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Ambassador Prosor – myths and facts – Statement to the UN Security Council: Open Debate on the Situation in the Middle East

Statement by Ambassador Ron Prosor

UN Security Council

“Open Debate on the Situation in the Middle East”

23 April 2012

Thank you, Madame President. Let me begin by thanking you, personally, for
your outstanding leadership of the Security Council this month.

Churchill once said, “In the time that it takes a lie to get halfway around
the world, the truth is still getting its pants on.”

In the barren deserts of the Middle East, myths find fertile ground to grow
wild. Facts often remain buried in the sand. The myths forged in our region
travel abroad – and can surprisingly find their way into these halls.

I would like to use today’s debate as an opportunity to address just a few
of the myths that have become a permanent hindrance to our discussion of the
Middle East here at the United Nations.

Madame President,

Myth number one: the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is the central conflict in
the Middle East. If you solve that conflict, you solve all the other
conflicts in the region.

Make no mistake: it is important for Israel and the Palestinians to resolve
our longstanding conflict for its own merits. Yet, the truth is that
conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Bahrain, and many other parts of the
Middle East have absolutely nothing to do with Israel.

It is obvious that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict won’t stop the
persecution of minorities across the region, end the subjugation of women,
or heal the sectarian divides. Obsessing over Israel has not stopped Assad’s
tanks from flattening entire communities. On the contrary, it has only
distracted attention from his crimes.

This debate – even this morning – has lost any sense of proportion.
Thousands are being killed in Syria, hundreds in Yemen, dozens in Iraq — and
yet, this debate again repeatedly is focusing on the legitimate actions of
the government of the only democracy in the Middle East.

And dedicating the majority of this debate to the Israeli-Palestinian
Conflict, month after month after after month, has not stopped the Iranian
regime’s centrifuges from spinning. Iran’s ambitions for nuclear weapons are
the single greatest threat to the Middle East, and the entire world.

The Iranian nuclear program continues to advance at the speed of an express
train. The international community’s efforts to stop them are moving at the
pace of the local train, pausing at every stop for some nations to get on
and off. The danger of inaction is clear. We cannot allow the diplomatic
channel to provide another avenue for the Iranian regime to stall for more
time, as they inch closer and closer to a nuclear weapon.

Madame President,

Myth number two: there is a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

In fact, numerous international organizations have said clearly that there
is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, including the Deputy Head of the Red
Cross Office in the area.

Gaza’s real GDP grew by more than 25 percent during the first three quarters
of 2011. Exports are expanding. International humanitarian projects are
moving forward at a rapid pace.

There is not a single civilian good that cannot enter Gaza today. Yet, as
aid flows into the area, missiles fly out. This is the crisis in Gaza. And
that is what keeps Gaza from realizing its real potential.

It is a simple equation. If it is calm in Israel, it will be calm in Gaza.
But the people of Gaza will face hardship as long as terrorists use them as
human shields to rain rockets down on Israeli cities.

Each rocket in Gaza is armed with a warhead capable of causing a political
earthquake that would extend well beyond Israel’s borders. It will only take
one rocket that lands in the wrong place at the wrong time to change the
equation on the ground. If that happens, Israel’s leaders would be forced to
respond in a completely different manner.

It is time for all in this Chamber to finally wake up to that dangerous
reality. The Security Council has not condemned a single rocket attack from
Gaza. History’s lessons are clear. Today’s silence is tomorrow’s tragedy.

Madame President,

Myth number three: settlements are the primary obstacle to peace.

How many times have we heard that argument in this chamber?

Just this month, the Human Rights Council proposed yet another
“fact-finding” mission to Israel. It will explore…surprise,
surprise…Israeli settlements.

Today, I’d like to save the Human Rights Council and the international
community some time and energy.

The facts have already been found. They are plain for all to see.

The fact is that from 1948 until 1967, the West Bank was part of Jordan, and
Gaza was part of Egypt. The Arab World did nothing – it did not lift a
finger – to create a Palestinian state. And it sought Israel’s annihilation
when not a single settlement stood anywhere in the West Bank or Gaza.

The fact is that in 2005, when I was the Director-General of Israel’s
Foreign Ministry, we took every settlement out of Gaza and only got rockets
on our cities in return.

The fact is that this Israeli Government put in place an unprecedented
ten-month moratorium on settlements. The Palestinian leadership used the
gesture as an opportunity to take Israel and the international community on
another ride to nowhere. For nine out of those ten months, they rejected the
moratorium as insufficient – and then demanded that we extend it. As former
U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell said “what had been less than worthless a
few months earlier became indispensable to continue negotiations…[for the

Madame President,

The primary obstacle to peace is not settlements. The primary obstacle to
peace is the so-called “claim of return” – and the Palestinian’s refusal to
recognize Israel’s right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

You will never hear Palestinian leaders say “two states for two peoples”.
You won’t hear them say “two states for two peoples” because today the
Palestinian leadership is calling for an independent Palestinian state, but
insists that its people return to the Jewish state. This would mean the
destruction of Israel.

Some of you might say, “Oh Ambassador, but the Palestinians know that they
will have to give up this claim, that’s what they whisper quietly at the
negotiating table.”

Ladies and Gentleman – the Palestinian leadership has never, ever said
publicly that they will give up the so-called “claim of return” – neither to
the Palestinian people, nor to the Arab World, nor to the international
community, or to anyone else.

Since the Palestinian leadership refuses to tell the Palestinian people the
truth, the international community has the responsibility and duty to tell
them the truth. You have a duty to stand up and say that the so-called
“claim of return” is a non-starter.

Instead of telling the Palestinian people the truth, much of the
international community stands idle as the Arab World tries to erase the
Jewish people’s historical connection to the Land of Israel.

Across the Arab World – and even at this table – you hear claims that Israel
is “Judaizing Jerusalem”. These accusations come about 3,000 years too late.
It’s like accusing the NBA of Americanizing basketball.

Like many nations around this table, the Jewish people have a proud legacy
of age-old kings and queens. It’s just that our tradition goes back a few
years earlier. Since King David laid the cornerstone for his palace in the
10th Century BC, Jerusalem has served as the heart of our faith.

In debate after debate, speakers sit in the Security Council and say that
Israel is committing “ethnic cleansing” in Jerusalem, even though the
percentage of Arab residents in the city has grown from 26% to 35% since

The holiest sites in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people,
were closed only to Jews from 1948 until 1967. Everyone could come to these
sites except Jews. There was absolutely no freedom of worship. The world did
not say a word about the situation in Jerusalem at that time.

Since Israel unified the city, it has thrived under the values of tolerance
and freedom. For the first time in centuries, sacred places that were once
sealed off along religious lines are now permanently open for worship by all
peoples. This is a principle grounded in our values, our actions and our

Madame President,

There is another great truth that this organization has completely
overlooked for the past 64 years.

In all of the pages that the UN has written about the Israeli-Palestinian
Conflict, in all of its reports and fact-finding commissions, and in all of
the hours dedicated to debate about the Middle East, there is one great
untold story. Or – to be more specific – there are more than 850,000 untold

More than 850,000 Jews have been uprooted from their homes in Arab countries
during the past 64 years. These were vibrant communities dating back 2,500
years. On the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, Babylonian Jewry
produced many of Judaism’s holiest books — and thrived for two millennia. In
the great synagogues and libraries of Cairo, Jews preserved the intellectual
and scientific treasures of antiquity into the Renaissance. From Aleppo to
Aden to Alexandria, Jews stood out as some of the greatest artists,
musicians, businessmen, and writers.

All of these communities were wiped out. Age-old family businesses and
properties were confiscated. Jewish quarters were destroyed. Pogroms left
synagogues looted, graveyards desecrated and thousands dead.

The pages that the UN has written about the Palestinian refugees could fill
up soccer stadiums, but not a drop of ink has been spilled about the Jewish

Out of over 1088 UN resolutions on the Middle East, you will not find a
single syllable regarding the displacement of Jewish refugees. There have
been more than 172 resolutions exclusively devoted to Palestinian refugees,
but not one dedicated to Jewish refugees. The Palestinian refugees have
their own UN agency, their own information program, and their own department
within the United Nations. None exist for the Jewish refugees. The word
“double-standard” does not even begin to describe this gap.

This discrepancy is very convenient for some in this Chamber, but it’s not
right. The time has come for the UN to end its complicity in trying to erase
the stories of 850,000 people from history.

The time has also come to speak openly in these halls about the Arab World’s
role in maintaining the Palestinians as refugees for more than six decades.

Jews from Arab countries came to refugee camps in Israel, which eventually
gave birth to thriving towns and cities. Refugee camps in Arab Countries
gave birth to more Palestinian refugees.

Israel welcomed its Jewish refugees with citizenship and unlocked their vast
potential. As they rose to the highest levels of society, our refugees
lifted the State of Israel to new heights.

Imagine if Arab countries had done the same with their Palestinian refugees.
Instead, they have cynically perpetuated their status as refugees, for
generation after generation. Across the Arab World, Palestinians have been
denied citizenship, rights and opportunities.

All of these are facts that must be neither forgotten nor overlooked, as we
look to move forward on the path to peace.

Madame President,

I’ve saved the most obvious myth for last: the myth that peace can somehow
be achieved between Israelis and Palestinians by bypassing direct
negotiations. History has shown that peace and negotiations are

Direct negotiations are the only tool, the only way and the only path to
create two-states for two peoples. Last January, Israel offered a clear
proposal in Amman for restarting direct negotiations. We presented the
Palestinian delegation with negotiating positions on every major issue
separating the parties.

That proposal – filled with Israel’s vision for peace – continues to gather
dust, as Palestinian leaders continue to pile up new pre-conditions for
sitting with Israel. They are everywhere except the negotiating table. It is
time for them to give up unilateral efforts to internationalize the conflict
and take up the real path to peace.

Madame President,

This week we will observe the two most significant public holidays in
Israel – our day of remembrance and our day of independence.

On Wednesday, sirens will sound across Israel. For two minutes, everything
will come to a halt. People will stop in their tracks, cars will pull over
to the side of highways, and the entire country will pause to remember the
more than 22,000 Israelis who have been killed by wars and terrorism in our
nation’s short history.

On Thursday, we will celebrate the rebirth of the Jewish nation – and our
64th year as a free people in our ancient homeland. Against persistent
threats and overwhelming odds, Israel has not only survived, but thrived.

I walk the halls of this organization tall and proud of my extraordinary
nation – a nation of just 7 million that has produced 10 Nobel prizes; a
nation that sends satellites into space, puts electric cars on the road, and
develops the technology to power everything from cell phones to solar panels
to medical devices.

We intentionally commemorate these two days one after another. As the
Israeli people celebrate our independence, we carry the heavy weight of
great suffering and sacrifice.

The lesson we take from these days is clear. We can never turn a blind eye
to the dangers around us. We cannot pretend that we live in a stable region
filled with Jeffersonian democracies.

But there is another lesson that will fill the hearts of Israelis this week.
We can never, ever give up hope for lasting peace. The price of conflict is
too high. The evil of war is too great.

That is the fundamental truth which guides our leaders.

Madame President,

In the dangerous uncertainty of a turbulent Middle East, the Security
Council has never had a greater responsibility to separate myth from truth,
and fact from fiction.

The clarity of candor has never been more valuable. The need for honest
discourse has never been clearer. It is time for this Council to sweep out
the cobwebs of old illusions – and plant the seeds for a truly “open” debate
on the Middle East. The challenges before us demand nothing less.

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