Statement by Israel Ambassador Lancry before the UN Security Council-18-Dec-2000

Statement by Israel Ambassador Lancry before the UN Security Council-18-Dec-2000


Statement by Israel Ambassador Yehuda Lancry before the UN Security Council

18 December 2000

Mr. President,

I would like to congratulate you on your assumption of the Presidency of the Security Council. I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate your predecessor, Ambassador van Walsum, for his most capable leadership.

At the outset, I would like to express my satisfaction at the recent renewal of official high-level contacts between Israel and the Palestinians, in particular, the agreement of both parties to attend meetings in Washington this week. It is my hope that by returning to the framework of negotiations we can peacefully find a way to resolve all outstanding issues, including the question under deliberation today.

Mr. President,

We do think that the core of the matter is clear. Although many would have us believe otherwise, what we are witnessing is a deliberate choice by the Palestinian leadership to simultaneously pursue the intifada as well as the welcome resumption of dialogue. The current confrontation. which was deliberately initiated by the Palestinian leadership, continues to be nurtured in various ways as a strategic choice on their part.

If there is any lingering doubt that this is in fact the case, I would invite the Council to ask itself, who is benefiting here? Whose interest does it serve to perpetuate a variable-intensity conflict of the kind we have been experiencing? Even a cursory consideration of the facts suggests that this conflict clearly serves the interests of the Palestinian leadership rather than the interests of Israel. In the aftermath of the Camp David Summit, Chairman Arafat found himself increasingly isolated, even criticized in certain circles, for failing to be forthcoming in reaching a final peace agreement with Israel. Barely four months later, the Palestinian cause is the beneficiary of front page coverage from the international media. While Israel has been unjustly portrayed as the militaristic aggressor, the Palestinian leadership has benefited tremendously by avoiding the implementation of the necessary steps to which it committed itself to bring about a final settlement.

It now seems as if the leading role that the Palestinian leadership has played in the current spate of violence is finally being admitted. The Palestinian semi-official daily Al Ayyam reported on 6 December that Palestinian Minister of Communications, Imad Al Falouji, confirmed that the Palestinian Authority had begun preparations for the outbreak of the current intifada from the moment the Camp David talks concluded, this in accordance with instructions given by Chairman Arafat himself. Mr. Falouji went on to state that Arafat launched this intifada as the culminating stage of "Palestinian steadfastness" in the negotiations, and not merely as a protest of Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount (Al-Ayyam, 6 December 2000). Here is the original Arabic:

Despite this and other overwhelming evidence, the Palestinian leadership has been remarkably successful in obscuring this fact. They have incited their street to violence and holy war, while at the same time placing full blame for the crisis on Israel's shoulders. This practice continued even as negotiations took place in Paris, Sharm Al-Sheikh, and Gaza, on ways to end the confrontation and return to negotiations. Officials of the Palestinian Authority were quoted as calling for escalation at the same time as they accused Israel of horrific acts of war. They ordered their illegally armed militias to fire on Israeli soldiers and civilians in the same breath as they demanded that Israel renounce its right to self-defense. And now, while illegal Palestinian paramilitary groups continue their assaults on Israel, their leaders come to ask the world for protection. This, Mr. President, is a manipulation of reality and a perversion of the truth.

It must be further noted that the current crisis is also due to the failure of the Palestinian leadership to cultivate mutual understanding and tolerance amongst the Palestinian people. Rather than educate for peace, they have consistently and systematically fostered a culture of hatred and rejection, manifested in official Palestinian textbooks which deny the legitimacy of Israel. Such a failure cannot be rectified by a resolution of the Security Council, nor by any action of the international community. This state of affairs can only be changed by the Palestinians themselves. The peace process will only succeed if mutual recognition and non-violence is enshrined, not only on paper, but in the hearts and minds of people.

This is precisely what Chairman Arafat pledged to accomplish in September of 1993 when he committed, in a watershed letter to the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, to renounce the use of violence and terrorism, and to settle all outstanding claims through negotiations. This commitment was fundamental, and for Israelis it represented much more than mere verbiage. After years of PLO sponsored terrorism, Chairman Arafat's letter reflected a recognition that, after decades of confrontation, the destiny of the region would now be determined at the negotiating table and not by violence and terrorism. Moreover, Chairman Arafat spoke on behalf of all the Palestinian people, and was consequently recognized by Israel as their leader. He cannot now go back on his word and continue to receive international support as if he hadn't.

Today, however, both the Government and people of Israel are obliged to confront a stark reality, one which suggests that the Palestinian leadership remains ambiguous in its fulfillment of the basic commitment that formed the bedrock for 7 years of peacemaking. Evidence of this departure was apparent weeks ago. The release of scores of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists from Palestinian jails, an act which has now led to a number of terrorist bombings in Israeli cities, offers compelling proof. As do the activities of the Tanzim, the illegal paramilitary arm of Chairman Arafat's Fatah faction, who have repeatedly directed live gunfire and roadside ambushes at Israeli soldiers and civilians. Even as the Palestinians ask the Council today for protection from the consequences of their own actions, they are making clear that they feel no obligation to fully relinquish the path of intifada, which is not an unarmed popular uprising, but rather a drawn-out expedition of guerrilla warfare.

And yet, with the exception of some rare - and therefore remarkable - voices in the Security Council, the United Nations has made no official mention of the incitement to violence in the official media, the green light given to terrorists by the Palestinian Authority, the desecration of Jewish holy sites, and a host of other Palestinian violations. Instead, we are sitting here today debating the merits of sending an international force to protect the Palestinians from their own choice to engage in violence.

Today's draft resolution represents a blatant attempt to abuse the goodwill of the international community and to obscure the strategic choice made by the Palestinians. The Security Council must not be a party to it. The United Nations cannot be called upon to put out fires on behalf of the same party who has kindled and fanned the flames. What kind of precedent would this set? What kind of message will it send to the Palestinians and others?

Mr. President,

Our position on the question of an international presence has been made clear. We are not opposed to some form of international presence, provided it is established within the context of a comprehensive bilateral agreement. This has always been the accepted sequence. An international presence is not something we intrinsically reject, but it must be used to cement an agreement, not as an alternative to one.

The Council must be cognizant of the fact that sending a UN force as demanded has the potential to actually escalate the violence and further destabilize the region, for it would send a message to the Palestinians that there is no need to negotiate or coordinate with Israel and no need to seek compromise. Indeed, I can think of no greater incentive than this to continue the caustic struggle. As such, peace and security would not be enhanced by an international force, it would be undermined. If the international community wishes to see a return to dialogue and negotiation, and the ultimate realization of the legitimate aspirations and needs of both parties through a peaceful process, it must insist that the Palestinian leadership fulfill its obligations. This Council must not take action which would be interpreted as endorsing violence and unilateral imposition.

Furthermore, international intervention appears wholly unnecessary. Chairman Arafat has the ability to protect the lives of his people, and the steps necessary to do so are clear. He must relinquish the path of confrontation, disarm his illegal militias, and control Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists - all of which he has already committed himself to doing. Furthermore, he must assume his responsibility as the leader of the Palestinian people, committed by his own free choice to seek an honorable peace, to uphold the foundation of the peace process, and to foster a culture of peace between our two peoples. I assure the members of this Council, that were the Palestinian Authority to take these steps, the violence, death and injury would cease and we could once again focus on negotiating a lasting peace settlement.

And yet, the Palestinian Authority prefers the safety of ambiguity, a fact which has even been recognized in some Arab circles. Egyptian commentator Mahmoud al-Manem Morad, writing in Al-Akhbar on 1 December, was moved to ask "how is it that the Palestinians are seeking the deployment of an observer force which will act as a buffer between themselves and the Israelis, if, in the same breath, they also seek to continue the intifada, which will require close contact between the Palestinians and Israelis?"

Let me repeat: the current intifada is not an unarmed popular uprising, but a guerrilla campaign which the Palestinians have little interest in having brought to a close. We maintain that just as the current violence began with a calculated and deliberate order from the highest echelons of the Palestinian leadership, so must it end. The Palestinians are not in need of protection from Israel, but rather from the misguided policies of their own leaders.

Mr. President,

What is needed from the Security Council is not intervention, but support for the parties and the efforts to achieve peace which will get underway this week in Washington. Protection forces, UN observers - all these only distract us from the real issues at hand. The Palestinian Authority's perpetual ambiguity with regard to ending the violence is indicative of a lack of fortitude and political will on their part to make the historic compromises that are needed. An international force will not increase the Palestinian determination to make peace, rather, it will decrease their willingness to do so.

The Council's overriding objective must be to encourage both sides to embrace a reasonable peace. I would urge the Council to consider whether sending an international force to the region will advance this goal. The draft resolution before us today is a recipe for long-term instability in the region, and I therefore strongly urge the members of the Council not to support it.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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