On peace, Lebanon, Iran and Gilad Schalit

The new Israeli ambassador to the UN gives his first speech at the Security Council.

meron reuben 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
meron reuben 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Excerpted from the speech the ambassador gave on Monday
I wish to state the profound and enduring wish of my nation to establish peace with the Palestinians. A peace based on security and mutual recognition. A peace that will ensure prosperity for our two peoples.
Peace can only be achieved through direct negotiations and compromise from both sides.
Israel has continued to show that it is willing to take bold measures and make difficult decisions in pursuit of peace.
To this end, Israel helped encourage impressive growth in the Palestinian economy, removing hundreds of roadblocks and checkpoints in the West Bank. We took this action despite legitimate security concerns and continued terrorism.
With a heavy heart, Israel put in place a self-imposed and unprecedented 10-month moratorium on settlement construction.
We are hopeful that the Palestinians will take the measures necessary for peace. After refusing to engage in direct negotiations for nine months during the moratorium, the Palestinians – who at first belittled the gesture – now demand its extension as a precondition for continuing talks.
Settlements are one of many issues that need to be resolved in final status negotiations. History has shown that they do not stand in the way of making peace – as seen by peace agreements that were achieved with Egypt and Jordan.
Furthermore, when Israel dismantled all of its settlements in the Gaza Strip, it received terrorism and rocket fire on towns and communities in return.
Israel welcomes the extremely important efforts of the US administration to promote peace and security in the region.
In this regard, the US is closely engaged with Israel and other parties to get direct talks back on track.
In looking for a way forward, we must build any future agreement on the principles of mutual recognition and security.
A request that Israel recognize a Palestinian state as the nation-state of the Palestinian people must be met with an acknowledgement that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people. After generations of conflict, mutual recognition will be essential in overcoming a long history of incitement, combating terrorism and establishing peaceful coexistence between our two peoples.
Any peace agreement must also clearly address Israel’s security concerns with strong arrangements in the field. The diverse and dangerous threats facing Israel remain significant.
With support from the Iranian and Syrian regimes, extremist terrorist organizations in the region continue to rearm and stage attacks on Israeli civilians. The Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip remains an epicenter for terror and a launching ground for continuous rocket attacks against Israel. In Lebanon, the Hizbullah terrorist organization serves as a constant obstacle to peace and security for all in the region.
Establishing peace will require more than declarations or signatures on a piece of paper, it will necessitate concrete actions on the ground. With this in mind, the wider Arab world must also show Israelis and people around the globe that its declarations of peace will extend beyond words – and translate into deeds.
THE UNSC will discuss in detail the implementation of Resolution 1701 in a few weeks, but in advance of that discussion I would like to share a few thoughts about the continued challenges emanating from Lebanon, where radical forces continue to pose a threat to stability in the region.
As we approach the upcoming report on Resolution 1701, it remains clear that Hizbullah continues to build up its military capabilities and armaments, acquiring sophisticated weaponry and missiles from its Iranian and Syrian patrons.
Its deadly rearmament endangers Lebanon itself as well as the wider Middle East. This terrorist organization continues to deploy weapons and builds its military infrastructure throughout the civilian villages of southern Lebanon, adjacent to schools, hospitals, houses of worship and residential buildings.
Evidence of this phenomenon can be found in a series of explosions of Hizbullah weapons caches south of the Litani River over the past 15 months. The last such explosion took place in the Lebanese village of Sheabiyya on September 3.
Unfortunately, despite having real-time information about all of these incidents, the Lebanese Armed Forces did not intervene in a timely or robust manner. Furthermore, there is clear proof that Hizbullah removed evidence from all of these sites.
Its provocations and continued rearmament must not go unanswered by the Security Council, which has repeatedly and clearly stipulated that this terrorist organization must disarm and disband as a key issue addressed in Resolution 1701.
We also call on the Syrian government to refrain from engaging in actions that destabilize the region. While Syria claims to seek peace, it continues to support terror. There are numerous indications that the Syrian regime is hosting Hizbullah training camps inside of its territory, including locations where operatives receive training on missiles and other weapons. This reflects just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Syria’s extensive support for terrorism in the region.
If Syria truthfully wants to embrace the full spirit of peace, it must completely abandon its support for terror.
LET ME now turn to the greatest danger facing the Middle East and the world: Iran. The visit last week of Iran’s president to Lebanon underscores the destabilizing impact of this extremist regime in our region. A leader that denies the Holocaust, promotes conspiracy theories about the September 11 terrorist attacks and calls for Israel to be wiped off the map, Iran’s president only advances the causes of destruction and instability.
His regime’s support provides a lifeline to the terrorist organizations of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah, which could not exist without Iran. Relying on these proxies, Iran seeks to foil any movement toward rapprochement between Israel and the Palestinians as well as other parties in the region. Thus, in searching for a durable agreement with the Palestinians we must also confront this threat with firm resolve.
I would like to note that while Iran’s president and his extremist allies seek to impose fear, bloodshed and jihad on the population of Lebanon, there are many other voices in the region. An open letter to President Ahmadinejad that was recently published in the Lebanese media offers an example of one such voice. One passage reads: “You are attempting to interfere, just like others that came before you, in our affairs, where foreign interference was just to use Lebanon internally; the big slogans and the good intentions could not decorate or block the actual truth of this use.”
Even more alarming than its continued support of terror is Iran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons capabilities.
Such behavior endangers not only our region, nor merely a specific group of countries. It endangers us all – and must continue to be met by strong and effective action.
My comments would be incomplete without expressing our ongoing deep concern that for more than four years our kidnapped soldier, Gilad Schalit, has remained deprived of his most basic human rights, including any visit from the Red Cross. Israel expects the international community to do all in its power, and more than has been done thus far, to bring about his swift release.