Statement to the UN Security Council Ambassador by Chaim Waxman, Deputy Permanent Representative:
Thank you, Mr. President – and allow me to extend Israel’s appreciation to you for your able stewardship of the Security Council this month.
18 years ago, a bomb ripped through the Argentinian Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires. 85 people were killed. Hundreds were injured. The Islamic Republic of Iran – a Member State of this organization – was responsible for this act, along with its proxy Hezbollah.
Last week, a suicide bomber exploded on a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Burgos, Bulgaria. Six were killed, including a pregnant woman. More than 30 were injured. The victims were mostly young people on vacation. Again, Iran and Hezbollah were responsible.
In recent months, Israelis were targeted in terrorist attacks and attempted attacks in India, Azerbaijan, Thailand, Kenya, Turkey and, most recently, in Cyprus. Iran and Hezbollah were responsible for each and every one of these acts. This is just one part of a bigger picture. Iran and Hezbollah’s most recent terrorist plots span five continents and at least 24 countries.
It should be clear to everyone in this hall that these horrific events are not isolated. A clear line of terror runs from the bombing in Argentina to the attack in Bulgaria. It begins and ends in Iran.
The Iranian campaign of terrorism is a plague that threatens not only Israelis and Jews, but innocent people all over the globe. The time has come for the world to put an end to this campaign of terror, once and for all.
One cannot underestimate the significance of the present moment. The Middle East is perhaps at the most important crossroads since the end of World War I.
There are two main roads that the region can take.
One is the road of fundamentalism. Today the Iranian regime is trying the move region down this road. Their ideology does not empower people to build a brighter future. It enslaves them in a medieval past. Instead of opening minds with honest discourse, it clouds them with conspiracy and hate. Last month, Iran’s Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi spoke in the presence of UN officials at an event in Tehran. He said that the teachings of the Talmud – one of the holiest books in Judaism – are responsible (and I quote) “for inciting global drug trade and addiction in a bid to annihilate non-Jewish communities.” He added that “gynecologists around the world kill ‘black babies’ on the orders of the ‘Zionists’.”
It was another example of the vile antisemitism that is part of the core ideology of the Iranian leadership. But they don’t just spread their hate with words. They advance it with actions.
Hezbollah and Iran are an integral part of Assad’s killing machine. Just a few days ago, Hezbollah’s leader gave a speech praising the Assad regime, calling it (quote) “a real military partner.” Hezbollah and Iran provide weapons, ammunition, training, intelligence, logistical equipment, and more to Assad. They offer their unique expertise in the business of terrorism, monitoring people on the Internet, and bypassing international sanctions. Iran and Hezbollah – Assad’s allies in this “trio of brutality” – will cross any line to keep the Assad regime in power – and to make sure that the Syrian people’s quest for freedom is suppressed.
And as we watch these events unfold, Iran continues to advance its military nuclear program.
The international community should ask itself a very simple question: if this is the way that Iran behaves without nuclear weapons, how will it behave when it possesses the most dangerous weapons of all?
Israel continues to monitor the events in Syria closely. We are horrified by the humanitarian disaster taking place – and greatly concerned about the wider implications for regional stability and security. Last week, Syrian soldiers crossed into the area of separation pursuant to the Separation of Forces Agreement between Israel and Syria, in blatant violation of this agreement. This week, Syrian officials acknowledged their stockpiles of chemical weapons – and clearly stated that they are ready to use them.
This vast stockpile of chemical weapons is a potential disaster. The international community cannot stand idle. Assad must know that he will be held accountable for using these weapons. He must understand that transferring chemical weapons to Hezbollah or other terrorist organizations is a red line that he cannot cross.
Iran represents one road – a road of hate.
But there is another road that the Middle East can take – a road of peace, progress, and prosperity. Moving down this road will require the region to push back against the fundamentalists and deal with the fundamental problems facing our region.
Yet, in this debate and, indeed, across the UN, one hears very little about these fundamental issues. I’m sure that today’s debate will be no exception. I’m sure that we will hear the same old criticisms of Israeli policies, but very little about the core challenges facing the Middle East.
The United Nations Development Program has sponsored five “Arab Human Development Reports” since 2002. These reports reveal the crippling deficits of freedom, educational opportunities, and the empowerment of women that have long afflicted the Arab world.
I ask you: is Israel responsible for the fact that gays are hunted down and hung in Iran; or that bloggers in the West Bank are jailed by the Palestinian authority; or that artists in Lebanon are ruthlessly censored by their government; or that women in Gaza are arrested and tortured for daring to leave the house without a headscarf? Are we responsible for the Christians and other minorities that are fleeing the Middle East in droves because Islamic extremists attack their communities? Is Israel responsible for the fact that 25 percent of Arab youth are unemployed and many others are desperate to find a decent job?
Maybe it’s time to stop using Israel in this debate to sweep these important issues under the carpet. It is certainly time to finally deal openly and honestly with the basic deficits that cripple the Middle East.
A lot is said during these debates about Gaza. Much of it is disingenuous. Some in this hall claim that the situation in Gaza is deteriorating; however, the IMF reports a 20 percent GDP per capita growth in Gaza in 2011. Some here speak about a so-called Israeli blockade, although there is not a single civilian good that cannot enter Gaza today.
Let me be clear. There is a crisis in Gaza – for both Israelis and Palestinians – and it’s called Hamas. The crisis in Gaza is that Hamas attacks the crossings used to transfer humanitarian aid – and then complains about shortages and delays. The crisis in Gaza is that global terrorists have found fertile ground from where they can operate and destabilize other parts of our region, including the Sinai Peninsula. The crisis in Gaza is that Hamas uses Palestinian schools as a launching pad to fire rockets at Israeli schools – and uses Palestinian hospitals to fire rockets at Israeli hospitals.
Over 200 rockets were fired into Southern Israel in the past two months alone. Just yesterday, a rocket was fired into the major City of Ashkelon. Yet, even as rockets fly out of Gaza, Israel continues to work with the international community to make sure that humanitarian aid, medicine, and goods reach in the inhabitants of Gaza. How many other governments provide essential assistance to the same areas from which there citizens are being attacked?
As we stand at this critical crossroads, the leaders in our region should look in the mirror and finally take the road less traveled in the Middle East; a road of tolerance, of compromise, and moderation; a road that condemns terrorism and promotes understanding of the other; the road of peace. The Palestinian leadership should do the same. They can start by dropping their preconditions and rejoining Israel in direct negotiations that deal with all final status issues. They can take this road by ending incitement in their schools, mosques, and media – and by naming their town squares after peacemakers, not suicide bombers. They can take this road by finally acknowledging that the Jewish people have a historic connection to the Land of Israel.
The Government of Israel is prepared to work hard to achieve lasting peace with the Palestinians through direct negotiations. The People of Israel are prepared to make painful compromises to reach this noble goal. Yet, as we wait for them to return to the negotiating table, the Palestinians continue to take unilateral steps that will not bring us one inch closer to peace.
The moment is critical. It is time for the leaders of the Middle East to make the right choices. The people of our region have already sacrificed so much. They deserve nothing less.
Thank you, Mr. President.