We still hope for a peaceful future

Podium: From a speech by the Prime Minister of Israel to the United Nations in New York
Click to follow
I REPRESENT a state whose creation was envisioned, encouraged and advocated, both by the League of Nations almost 80 years ago, and by the United Nations.

This extraordinary recognition by the international community confirmed what the Jewish people have known and felt for two millennia: that the bond between the People of Israel and the Land of Israel is eternal, and that the rebirth of the Jewish state in the Land of Israel is an historic imperative.

No people have suffered more from war and violence than the Jewish people. No one wants peace more than we do.

I know that this is not the common perception of us. I personally am often accused of not wanting peace.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I have been on the fields of battle. I have seen my comrades fall.

I have two small children at home. I want a future free of war, a future of peace, for them and for Palestinian children like them.

What is at stake is our life together in a very small land. And there is no reason that we should not be able to live together.

We are, after all, the sons and daughters of Abraham.

As we search for peace, we naturally encounter crises and stalemates, frustrations and obstacles. But only negotiations can solve our problems.

An outcome that is not the result of negotiations is an invitation to continued conflict. Negotiations accompanied by violence and threats of violence, are an invitation to failure. The option of violence must be totally discarded and permanently disavowed.

Peace will be achieved only by heeding the call made by two great leaders, the late President of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, and Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Twenty-one years ago, they declared in Jerusalem: "No more war. No more bloodshed."

The treaty they hammered out was an historic turning-point that changed the face of our region. It has benefited both countries and brought hope to all of us. So has the peace with Jordan, a model peace for all our neighbours.

We can achieve a successful peace agreement with the Palestinians as well. But for that peace to endure, it must be based on two principles.

The first is security. A peace that cannot be defended will not last. This is the central lesson of the 20th century. As the Prime Minister of the one Jewish state, I must ensure Israel's ability to defend itself, regardless of criticism and misunderstanding by those who do not share this responsibility.

The second principle of a durable peace is reciprocity. Only agreements honoured by both sides can be successful.

The agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is based on a simple equation: The Palestinians receive jurisdiction in the territory in which they live. In return, they prevent terrorist attacks against Israel from these territories.

Israel has been fulfilling its part of this agreement - 100 per cent of the Palestinians in the Gaza district, and 98 per cent of the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, known as the West Bank, are now living under Palestinian rule.

They enjoy the attributes of self-government: their own flag, their own executive, their own judiciary and legislative bodies, and their own police force. It can no longer be claimed that the Palestinians are occupied by Israel. We do not govern their lives.

But we cannot accept a situation in which they will threaten our lives. This is of paramount concern to us as we approach further redeployment.

The territory we are negotiating about is virtually uninhabited by Palestinians. Yet this land is the canvas on which thousands of years of Jewish history have been etched.

And it has powerful implications for Israel's security. To part with one square inch of this land is agonising for us. Every stone, every hill, every valley resonates with our forefathers' footsteps.

Yet, in the spirit of compromise and reconciliation, we have agreed to transfer to Palestinian jurisdiction some of this hallowed land, provided that the principles of security and reciprocity are kept.

Under the Oslo and Hebron agreements, the Palestinian Authority and Chairman Arafat agreed to dismantle the terrorist infrastructures, and arrest and prosecute terrorist operatives. And they agreed that they must complete the annulment of the Palestinian charter, which can only be done by the Palestinian National Council.

That charter is still on the books, still calling for Israel's destruction through armed struggle.

It is characteristic of the Jewish people to live in hope.