Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a great speech to the UN General Assembly that went largely unnoticed in the broader media.
Clearly, not everyone agrees with Netanyahu’s position, but few things illustrate what made him who he is better than this photo.
I reckon the speech is worthy of more attention. Here’s a selection of the highlights, but you can find it it all here:
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.
Ladies and gentlemen, in Israel our hope for peace never wanes. Our scientists, doctors, and 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… 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 UN 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 UN Commission on Human Rights; Saddam’s Iraq headed the UN 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 UN 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 UN, automatic majorities can decide anything. They can decide that the sun sets rises in the west. 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 UN 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…
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? Israelis are prepared to have a Palestinian state in the West Bank, but we’re not prepared to have another Gaza there…
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…
The core of the conflict is not the settlements. The settlements are a result of the conflict.
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…
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.
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 be able 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?