speech just before that visit, President Sadat famously stood in the Egyptian parliament in Cairo and stated that he would go “to the ends of the earth” to make peace with Israel.
Israel’s Prime Minister at the time, Menachem Begin, welcomed President Sadat to Israel, and paved the way for peace. This morning Prime Minister Netanyahu stood at the Menachem Begin Center and said this about the resolution that you are about to vote on:
“Israel is prepared to live in peace with a Palestinian state, but for peace to endure, Israel’s security must be protected. The Palestinians must recognize the Jewish State and they must be prepared to end the conflict with Israel once and for all.
None of these vital interests, these vital interests of peace, none of them appear in the resolution that will be put forward before the General Assembly today and that is why Israel cannot accept it. The only way to achieve peace is through agreements that are reached by the parties and not through U.N. resolutions that completely ignore Israel’s vital security and national interests. And because this resolution is so one-sided, it doesn’t advance peace, it pushes it backwards.
As for the rights of Jewish people in this land, I have a simple message for those people gathered in the General Assembly today, no decision by the U.N. can break the 4000-year-old bond between the people of Israel and the land of Israel.”
The People of Israel wait for a Palestinian leader that is willing to follow in the path of President Sadat. The world waits for President Abbas to speak the truth that peace can only be achieved through negotiations by recognizing Israel as a Jewish State. It waits for him to tell them that peace must also address Israel’s security needs and end the conflict once and for all.
For as long as President Abbas prefers symbolism over reality, as long as he prefers to travel to New York for UN resolutions, rather than travel to Jerusalem for genuine dialogue, any hope of peace will be out of reach.
Israel has always extended its hand for peace and will always extend its hand for peace. When we faced an Arab leader who wanted peace, we made peace. That was the case with Egypt. That was the case with Jordan.
Time and again, we have sought peace with the Palestinians. Time and again, we have been met by rejection of our offers, denial of our rights, and terrorism targeting our citizens.
President Abbas described today’s proceedings as “historic”. But the only thing historic about his speech is how much it ignored history.
The truth is that 65 years ago today, the United Nations voted to partition the British Mandate into two states: a Jewish state, and an Arab state. Two states for two peoples.
Israel accepted this plan. The Palestinians and Arab nations around us rejected it and launched a war of annihilation to throw the “Jews into the sea”.
The truth is that from 1948 until 1967, the West Bank was ruled by Jordan, and Gaza was ruled by Egypt. The Arab states did not lift a finger to create a Palestinian state. Instead they sought Israel’s destruction, and were joined by newly formed Palestinian terrorist organizations.
The truth is that at Camp David in 2000, and again at Annapolis in 2008, Israeli leaders made far-reaching offers for peace. Those offers were met by rejection, evasion, and even terrorism.
The truth is that to advance peace, in 2005 Israel dismantled entire communities and uprooted thousands of people from their homes in the Gaza Strip. And rather than use this opportunity to build a peaceful future, the Palestinians turned Gaza into an Iranian terror base, from which thousands of rockets were fired into Israeli cities. As we were reminded just last week, the area has been turned into a launching pad for rockets into Israeli cities, a haven for global terrorists, and an ammunition dump for Iranian weapons.
Time after time, the Palestinian leadership refused to accept responsibility. They refused to make the tough decisions for peace.
Israel remains committed to peace, but we will not establish another Iranian terror base in the heart of our country.
We need a peace that will ensure a secure future for Israel.
Three months ago, Israel’s Prime Minister stood in this very hall and extended his hand in peace to President Abbas. He reiterated that his goal was to create a solution of two-states for two-peoples—where a demilitarized Palestinian state will recognize Israel as a Jewish State.
That’s right. Two states for two peoples.
In fact, President Abbas, I did not hear you use the phrase “two states for two peoples” this afternoon. In fact, I have never heard you say the phrase “two states for two peoples”. Because the Palestinian leadership has never recognized that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people.
They have never been willing to accept what this very body recognized 65 years ago. Israel is the Jewish state.
In fact, today you asked the world to recognize a Palestinian state, but you still refuse to recognize the Jewish state.
Not only do you not recognize the Jewish state, you are also trying to erase Jewish history. This year, you even tried to erase the connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem. You said that Jews were trying to alter the historic character of Jerusalem. You said that we are trying to “Judaize Jerusalem”.
President Abbas, the truth is that Jerusalem had a Jewish character long before most cities in the world had any character! Three thousand years ago King David ruled from Jerusalem and Jews have lived in Jerusalem ever since.
President Abbas, instead of revising history, it is time that you started making history by making peace with Israel.
This resolution will not advance peace.
This resolution will not change the situation on the ground. It will not change the fact that the Palestinian Authority has no control over Gaza. That is forty percent of the population he claims to represent!
President Abbas, you can’t even visit nearly half the territory of the state you claim to represent.
That territory is controlled by Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization that rains missiles on Israel’s civilians. This is the same Hamas that fired more than 1,300 rockets into the heart of Israel’s major cities this month.
This resolution will not confer statehood on the Palestinian Authority, which clearly fails to meet the criteria for statehood.
This resolution will not enable the Palestinians Authority to join international treaties, organizations, or conferences as a state.
This resolution cannot serve as an acceptable terms of reference for peace negotiations with Israel. Because this resolution says nothing about Israel’s security needs. It does not call on the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the Jewish State. It does not demand an end of conflict and a termination of all claims.
Let me tell you what this resolution does do.
This resolution violates a fundamental binding commitment. This is a commitment that many of the states here today were themselves witness to. It was a commitment that all outstanding issues in the peace process would only be resolved in direct negotiations.
This resolution sends a message that the international community is willing to turn a blind eye to peace agreements. For the people of Israel, it raises a simple question: why continue to make painful sacrifices for peace, in exchange for pieces of paper that the other side will not honor?
It will make a negotiated peace settlement less likely, as Palestinians continue to harden their positions and place further obstacles and preconditions to negotiations and peace.
And unfortunately, it will raise expectations that cannot be met, which has always proven to be a recipe for conflict and instability.
There is only one route to Palestinian statehood. And that route does not run through this chamber in New York. That route runs through direct negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah that will lead to a secure and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
There are no shortcuts. No quick fixes. No instant solutions. As President Obama said in 2010, “Peace cannot be imposed from the outside.”
The real message of this resolution for the people of Israel is that the international community will turn a blind eye to violations of these agreements by the Palestinians.
In submitting this resolution, the Palestinian leadership is once again making the wrong choice.
65 years ago the Palestinians could have chosen to live side-by-side with the Jewish State of Israel. 65 years ago they could have chosen to accept the solution of two states for two peoples. They rejected it then, and they are rejecting it again today.
The international community should not encourage this rejection. It should not encourage the Palestinian leadership to drive forward recklessly with both feet pressing down on the gas, no hands on the wheel, and no eyes on the road.
Instead it should encourage the Palestinians to enter into direct negotiations without preconditions in order to achieve an historic peace in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state.
Winston Churchill said, “The truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it … ignorance may deride it … malice may distort it … but there it is.”
The truth is that Israel wants peace, and the Palestinians are avoiding peace.
Those who are supporting the resolution today are not advancing peace. They are undermining peace.
The UN was founded to advance the cause of peace. Today the Palestinians are turning their back on peace. Don’t let history record that today the UN helped them along on their march of folly.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Address by Minister Baird to United Nations General Assembly in Opposition to Palestinian Bid for Non-Member Observer State Status.
November 29, 2012 – New York City, New York
Canada opposes this resolution in the strongest terms because it undermines the core foundations of a decades-long commitment by the international community and the parties themselves to a two-state solution, arrived at through direct negotiations.
While we understand a final resolution remains elusive, Canada has long opposed unilateral actions by either side as these are unhelpful. The outstanding issues are too intricate and too complex to be resolved by symbolic, unilateral measures.
We do not believe that unilateral measures taken by one side can be justified by accusations of unilateralism directed at the other. That approach can only result in the steady erosion and collapse of the very foundations of a process which—while incomplete—holds the only realistic chance to bring about two peaceful, prosperous states living side-by-side as neighbours.
Canada’s support for a negotiated settlement, like our opposition to the initiative before us today, is rooted in the very history of this venerable organization and in the sustained international effort to resolve this matter.
Canada was proud to be one of the countries preparing the blueprint for peace as part of the 1947 UN Special Committee on Palestine. That committee came up with a proposal for a two-state solution—one predominantly Jewish and the other predominantly Arab living side by side—which ultimately resulted, in November 1947, in the passage of UN General Assembly Resolution 181 setting out the Partition Plan. However, not all of those who should have supported this vision were prepared to do so, and the people of the region have suffered for seven decades as a result.
Even in those early, difficult days, however, the principle of collaboration between the two parties was seen as an inherent necessity, as reflected in the elaboration of a plan for economic union between the two sides. While Resolution 181 has never been fully implemented, this principle—the idea that the two parties need to work together to achieve their mutual and intertwined destinies and potential—has survived as an essential ingredient in successive efforts to find an elusive peace.
In 1948, UN Resolution 194 set up a Conciliation Commission aimed at finding solutions to the full range of problems facing the two sides. It established an important principle in calling for the parties involved to seek agreement, through negotiations, “with a view to the final settlement of all questions outstanding between them.”
In 1967, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 242. The Council requested the dispatch of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the region to “promote agreement and assist efforts to achieve a peaceful and accepted settlement,” entrenching further the principle that solutions required the acceptance and collective action of both sides.
This idea was reaffirmed in 1973 in UN Security Council Resolution 338, which decided that “immediately and concurrently with the ceasefire, negotiations shall start between the parties concerned under appropriate auspices aimed at establishing a just and durable peace.”
These two resolutions—242 and 338—form the explicitly recognized cornerstone of all the subsequent peace commitments, accords and understandings that followed between the two parties, enshrining the need for negotiations as a core principle.
Both the Israelis and the Palestinians reaffirmed their acceptance of the principles and obligations laid out in both resolutions in 1993 with the signing of the Oslo Accords. Article I made the point explicitly in highlighting that the “interim arrangements are an integral part of the whole peace process and that the negotiations on the permanent status will lead to the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 and 338.”
In 1995, Oslo II built on those important foundations. In the preamble, both sides reaffirmed “their desire to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement and historic reconciliation through the agreed political process.” Article 31, under Final Clauses (section 7), stipulated that “Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and Gaza pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.”
These principles were, again, reaffirmed in 2002. UN Security Council Resolution 1397 called on “the Israeli and Palestinian sides and their leaders to cooperate in the implementation of the Tenet work plan and Mitchell Report recommendations with the aim of resuming negotiations on a political settlement.” It also offered support to the Secretary-General and others in their efforts to “resume the peace process.”
The following year, 2003, the Middle East Quartet was established. It developed the Roadmap, which was a performance-based, goal-driven plan covering peace, security and humanitarian areas. Its approach and directions were based explicitly on the principles contained in UN Security Council Resolutions 242, 338 and 1397. A key element of the Quartet Principles contained in the Roadmap was the requirement that “a clear, unambiguous acceptance by both parties of the goal of a negotiated settlement” was needed to reach the destination. It goes on to underscore that “a settlement, negotiated between the parties, will result in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors.” The Quartet Roadmap requires, by its very nature, a collaborative effort explicitly requiring “reciprocal steps” by the two sides.
Later that year, UN Security Council Resolution 1515 formally “endorse[d] the Quartet Roadmap, while calling on the parties to “fulfil their obligations under the Roadmap in cooperation with the Quartet and to achieve the vision of two States living side by side in peace and security.”
Resolution 1850, passed in 2008, underscored the Council’s explicit support for the negotiations undertaken in Annapolis in 2007, including “its commitment to the irreversibility of the bilateral negotiations.” The Resolution reaffirmed international support for the Quartet Principles and the determination of both parties to “reach their goal of concluding a peace treaty resolving all outstanding issues, without exception.” It also called on both sides to “refrain from any steps that could undermine confidence or prejudice the outcome of negotiations.”
Mr. President, successive UN Security Council resolutions and various international commitments and understandings over nearly seven decades have formed the building blocks of a collaborative peace process that remains unfinished. The path to peace has historically rested in direct negotiations between the two parties to resolve all outstanding issues and it remains the same today. Solutions can only come through the two sides working together.
This resolution will not advance the cause of peace or spur a return to negotiations. Will the Palestinian people be better off as a result? No. On the contrary, this unilateral step will harden positions and raise unrealistic expectations while doing nothing to improve the lives of the Palestinian people.
Canada is committed to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East whereby two states live side-by-side in peace and security.
Any two-state solution must be negotiated and mutually agreed upon by both sides.
Any unilateral action, from either side, outside of the bilateral framework outlined above is ultimately unhelpful.
Canada has long supported efforts to bring the two sides to the bargaining table to resolve all outstanding issues, and we remain committed to that objective.
But we cannot support an initiative that we are firmly convinced will undermine the objective of reaching a comprehensive, lasting and just settlement for both sides.
It is for these reasons that Canada is voting against this resolution. As a result of this body’s utterly regrettable decision to abandon policy and principle, we will be considering all available next steps.
We call on both sides to return to the negotiating table without preconditions. Canada will be there to offer its good offices and support.
December 1, 2012
The Strong and the Sweet
IT WAS a day of joy.
Joy for the Palestinian people.
Joy for all those who hope for peace between Israel and the Arab world.
And, in a modest way, for me personally.
The General Assembly of the United Nations, the highest world forum, has voted overwhelmingly for the recognition of the State of Palestine, though in a limited way.
The resolution adopted by the same forum 65 years ago to the day, to partition historical Palestine between a Jewish and an Arab state, has at long last been reaffirmed.
I HOPE I may be excused a few moments of personal celebration.
During the war of 1948, which followed the first resolution, I came to the conclusion that there exists a Palestinian people and that the establishment of a Palestinian state, next to the new State of Israel, is the prerequisite for peace.
As a simple soldier, I fought in dozens of engagements against the Arab inhabitants of Palestine. I saw how dozens of Arab towns and villages were destroyed and left deserted. Long before I saw the first Egyptian soldier, I saw the people of Palestine (who had started the war) fight for what was their homeland.
Before the war, I hoped that the unity of the country, so dear to both peoples, could be preserved. The war convinced me that reality had smashed this dream forever.
I was still in uniform when, in early 1949, I tried to set up an initiative for what is now called the Two-State Solution. I met with two young Arabs in Haifa for this purpose. One was a Muslim Arab, the other a Druze sheik. (Both became members of the Knesset before me.)
At the time, it looked like mission impossible. “Palestine” had been wiped off the map. 78% of the country had become Israel, the other 22% divided between Jordan and Egypt. The very existence of a Palestinian people was vehemently denied by the Israeli establishment, indeed, the denial became an article of faith. Much later, Golda Meir famously declared that “there is no such thing as a Palestinian people”. Respected charlatans wrote popular books “proving” that the Arabs in Palestine were pretenders who had only recently arrived. The Israeli leadership was convinced that the “Palestinian problem” had disappeared, once and forever.
In 1949, there were not a hundred persons in the entire world who believed in this solution. Not a single country supported it. The Arab countries still believed that Israel would just disappear. Britain supported its client state, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The US had its own local strongmen. Stalin’s Soviet Union supported Israel.
Mine was a lonely fight. For the next 40 years, as the editor of a news magazine, I brought the subject up almost every week. When I was elected to the Knesset, I did the same there.
In 1968 I went to Washington DC, in order to propagate the idea there. I was politely received by the relevant officials in the State Department (Joseph Sisco), the White House (Harold Saunders), the US mission to the UN (Charles Yost), leading Senators and Congressmen, as well as the British father of Resolution 242 (Lord Caradon). The uniform answer from all of them, without exception: a Palestinian state was out of question.
When I published a book devoted to this solution, the PLO in Beirut attacked me in 1970 in a book entitled “Uri Avnery and Neo-Zionism”.
Today, there is a world consensus that a solution of the conflict without a Palestinian state is quite out of the question.
So why not celebrate now?
WHY NOW? WHY didn’t it happen before or later?
Because of the Pillar of Cloud, the historic masterpiece from Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Avigdor Lieberman.
The Bible tells us about Samson the hero, who rent a lion with his bare hands. When he returned to the scene, a swarm of bees had made the carcase of the lion its home and produced honey. So Samson posed a riddle to the Philistines: “Out of the strong came forth sweetness”. This is now a Hebrew proverb.
Well, out of the “strong” Israeli operation against Gaza, sweetness has indeed come forth. It is another confirmation of the rule that when you start a war or a revolution, you never know what will come out of it.
One of the results of the operation was that the prestige and popularity of Hamas shot sky-high, while the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas sank to new depths. That was a result the West could not possibly tolerate. A defeat of the “moderates” and a victory for the Islamic “extremists” were a disaster for President Barack Obama and the entire Western camp. Something had to found – with all urgency – to provide Abbas with a resounding achievement.
Fortunately, Abbas was already on the way to obtain UN approval for the recognition of Palestine as a “state” (though not yet as a full member of the world organization). For Abbas, it was a move of despair. Suddenly, it became a beacon of victory.
THE COMPETITION between the Hamas and Fatah movements is viewed as a disaster for the Palestinian cause. But there is also another way to look at it.
Let’s go back to our own history. During the 30s and 40s, our Struggle for Liberation (as we called it) split between two camps, who hated each other with growing intensity.
On the one side was the “official” leadership, led by David Ben-Gurion, represented by the “Jewish Agency” which cooperated with the British administration. Its military arm was the Haganah, a very large, semi-official militia, mostly tolerated by the British.
On the other side was the Irgun (“National Military Organization”), the far more radical armed wing of the nationalist “revisionist” party of Vladimir Jabotinsky. It split and yet another, even more radical, organization was born. The British called it “the Stern Gang”, after its leader, Avraham Stern”.
The enmity between these organizations was intense. For a time, Haganah members kidnapped Irgun fighters and turned them over to the British police, who tortured them and sent them to camps in Africa. A bloody fratricidal war was avoided only because the Irgun leader, Menachem Begin, forbade all actions of revenge. By contrast, the Stern people bluntly told the Haganah that they would shoot anyone trying to attack their members.
In retrospect, the two sides can be seen as acting as the two arms of the same body. The “terrorism” of the Irgun and Stern complemented the diplomacy of the Zionist leadership. The diplomats exploited the achievements of the fighters. In order to counterbalance the growing popularity of the “terrorists”, the British made concessions to Ben-Gurion. A friend of mine called the Irgun “the shooting agency of the Jewish Agency”.
In a way, this is now the situation in the Palestinian camp.
FOR YEARS, the Israeli government has threatened Abbas with the most dire consequences if he dared to go to the UN. Abolishing the Oslo agreement and destroying the Palestinian authority was the bare minimum. Lieberman called the move “diplomatic terrorism”.
And now? Nothing. Not a bang and barely a whimper. Even Netanyahu understands that the Pillar of Cloud has created a situation where world support for Abbas has become inevitable.
What to do? Nothing! Pretend the whole thing is a joke. Who cares? What is this UNO anyway? What difference does it make?
Netanyahu is more concerned about another thing that happened to him this week. In the Likud primary elections, all the “moderates” in his party were unceremoniously kicked out. No liberal, democratic alibi was left. The Likud-Beitenu faction in the next Knesset will be composed entirely of right-wing extremists, among them several outright fascists, people who want to destroy the independence of the Supreme Court, cover the West Bank densely with settlements and prevent peace and a Palestinian state by all possible means.
While Netanyahu is sure to win the coming elections and continue to serve as Prime Minister, he is too clever not to realize where he is now: a hostage to extremists, liable to be thrown out by his own Knesset faction if he so much as mentions peace, to be displaced at any time by Lieberman or worse.
ON FIRST sight, nothing much has changed. But only on first sight.
What has happened is that the foundation of the State of Palestine has now been officially acknowledged as the aim of the world community. The “Two-State solution” is now the only solution on the table. The “One-State solution”, if it ever lived, is as dead as the dodo.
Of course, the apartheid one-state is reality. If nothing changes on the ground, is will become deeper and stronger. Almost every day brings news of it becoming more and more entrenched. (The bus monopoly has just announced that from now on there will be separate buses for West Bank Palestinians in Israel.)
But the quest for peace based on the co-existence between Israel and Palestine has taken a big step forwards. Unity between the Palestinians should be the next. US support for the actual creation of the State of Palestine should come soon after.
The strong must lead to the sweet.