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Agenda items 57, 58 and 60 to 73 (continued)
General debate on all disarmament and international security agenda items
Mr. Issacharoff (Israel): I should like at the outset to offer you, Sir, on behalf of the delegation of Israel our sincerest congratulations on the assumption of your duties as Chairman of the First Committee. I am certain that we shall benefit from your guidance and wisdom during our deliberations in the coming days and weeks. I should also like to congratulate the other members of the Bureau.
Among the issues on the agenda of the First Committee in recent years have been two draft resolutions regarding the Middle East. One deals with the notion of establishing a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region. Such texts have commanded consensus for more than 20 years, and while we have certain reservations regarding their language, we attach great importance to the annual endorsement of this idea. We do so particularly as the area of the Middle East is clearly lacking in any confidence-building measures or dialogue on affairs relating to arms control and regional security.
The second draft resolution relates to the risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. This is a contentious text that seeks to focus on only one aspect of the regional security environment and that ignores the region’s greatest proliferation dangers and its inherent instability. It also chooses to disregard the extreme hostility of certain countries in the region that continue to reject any form of peaceful reconciliation and coexistence with Israel. In many ways, the submission of these draft resolutions constitutes an annual declaration by their sponsors that they prefer to continue to try to alienate Israel rather than engage it and pursue ideas that might foster and encourage cooperative measures for the good of regional stability. It is unfortunate that this is the message that they have chosen to send my country.
In contrast to that approach, I should like to use this opportunity to emphasize Israel’s resolve to realize a vision of peace and stability in our region through peaceful and diplomatic means. Confronted with such multifaceted security problems, I suspect that not a few countries would long ago have abandoned any hope for peace. Our national ethos is based on the inspiration of hope and we shall continue to explore every avenue in the pursuit of a wider regional peace.
Israel continues to view the regional context as the primary and essential framework to move forward critical arms control measures predicated on a comprehensive and durable peace in the area of the Middle East. In recent years, Israel has sought to lay enduring foundations of peace and stability in our region, based on a historic reconciliation, embodying the notions of compromise, mutual trust and respect, open borders and good-neighbourliness. The basis for coexistence between Israel and its neighbours was laid in the bilateral peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and we still hope to widen this process.
Relationships of peace could put an end to arms races in our region and lead to reductions, to the minimal levels required for national self-defence, of standing military forces, defence expenditures and conventional arms. Effective arms control measures, however, can be achieved and sustained only in a region where wars, armed conflicts, terror, political hostility, incitement and non-recognition cease to be features of everyday life. We have a long and complicated journey ahead of us, so even small and modest steps could play a vital role and could be the indispensable key to progress.
We firmly believe that the political reality in our region mandates a practical step-by-step approach, based on a comprehensive peace between Israel and its neighbours, accompanied and followed by confidence-building measures and arrangements regarding conventional weapons, and culminating in the eventual establishment of a mutually verifiable zone free of ballistic missiles and of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. That zone should emanate from, and encompass, all the States of the region, by virtue of free and direct negotiations among them. It is in this spirit that Israel has been part of the consensus on draft resolutions regarding the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East. It is in that context that the draft resolution (A/C.1/57/L.27) regarding the risk of nuclear proliferation plays no role in moving the regional parties nearer to that objective.
If we are seriously to address the myriad of security problems in the Middle East in a balanced manner, it is incumbent on us all to recall and examine various regional characteristics that challenge and undermine stability in our area. Over the years, the Middle East has been a testing ground and killing field for extreme acts of violence in all their different guises. Terror, in the form of cross-border attacks, the indiscriminate murder of civilians, attacks on civil aviation, the use of short-range rockets against population centres, savage bombings in universities and the ultimate insanity of suicide bombings, has become a part of our reality. These terrorist acts in one form or another, have accompanied and confronted us in recent years and have touched almost every family in Israel. These acts are directed towards innocent civilians in the most random manner, intending to inflict the greatest harm on the greatest number of people. Terror has become a strategic weapon in the context of the Middle East.
Similarly, conventional weapons in sufficient quantities, particularly in the hands of countries or even non-State actors that refuse to recognize, and even declare their intention of destroying, a country, can have a clear strategic impact. Conventional weapons and small arms have throughout the years continued to take a deadly toll on human life. Small arms have not had small consequences. Any people that has lost a third of its number in living memory cannot allow itself to underestimate the killing power of any kind of weaponry. We follow, therefore, very closely, the flow of increasingly sophisticated conventional arms into the area and their impact on our security.
As we further examine the present security situation in the Middle East, we face the ever-growing threat of ballistic missile proliferation in several countries and also the excessive number — in their thousands — of short-range, ground-to-ground rockets that have been transferred to Hizbullah in south Lebanon by Iran. The memories of Katyusha rockets terrorizing our civilian population in the north have not faded. In addition, Israel was also attacked without provocation by Iraq by about 40 ballistic missiles in the last Gulf war, more than a decade ago. We continue to live in the shadow of such threats. While Israel has been supportive of international efforts to come to terms with the problem of ballistic missile proliferation, we note with genuine regret that these efforts have yet to have an impact on the Middle East.
In our area it would be impossible to forget the chemical weapons that have been used in wars by more than one State in the region; Iraq has even used such weapons against its own Kurdish citizens in Halabja. There are other States in the region that possess extensive chemical and biological weapon capabilities with the means to deliver them. I naturally looked for the draft resolutions in the Committee that deal with this troubling aspect of Middle Eastern security, but my search was in vain.
In order to complete this bleak picture, the past activities of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Iraq demonstrate the real risk of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. Other countries in the region still seek nuclear weapons and the technology to sustain such a capability. In Iran, for example, these capabilities are sought in conjunction with longer-range means of delivery. Over the past year we have witnessed an escalation in the rhetoric that Iran has directed against Israel. In the light of that, we have little choice but to regard this combination of mass destruction capabilities with extreme hostility to Israel as an emerging existential threat.
As if this harsh regional reality were not sufficient, we witnessed last year a new form of global strategic terror that shook every civilized notion underpinning international peace and security. The tremors of the brutal and heartless attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are still being felt. Those acts against the United States were assaults on the entire civilized world, and no country can remain indifferent to their dire implications. The central danger of terror merging with weapons of mass destruction casts as dark a shadow on the strategic environment as it does on the regional one, particularly in the Middle East. It is clearly all the more alarming in a region in which certain countries have nurtured and sponsored terror as an everyday tool of diplomacy and also seek to develop weapons of mass destruction in contravention of their international commitments. If such countries are so willing to finance and supply rockets and conventional weaponry to terrorists, what will prevent them from providing those same terrorists with non-conventional weapons? The international community cannot wait and allow this question to remain unanswered.
By considering the so-called risk resolution that singles out Israel in this body, the First Committee not only leaves the foregoing question unanswered, but also completely ignores additional and critical challenges to the stability of the entire Middle East. It also ignores the fact that there is no regional political process that could further peace and arms control in the area because of the deep and ingrained hostility to Israel. Progress in these critical areas can be achieved only by efforts from both sides. Furthermore, to attempt in effect to compare Israel — as some delegations in the Committee have done — with countries that have used chemical weapons against other States and even against their own citizens, launched ballistic missiles against other countries without provocation, systematically disregarded their legal commitments and obligations under arms control conventions, and assisted and sponsored terrorist groups — to mention only a few attributes — is unacceptable.
I should like to assure my fellow representatives that contentious one-sided draft resolutions will not move us closer to any viable concept of regional security in the Middle East, but they will prevent the First Committee from dealing with the truly urgent issues that demand the attention of this important body. I hope that other representatives will take these factors into account as they address and vote on the “risk” draft resolution in document A/C.1/57/L.27.
Israel cannot afford to ignore the reality of the area in which it lives, and though countries continue to deny our right to exist, we shall continue to participate and play a role in international conventions and initiatives that do not impair our vital margins of security. Last year I recalled the conventions in the realm of international security that we had signed or ratified and the other activities that we have undertaken in the area of small arms, landmines, the prevention of ballistic missile proliferation, adherence to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, amongst others. We note with particular satisfaction that this is the tenth year of the United Nations Register and that more than 160 countries have participated in its reporting procedure. Israel’s record in these regards can be compared favourably with that of any other country in the Middle, East and its respect for its international obligations has remained steadfast and consistent.
During the past year, particularly in the aftermath of 11 September 2001, we conducted a thorough review of various areas that could merit more concerted governmental action. For example, Israel attaches great importance to the strengthening of the physical protection of nuclear materials and recently ratified the relevant convention, the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials. We are also currently examining and expediting internal procedures in our evaluation of other international conventions against terrorism.
In addition, Israel is currently nearing the conclusion of legislation that will consolidate the control of exports of chemical, biological and nuclear materials including dual-use items. We have sought through that legislation to harmonize our export controls with the provisions of the supplier regimes such as the Australia Group and the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Already some years ago, Israel adopted the relevant legislation to implement the provisions of the MTCR. We hope that other countries too will take the necessary steps to enhance and tighten export controls of sensitive hardware and technology that could reach terrorist groups or States, which could retransfer those materials to terrorists. Indeed, Israel fully supports and is keenly interested in being associated with these regimes in view of the vital role they play in curbing proliferation. We look forward to being able to expand our dialogue with these regimes and develop our policy in that regard in the coming year.
Having referred so extensively to the various threats to international and regional security, I should like to emphasize that ultimately peace remains the vision and objective that can fundamentally transform the Middle East. Israel continues to search for any hand extended in peace. Peace is a vital component of national security and an indispensable basis for regional stability. Since the world stepped back from the abyss of the cold war, the Middle East has moved in the opposite direction. The region can still reverse course and redefine its destiny.
Mr. Al-Najar (Yemen) (spoke in Arabic ): ...
As for the Middle East and despite the many efforts made by the international community to establish it as a zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, Israel is the only exception in the whole region. Israel has not ratified this Treaty and still represents an impediment to establishing a zone in the Middle East free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Israel continues to possess military nuclear reactors outside the scope of international safeguards and aims at continuing its illegal occupation and exploitation of Palestinian and Arab territories, thus flouting the resolutions of international legitimacy and norms of international law, which prohibit such actions and aggressive policies that not only threaten our region but also threaten international peace and security. We call upon the international community to exert pressure on Israel to accede unconditionally to the NPT and to subject its nuclear facilities to the comprehensive safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The Chairman : I shall now call on those representatives who wish to speak in exercise of the right of reply.
Mr. Al-Matoq (Iraq) (spoke in Arabic): I am sorry to speak at this late hour but it behoves me to answer the representative of the Zionist entity. I have the following observations to make. First, the history of the Zionist entity is black, and replete with murder, destruction, crimes, terrorist acts against civilians, and the use of all kinds of weaponry whose use against innocent civilians is prohibited. The criminal terrorist acts of the Zionist entity against the Palestinian people are clear evidence of this terrorist propensity.
Secondly, the Zionist entity does not respect international resolutions. Scores of resolutions have been adopted against that entity. It has not implemented or complied with any of those resolutions. I mention especially its recent crimes in the occupied territories and its criminal acts in the Jenin camp, together with its prevention of any humanitarian assistance from reaching the wounded and the innocent in that camp. The terrorist acts against civilians in that camp contravene human values, ethics and norms.
Thirdly, the international community is well aware that the Zionist entity possesses a huge arsenal of weapons of mass destruction built up by theft and by smuggling and by obtaining components from companies and agents throughout the world. The Zionist entity has an arsenal of nuclear weapons ranging between 200 and 400 nuclear warheads. That information was disclosed by Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli technician who escaped to Britain in 1986, and was published in The Times newspaper. He described the Dimona reactor as the largest plutonium reactor for producing nuclear weapons.
Fourthly, the Zionist entity has a large network of ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads and other weapons of mass destruction. It has recently equipped its submarines with such warheads with a capability of reaching all Arab lands. The Zionist entity launched a series of spy satellites over the Arab States, the latest of which is an Offuk 5 which is devoted to intelligence and espionage purposes against Arab military capabilities.
Fifthly, the Zionist entity is the only party in the Middle East that has not acceded to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) or subjected its nuclear installations to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards regime. Together with its allies, it opposes the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.
All those notorious acts were carried out by the Zionist entity. Its representative sheds crocodile tears in this Committee over the so-called peace in the Middle East that they want to impose under a Zionist nuclear threat with the support of the United States of America, the entity’s main ally. The United States of America deals in a selective and discriminatory manner with this matter: while it calls for keeping the world free from weapons of mass destruction, it will not compel the Zionist entity to abandon its stupendous arsenal of such weapons. However, the United States demands that other countries do so. I want to make it clear, therefore, that the Zionist entity violates and does not respect international legitimacy, so it has no right to speak of it.
Mr. Assaf (Lebanon) (spoke in Arabic): As the representative of Israel referred in his statement to my country, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly, allow me to use my right of reply in the following manner. There is an Arab proverb that says “Listen and you will be happy; experience and you will be sad.” That proverb clearly applies to the way in which the representatives of Israel use the Committees of the General Assembly. We hear idealistic theories about disarmament and peace, respect for international legality and respect for civilians. Such mythical things show Israel always as the victim. On that basis, allow me to explain that anyone who listens to the statement of the representative of Israel would be happy and pleased but anyone who sees his country’s actions on the ground would be sad and bitterly disappointed.
The representative of Israel told us that Israel has a special perspective on disarmament in the Middle East. What does the representative of Israel want to mean by that perspective? The treaties that Israel would impose on neighbouring countries are not peace treaties but are treaties of surrender. Israel will not give up its weapons until after it imposes treaties of surrender through exploitation of the military imbalance between the two sides. The peace that Israel wants is based not on the logic or rights but on the logic of might.
Secondly, the representative of Israel is not ashamed to speak so flagrantly about casualties among innocent civilian. Two days ago an Israeli Apache helicopter bombed with missiles innocent Palestinian civilians and killed 16 of them. The representative of Israel is now talking about civilian casualties. Who among us does not remember the image of the child, Mohamad Al-Durra, who was killed in his father’s arms. Now the representative of Israel speaks about innocent civilian casualties. We cannot forget the Qana massacre and how the Israeli occupation forces then in southern Lebanon deliberately targeted and bombed a facility of the Fiji contingent of the United Nations forces and killed more than 100 Lebanese civilians who were under the protection of the international forces of this Organization. Now the representative of Israel speaks about civilian casualties.
The representative of Israel talks about ground-to-ground missiles deployed in southern Lebanon. We emphasize what my Government has previously declared, that this claim is nothing but false propaganda and has no basis in reality. But we are not at all surprised by what the representative of Israel says. What would you like the representative of Israel to say? Israel has today developed a complex because of its ugly defeat at the hands of the Lebanese resistance in the south. I am not surprised at anything he says about the Lebanese resistance or at any of the arguments and pretexts that he has given us, because we know full well that all this is nothing but the result of their hatred and psychosis as a result of the defeat by the Lebanese resistance and the shameful Israeli withdrawal two years ago.
The representative of Israel says that some States have ballistic missiles. Fine. He reminds me of what Jesus Christ said. The representative of Israel sees flaws in others but does not see any flaws in himself. They have nuclear warheads and bacteriological and chemical weapons, and they threaten Arab countries with those weapons every day. Yet now he comes and says that some Arab countries have ballistic missiles. Moreover, by possessing such ballistic missiles, Israel is contravening the resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council which compel it to subject its nuclear facilities to the comprehensive safeguards regime of the International Atomic Energy Agency. As is well known, it has completely refused to do that.
Finally, allow me to deal with the last point made by the representative of Israel: his call for peace. He spoke about a Utopia of peace, another matter which should come under the proverb: “Listen, and you will be happy; experience and you will be sad”. We wish once again to recall the Arab peace initiative that was adopted in Beirut, the capital of my country, at the Arab Summit, which gave Israel one condition — withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories — and offered it the right to existence and recognition. It also offered it normal relations, which were not set forth by international resolutions. What was the reaction of Israel that day? I will remind members. On 29 March 2002 Israeli tanks, in response, went into the headquarters of President Arafat in Ramallah. That was the response of the Israeli Government and the response of the Prime Minister of Israel to the Arab initiative made in Beirut, which, I repeat once again, was accepted by all Arab States.
Mr. Issacharoff (Israel): In view of the late hour I have no intention of getting involved in an intense political exchange here, but I should like to say that I was rather surprised by the fact that Iraq had taken such exception to my speech. After all, I merely related policies that his Government has adopted and implemented over the years. But I was not surprised by the incredibly intense rhetoric that the Iraqi representative employed towards my country, Israel, a word too difficult for him even to pronounce. That, more than anything, sums up the essential thrust of the message that I tried to convey earlier, and illustrates the real challenges and profound hostility that we face in our area.
As for the Lebanese delegation, I would have been happier had they looked to the other side of our message and not sought a means of polemical exchange on many different issues. We also have a history and a litany of terrorist acts that we have suffered in the north of our country. Only today there was another suicide bombing in Israel. So when I talk about attacks on innocent civilians I know what I am talking about. I also invite the Lebanese Government to bring a measure of stability to the south of its country; perhaps it is time for it to implement Security Council resolution 425 (1978), as Israel did two years ago.
Mr. Assaf (Lebanon) (spoke in Arabic): We truly want to be able to look forward to peace. That is what we want and that is what I meant when I referred to the Arab peace initiative taken in Beirut. As for the two other points that the representative of Israel referred to concerning civilian casualties, I will not be more royal than the king. The Palestinian Authority itself has condemned and continues to condemn the killing of civilians on both sides. That is what the Security Council resolutions do. We are not trying to supersede the Palestinians: They have spoken of this matter. As for the calm in southern Lebanon, that is what we want. We hope that Israeli fighter planes will refrain from violating Lebanese airspace daily, so that we can get calm on the Lebanese borders.
The meeting rose at 5.45 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 C-154A. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.