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5th plenary meeting
Wednesday, 24 September 2009, 9 a.m.
The Acting President: The Assembly will now hear an address by the President of the Union of the Comoros.
Mr. Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, President of the Union of the Comoros, was escorted into the General Assembly Hall.
The Acting President: On behalf of the General Assembly, I have the honour to welcome to the United Nations His Excellency Mr. Ahmed Abdallah Sambi, President of the Union of the Comoros, and to invite him to address the Assembly.
President Sambi (spoke in French ): ...
Peace and security remain essential conditions for the promotion of socio-economic development. Thus the conflict conditions that prevail in numerous regions of the world call out a challenge to us. We must show greater solidarity in regard to the populations of regions that for years on end have known only desolation, despair and humiliation.
We should also celebrate the initiative undertaken by President Barack Obama in the Middle East, which offers the hope of seeing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolved through a solution that is just, equitable and acceptable to the parties involved — notably the solidification of the two-State principle, as stipulated by the various United Nations resolutions on the matter.
Address by Mr. Željko Komšić, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Acting President : On behalf of the General Assembly, I have the honour to welcome to the United Nations His Excellency Mr. Željko Komšić, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to invite him to address the Assembly.
Mr. Komšić (spoke in Bosnian; En glish interpretation provided by the delegation ): ...
Finding a solution to the Middle East crisis remains one of the priorities of the world Organization. We believe that positive momentum ought to be used in the best possible manner to establish equitable and comprehensive peace in this region. After so many years of suffering, bloodshed, tension, mutual misunderstanding and conflict, we must support the latest activities of the Quartet members, as well as regional initiatives aimed at taking the crucial step forward leading to sustainable peace, which implies creation of a sovereign, independent and self-sustaining Palestinian State.
Address by Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey
The Acting President : The Assembly will now hear an address by the Prime Minister of the Rep ublic of Turkey.
Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey, was escorted to the rostrum.
The Acting President : I have great pleasure in welcoming His Excellency Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey, and inviting him to address the General Assembly.
Mr. Erdoğan (Turkey) (spoke in Turkish; English interpretation provided by the delegation ): ...
Another area to which Turkey is sensitive is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In our view, the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, based on the vision of two States existing side by side in peace and security, is an indispensable element of regional and global peace. The achievement of Palestinian national unity will expedite the establishment of an independent Palestinian State. Turkey has always stood by the Palestinian people and will continue to do so.
I wish to draw the Assembly’s attention to the following facts. The aggression against Gaza carried out at the end of 2008 quickly turned into a human tragedy and resulted in the deaths of nearly 1,400 people, most of whom were women and children, as the result of phosphate bombs. Over 5,000 people were injured and the infrastructure of Gaza was completely destroyed. Even United Nations buildings in Gaza did not escape this destruction. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon personally witnessed the devastation and voiced his reaction. The 575-page United Nations report on Gaza (A/HRC/12/48), released on 15 September 2009, clearly confirms this fact .
It has been eight months since the declaration of the ceasefires that ended the hostilities in Gaza and the adoption of resolution 1860 (2009) . Similarly, six months have elapsed since the Sharm el-Sheikh conference, at which the international community pledged billions of dollars for the reconstruction of Gaza. However, I regret to say that the human tragedy in Gaza continues.
People are living in tents and cannot find drinking water. In the face of this situation, are we fulfilling our humanitarian responsibility? What can the United Nations or the Security Council do? What measures have the United Nations and the Security Council really enacted? We really must think about that because the promises made in Gaza have not been fulfilled.
As at the time of aggression, Gaza has once again been left to its own devices in the aftermath of the heavy destruction it suffered. Currently, the importation of construction materials to Gaza is not permitted; only food and medication are allowed to pass through, and the suffering of the people of Gaza continues.
We demand that these obstacles be immediately lifted and normalcy restored to Gaza for the sake of the peace and security of Israelis and Palestinians alike. The Palestinian question cannot be resolved solely by satisfying the demands of one party alone. The security of the Palestinians is as important as the security of Israel. The Palestinian people’s quest for freedom and peace is as legitimate as Israel’s quest for stability.
The settlement of the Palestinian question, which is one of the greatest obstacles to regional and global peace, will be possible only when everyone is treated fairly and equitably. On every possible occasion, Turkey has stressed that it is not possible to turn a blind eye to the appalling conditions in Gaza, and we will continue to make that point. It is our common humanitarian and moral responsibility to ensure that the tragedy unfolding in Gaza is brought to an end and that an atmosphere of lasting peace is created in the region.
It is extremely important that the international community remain engaged in this matter and inject new vigour and momentum into efforts to resolve the problem. We call on all parties concerned not to remain indifferent to this question and not to condone further suffering.
We also believe that the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian talks, which have been disrupted by the Gaza conflict, is of the utmost importance. We hope that the peace process will be revitalized as quickly as possible. To date, Turkey has made every possible effort to contribute to the peace process in the Middle East. The indirect negotiations between Syria and Israel, which we hosted in 2008, are a case in point. Depending on the mutual desire of both parties, we are ready to resume our active role in the future.
We have always said that our neighbouring country Syria is a very important country in our region and is in a position to play a key role in the search for regional peace, security and stability. Lebanon, too, is of critical importance to regional stability. Turkey has expended intensive efforts to ensure that a comprehensive political compromise prevails in Lebanon. We will continue to strongly support Lebanon’s stability in the future.
Address by Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of the State of Israel
The Acting President : The Assembly will now hear an address by the Prime Minister of the State of Israel.
Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of the State of Israel, was escorted to the rostrum.
The Acting President : I have great pleasure in welcoming His Excellency Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of the State of Israel, and inviting him to address the General Assembly.
Mr. Netanyahu (Israel): ...
The jury is still out on the United Nations. Recent signs are not encouraging. Rather than condemning the terrorists and their Iranian patrons, some here in the United Nations have condemned their victims. This is exactly what a recent United Nations report on Gaza did, falsely equating the terrorists with those they targeted.
For eight long years, Hamas fired rockets from Gaza on nearby Israeli cities and citizens — thousands of missiles and mortars hailing down from the sky on schools, homes, shopping centres and bus stops. Year after year, as these missiles were deliberately fired on our civilians, not one single United Nations resolution was passed condemning those criminal attacks. We heard nothing — absolutely nothing — from the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, a misnamed institution if ever there was one.
In 2005, hoping to advance peace, Israel unilaterally withdrew from every inch of Gaza. It was very painful. We dismantled 21 settlements, really bedroom communities and farms. We uprooted over 8,000 Israelis; we just yanked them out of their homes. We did this because many in Israel believed that it would win peace. Well, we did not get peace. Instead we got an Iranian-backed terror base 50 miles from Tel Aviv. But life in the Israeli towns and cities immediately adjacent to Gaza became nothing less than a nightmare. The Hamas rocket attacks not only continued after we left, they actually increased dramatically. They increased tenfold. And again, the United Nations was silent — absolutely silent.
Well, after eight years of this unremitting assault, Israel was finally forced to respond. But how should we have responded? There is only one example in history of thousands of rockets being fired on a country’s civilian population. This happened when the Nazis rocketed British cities during the Second World War. During that war, the Allies levelled German cities, causing hundreds of thousands of casualties. I am not passing judgement; I am stating a fact, a fact that is the product of the decisions of great and honourable men — the leaders of Britain and the United States — fighting an evil force in the Second World War.
It is also a fact that Israel chose to respond differently. Faced with an enemy committing a double war crime — firing on civilians while hiding behind civilians — Israel sought to conduct surgical strikes against the rocket-launchers themselves. That was no easy task because the terrorists were firing their missiles from homes and schools, using mosques as weapons depots and missile caches, and ferreting explosives in ambulances.
Israel, by contrast, tried to minimize casualties by urging Palestinian civilians to vacate the targeted areas. We dropped countless flyers over their homes. We sent thousands and thousands of text messages to the Palestinian residents. We made thousands and thousands of cellular phone calls urging them to vacate, to leave. Never has a country gone to such extraordinary lengths to remove the enemy’s civilian population from harm’s way.
Yet faced with an absolutely clear-cut case of aggressor and victim, who do you think the United Nations Human Rights Council decided to condemn? Israel. A democracy legitimately defending itself against terror is morally hanged, drawn and quartered, and given an unfair trial to boot. By these twisted standards, the Human Rights Council would have dragged Roosevelt and Churchill to the dock as war criminals. What a perversion of truth! What a perversion of justice!
The delegates to the United Nations and the Governments that they represent have a decision to make. Will they accept this farce? Because if they do, the United Nations would revert to its darkest days, when the worst violators of human rights sat in judgement against the law-abiding democracies, when Zionism was equated with racism and when an automatic majority could be mustered to declare that the Earth is flat. If you had to choose a date when the United Nations began its descent, almost a freefall, and lost the respect of many thoughtful people in the international community, it was the day in 1975 it decided to equate Zionism with racism.
Now this body has a choice to make. If it does not reject this biased report, it would vitiate itself, it would recommence the process of vitiating its own relevance and importance. But it would also do something else. It would send the message to terrorists everywhere that terrorism pays: all you have to do is launch your attacks from densely populated areas, and you will win immunity.
A third point: in condemning Israel, this body would also deal a mortal blow to peace. Let me explain why. When Israel left Gaza, many hoped that the missile attacks would stop. Others believed that, even if they did not stop, at the very least Israel, in having made this extraordinary gesture for peace, would have international legitimacy to exercise its right of self-defence if peace failed. What legitimacy? What self-defence?
The same United Nations that cheered Israel as it left Gaza and promised to back our right of self-defence now accuses us — my people, my country — of being war criminals? And for what? For acting responsibly in self-defence? For acting in a way that any country would act, with a restraint unmatched by many? What a travesty!
Israel justly defended itself against terror. This biased and unjust report provides a clear-cut test for all Governments. Will the Assembly stand with Israel or will it stand with the terrorists? We must know the answer to that question now. Now, not later. Because if Israel is again asked to take more risks for peace, we must know today that the Assembly will stand with us tomorrow. Only if we have the confidence that we can defend ourselves can we take further risks for peace.
Make no mistake: all of Israel wants peace. Any time an Arab leader genuinely wanted peace with us, we made peace. We made peace with Egypt led by Anwar Sadat. We made peace with Jordan led by King Hussein. And if the Palestinians truly want peace, my Government and I, and my people, will make peace. But we want a genuine peace, a defensible peace, a permanent peace.
In 1947, this body voted to establish two States for two peoples — a Jewish State and an Arab State. The Jews accepted that resolution. The Arabs rejected it and invaded the embryonic Jewish State with the hopes of annihilating it.
We ask the Palestinians to finally do what they have refused to do for 62 years: say yes to a Jewish State. It is as simple, as clear and as elementary as that. Just as we are asked to recognize a nation-State of the Palestinian people, the Palestinians must be asked to recognize the nation-State of the Jewish people. The Jewish people are not foreign conquerors in the Land of Israel. It is the land of our forefathers.
Inscribed on the walls outside this building is the great Biblical vision of peace: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation. They shall learn war no more.” These words were spoken by the great Jewish prophet Isaiah 2,800 years ago as he walked in my country, in my city, in the hills of Judea and in the streets of Jerusalem.
We are not strangers to this land. This is our homeland. But as deeply connected as we are to our homeland, we also recognize that the Palestinians also live there and they want a home of their own. We want to live side by side with them — two free peoples living in peace, living in prosperity, living in dignity.
Peace, prosperity and dignity require one other element: we must have security. The Palestinians should have all the powers to govern themselves except a handful of powers that could endanger Israel. That is why the Palestinian State must be effectively demilitarized. I say “effectively” because we do not want another Gaza, another south Lebanon, another Iranian-backed terror base abutting Jerusalem and perched on the hills a few kilometres from Tel Aviv.
We want peace. I believe that with goodwill and with hard work such a peace can be achieved. But it requires that all of us roll back the forces of terror led by Iran that seek to destroy peace, that seek to eliminate Israel and to overthrow the world order. The question facing the international community is whether it is prepared to confront those forces, or will it accommodate them.
The meeting rose at 1.40 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room U-506. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.