Encountering Peace: A speech in Ramallah, a speech in the Knesset

These are the speeches that Abbas and Netanyahu should each give if they were to speak directly to the people from the Knesset and from Ramallah.

Netanyahu, Obama, Abbas 300 (photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed )
Netanyahu, Obama, Abbas 300
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed )
These are the speeches that Mahmoud Abbas and Binyamin Netanyahu should each give if they were to speak directly to the people from the Knesset and from Ramallah.
Dear Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister Hamdallah, members of the Palestinian Cabinet, honored guests,
It is with great pleasure and anticipation that I have come to Ramallah today to speak to you and to the Palestinian people directly. I carry with me one central message: the people of Israel want to live in peace with you, as good neighbors, you in an independent Palestinian state, the homeland of the Palestinian people, and we in Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people.
I have come here today to extend my hand in peace to you and to your people. We, the Jewish people, have throughout millennia known too much suffering. We wish no suffering on you. Our tradition teaches us that we shall love the strangers among us, those who are different from us, because we ourselves were strangers in Egypt.
In our Declaration of Independence our first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, said, “We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.” We remain committed to that pledge.
At the time of signing the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, prime minister Menachem Begin stated with passion, “No more war, no more bloodshed, no more bereavement, peace unto you, shalom, saalam, forever.” This is my call to you today, to the Palestinian people. Enough war, enough killing, enough suffering.
We are negotiating for peace. The negotiations are very serious, very difficult. We must both be willing to make painful concessions so that our peoples will enjoy the fruits of our efforts. Israel is prepared to make those concessions, but we can make no concessions on our security. We must be sure that when we implement future agreements, we will achieve genuine peace. We must be sure that terrorism will come to an end. We must be clear that with a peace treaty we are putting an end to the conflict and an end to all claims.
Israel is prepared to make every effort to find solutions to all of the issues in conflict that will best meet the needs of both sides. We can find the compromises – if we both demonstrate flexibility. But first we must know that you and your people are sincerely interested in making peace with us. We are concerned, because, as you know, our past experience has not been positive. We are concerned because we continue to see evidence of incitement coming from leaders and from the Palestinian media.
I know that the Palestinian people are skeptical about the peace process, just as are the Israeli people. It is our job as leaders to demonstrate to our people that we are serious and that peace is possible. I call on you to reach out to the people of Israel and to speak the language of peace. Prove to the Israeli people that the Palestinian people are also tired of war and suffering and that you are sincere in your desire for peace. Put an end to incitement and speak in one voice – the voice of peace – and your voice will be heard.
I came here against the advice of many of the ministers in my government. I came because we must achieve a breakthrough. We must break down the walls of mistrust between us and we must reach a successful agreement in the negotiations. I am dedicated to lead Israel to peace and I hope and believe that President Abbas will be my partner in this great challenge before us.
Thank you.
Mr. President, Shimon Peres, Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Speaker, Members of Knesset, dear guests,
It is a great honor for me to address this body today, in Jerusalem, the Holy City for the three great faiths, as the president of Palestine and your partner for peace.
In our Declaration of Independence, drafted by our national poet, the late Mahmoud Darwish, it is written, “Palestine, the land of the three monotheistic faiths, is where the Palestinian Arab people was born, on which it grew, developed and excelled. The Palestinian people was never separated from or diminished in its integral bonds with Palestine. Thus the Palestinian Arab people ensured for itself an everlasting union between itself, its land and its history.”
We, the Palestinian people, and the land of Palestine are one. But we also know that you, the Jewish people, and the Land of Israel are one, we cannot deny this. That is why our Declaration also states, “Palestine is a peace-loving state, in adherence to the principles of peaceful coexistence. It will join with all states and peoples in order assure a permanent peace based upon justice and the respect of rights.”
We too are a people that have suffered too much. We want to end our suffering. We yearn to live in freedom and independence with dignity as good neighbors seeking no harm to others. The Palestinian people are an intelligent people with the highest academic achievements in the region.
Our people excel in so many fields and have survived and even succeeded under great anguish. We hold no grudge and no urge for revenge. We seek to build a new future in a free Palestine, next to Israel, with peace and security for all of our people and all of your people. We have already made great and painful compromises for peace. In September 1993, president Arafat wrote to prime minister Rabin: “The PLO recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security.” We stand by that commitment and add that the State of Palestine recognizes the right of the State of Israel and the Jewish people to exist in peace and security.
We are negotiating with you for peace. We are prepared to deal constructively with all of Israel’s security needs. We understand those needs and are prepared to work together to find that path that will ensure the security of Israel and its people, and for us, the security of Palestine and all of its people.
We expect you to understand our need to control our own destiny and to end Israeli control over our lands and our lives. Just as we respect and understand your attachment to the holy city of Jerusalem, we expect you to understand our connection and attachment to Jerusalem, our national and holy city. We must find the solutions to this important issue as well as to all of the other issues.
We understand Israel’s fears about an influx of masses of Palestinian refugees returning to their homes and changing the demographic realities by doing so. We understand that the solution to the refugee problem must be, in the words of the Arab Peace Initiative, an agreed solution by both parties.
We believe that we can find solutions to this problem as well. We believe that with good will, we can find solutions to all of the issues that will enable us to live side-by-side in peace, Palestine next to Israel. We do not seek your destruction, we seek a peaceful coexistence prospering from your experience and your achievements that can advance and strengthen all of us in this region.
The Palestinian people are tired of war. We want to live in peace. We are your partners for peace. We believe that two states for two peoples is the only solution to this conflict.
This is the time for peace. We must succeed.
Thank you.
Gershon Baskin is the co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit. His new book Freeing Gilad: the Secret Back Channel has been published by Kinneret Zmora Bitan in Hebrew, and The Negotiator: Freeing Gilad Schalit from Hamas, by The Toby Press.