Binyamin Netanyahu: 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
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 braided -- branded,
rather -- 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
-- 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
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
make 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 UBAM (ph) 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 -- out of their schools and their kindergartens. We bulldozed
synagogues. We even -- 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
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 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 the
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 -- 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 airspace
in Cyprus or rather an air base in Cyprus. France has forces in three
independent African nations. None of these states claim that they're not
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
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
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 to the -- 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 --
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 1 million 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 to give up -- 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 the -- 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 from 1948. 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.
The settlements have to be -- 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 in 1948, 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
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
In my office in Jerusalem, there's a -- 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
Sumeria 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
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
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 "doogli"
(ph). 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
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 --
(speaks in Hebrew) -- "The people who walk in darkness will see a great
light." Let that light be the light of peace.