PM Netanyahu’s speech to UN “I extend my hand in peace”


The assembly
will now hear a statement by His Excellency
Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister
of the State of Israel. I have great pleasure in welcoming
His Excellency Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister
of the state of Israel. Thank you.
Thank you. I invite him to address
the General Assembly. Thank you, Mr. President. Ladies and gentlemen, Israel has extended its hand in peace from the moment
it was established 63 years ago. On behalf of Israel
and the Jewish people, I extend that hand
again today. I extend it to the people
of Egypt and Jordan, with renewed friendship for neighbors
with whom we have made peace. I extend it to the people of Turkey, with respect and good will. I extend it to the people
of Libya and Tunisia, with admiration for those
trying to build a democratic future. I extend it to the other peoples
of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, with whom
we want to forge a new beginning. I extend it to the people of Syria,
Lebanon and Iran, with awe at the courage of those
fighting brutal repression. But most especially, I extend my hand
to the Palestinian people, with whom we seek a just
and lasting peace. 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 branded
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 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. And yet even here
in the General Assembly, the truth can sometimes
break through. In 1984 when I was appointed Israel’s
ambassador to the United Nations, I visited
the great rabbi of Lubavich. He said to me, and ladies and gentlemen, I don’t
want any of you to be offended because from personal experience
of serving here, I know there are many
honorable men and women, many capable and decent people,
serving their nations here, but here’s what
the rebbe said to me. He said to me, “you’ll be serving
in a house of many lies”. And then he said, “remember
that even in the darkest place, “the light of a single candle
can be seen far and wide”. Today I hope that the light of truth
will shine, if only for a few minutes, in a hall that for too long has been
a place of darkness for my country. So as Israel’s prime minister, I didn’t come here
to win applause. I came here to speak the truth. The truth is… the truth is
that Israel wants peace. The truth is that I want peace. The truth is that in the Middle East
at all times, but especially
during these turbulent days, peace must be anchored in security. The truth is that we cannot achieve
peace through U.N. resolutions, but only through direct
negotiations between the parties. The truth is
that so far the Palestinians
have refused to negotiate. The truth is that Israel wants peace
with a Palestinian state, but the Palestinians want
a state without peace. And the truth is you shouldn’t
let that happen. 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. Now, some argue
that the spread of militant Islam, especially in these turbulent times – if you want to slow
it down, they argue, Israel must hurry
to make concessions, to make territorial compromises. And this theory sounds simple. Basically it goes like this: Leave the territory,
and peace will be advanced. The moderates will be strengthened,
the radicals will be kept at bay. And don’t worry
about the pesky details of how Israel
will actually defend itself; international troops will do the job. These people say to me constantly: “just make a sweeping offer,
and everything will work out”. You know, there’s only one problem
with that theory. We’ve tried it and it hasn’t worked. In 2000 Israel made
a sweeping peace offer that met virtually
all of the Palestinian demands. Arafat rejected it. The Palestinians
then launched a terror attack that claimed
a thousand Israeli lives. Prime Minister Olmert afterwards made
an even more sweeping offer, in 2008. President Abbas
didn’t even respond to it. But Israel did more
than just make sweeping offers. We actually left territory. We withdrew from Lebanon in 2000 and from every square inch
of Gaza in 2005. That didn’t calm the Islamic storm, the militant Islamic storm
that threatens us. It only brought the storm
closer and made it stronger. 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 EUBAM 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 their
schools and their kindergartens. We bulldozed synagogues. 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 keep 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 believe that in serious
peace negotiations, these needs and concerns
can be properly addressed, but they will not be addressed
without negotiations. And the needs are many, because
Israel is such a tiny country. Without Judea and Samaria,
the West Bank, Israel is all of 9 miles wide. I want to put it for you
in perspective, because you’re all in this city. That’s about two-thirds
the length of Manhattan. It’s the distance between
Battery Park and Columbia University. And don’t forget that the people
who live in Brooklyn and New Jersey are considerably nicer
than some of Israel’s neighbors. So how do you protect
such a tiny country, surrounded by people
sworn to its destruction and armed to the teeth by Iran? Obviously you can’t defend it from
within that narrow space alone. Israel needs greater strategic depth, and that’s exactly why
Security Council Resolution 242 didn’t require Israel to leave all the territories
it captured in the Six-Day War. It talked about withdrawal
from territories, to secure and defensible boundaries. And to defend itself, Israel must therefore maintain
a long-term Israeli military presence in critical strategic areas
in the West Bank. I explained this to President Abbas. He answered that if a Palestinian
state was to be a sovereign country, it could never accept
such arrangements. Why not? America has had troops in Japan,
Germany and South Korea for more than a half a century. Britain has had
an air base in Cyprus. France has forces in three
independent African nations. None of these states claim
that they’re not sovereign countries. And there are many other
vital security issues that also must be addressed. Take the issue of airspace. Again, Israel’s small dimensions
create huge security problems. America can be crossed
by jet airplane in six hours. To fly across Israel,
it takes three minutes. So is Israel’s tiny airspace
to be chopped in half and given to a Palestinian state
not at peace with Israel? Our major international airport is a few kilometers away
from the West Bank. Without peace, will our planes become
targets for antiaircraft missiles placed in the adjacent
Palestinian state? And how will we stop the smuggling
into the West Bank? It’s not merely the West Bank,
it’s the West Bank mountains. It just dominates the coastal plain where most of Israel’s population
sits below. How could we prevent the smuggling
into these mountains of those missiles that could be
fired on our cities? 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 Palestinians should first
make peace with Israel and then get their state. But I also want to tell you this. After such a peace agreement
is signed, Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as
a new member of the United Nations. We will be the first. And there’s one more thing. Hamas has been
violating international law by holding our soldier Gilad Shalit
captive for five years. They haven’t given
even one Red Cross visit. He’s held in a dungeon, in darkness,
against all international norms. Gilad Shalit is the son
of Aviva and Noam Shalit. He is the grandson of Zvi Shalit, who escaped the Holocaust
by coming, in the 1930s as a boy
to the land of Israel. Gilad Shalit is the son
of every Israeli family. Every nation represented here should
demand his immediate release. If you want to pass a resolution
about the Middle East today, that’s the resolution
you should pass. Ladies and gentlemen,
last year in Israel in Bar-Ilan University, this year in the Knesset
and in the U.S. Congress, I laid out my vision for peace in which a demilitarized Palestinian
state recognizes the Jewish state. Yes, the Jewish state. After all, this is the body that
recognized the Jewish state 64 years ago. Now, don’t you think it’s about time
that Palestinians did the same? The Jewish state of Israel will always protect the rights
of all its minorities, including the more than 1million
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. 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 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 from1948. 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. 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. I think it’s time that the
Palestinian leadership recognizes what every serious
international leader has recognized, from Lord Balfour and Lloyd George
in 1917, to President Truman in1948, to President Obama
just two days ago right here: Israel is the Jewish state. President Abbas, stop walking
around this issue. Recognize the Jewish state,
and make peace with us. In such a genuine peace, Israel is
prepared to make painful compromises. We believe that the Palestinians
should be neither the citizens of Israel
nor its subjects. They should live in a free state
of their own. But they should be ready, like us,
for compromise. And we will know that they’re ready
for compromise and for peace when they start taking Israel’s
security requirements seriously and when they stop denying
our historical connection to our ancient homeland. I often hear them accuse Israel
of Judaizing Jerusalem. That’s like accusing America
of Americanizing Washington, or the British
of Anglicizing London. You know why we’re called “Jews”? Because we come from Judea. In my office in Jerusalem,
there’s an ancient seal. It’s a signet ring of a Jewish
official from the time of the Bible. The seal was found right next
to the Western Wall, and it dates back 2,700 years,
to the time of King Hezekiah. Now, there’s a name of the
Jewish official inscribed on the ring in Hebrew. His name was Netanyahu. That’s my last name. My first name, Benjamin, dates back a thousand years earlier
to Benjamin, Binyamin, the son of Jacob,
who was also known as Israel. Jacob and his 12 sons roamed these same hills of Judea
and Samaria 4,000 years ago, and there’s been a continuous Jewish
presence in the land ever since. And for those Jews who were exiled
from our land, they never stopped dreaming
of coming back: Jews in Spain,
on the eve of their expulsion; Jews in the Ukraine,
fleeing the pogroms; Jews fighting the Warsaw Ghetto,
as the Nazis were circling around it. They never stopped praying,
they never stopped yearning. They whispered:
Next year in Jerusalem. Next year in the promised land. As the prime minister of Israel, I speak for a hundred
generations of Jews who were dispersed
throughout the lands, who suffered every
evil under the Sun, but who never gave up hope
of restoring their national life in the one and only Jewish state. Ladies and gentlemen, I continue to hope that President Abbas
will be my partner in peace. I’ve worked hard
to advance that peace. The day I came into office, I called for direct negotiations
without preconditions. President Abbas didn’t respond. I outlined a vision of peace
of two states for two peoples. He still didn’t respond. I removed hundreds of roadblocks
and checkpoints, to ease freedom of movement
in the Palestinian areas; this facilitated a fantastic
growth in the Palestinian economy. But again – no response. I took the unprecedented step of freezing new buildings
in the settlements for 10 months. No prime minister
did that before, ever. Once again… you applaud,
but there was no response. No response. In the last few weeks, American officials have put forward
ideas to restart peace talks. There were things in those ideas
about borders that I didn’t like. There were things there
about the Jewish state that I’m sure the Palestinians
didn’t like. But with all my reservations, I was willing to move forward
on these American ideas. President Abbas,
why don’t you join me? We have to stop negotiating
about the negotiations. Let’s just get on with it. Let’s negotiate peace. I spent years defending Israel
on the battlefield. I spent decades defending Israel
in the court of public opinion. President Abbas,
you’ve dedicated your life to advancing the Palestinian cause. Must this conflict
continue for generations, or will we enable our children
and our grandchildren to speak in years ahead of how
we found a way to end it? That’s what we should aim for, and that’s what I believe
we can achieve. In two and a half years,
we met in Jerusalem only once, even though my door has always
been open to you. If you wish,
I’ll come to Ramallah. Actually,
I have a better suggestion. We’ve both just flown thousands
of miles to New York. Now we’re in the same city. We’re in the same building. So let’s meet here today
in the United Nations. Who’s there to stop us? What is there to stop us? If we genuinely want peace, what is there to stop us
from meeting today and beginning peace negotiations? And I suggest
we talk openly and honestly. Let’s listen to one another. Let’s do as we say in the
Middle East: Let’s talk “doogri”. That means straightforward. I’ll tell you my needs and concerns. You’ll tell me yours. And with God’s help, we’ll find
the common ground of peace. 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 “The people who walked in darkness
will see a great light.” Let that
light be the light of peace. On behalf
of the General Assembly I wish to thank the Prime Minister
of the State of Israel for his statement just made.

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