Question of Palestine home
Economic and Social Council
9 May 1995
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 17th MEETING
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Friday, 10 February 1994, at 3 p.m.
Mr. van WULFFTEN PALTHE (Netherlands)
Statement by Mr. Peres, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel
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The meeting was called to order at 3.10 p.m.
STATEMENT BY MR. PERES, MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF ISRAEL
(Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel) said that the negotiations he had recently conducted in Cairo with Mr. Arafat were a major event for human rights - those of the Israelis as well as those of the Palestinians. Israel had never been a dominating nation and refused to become one; respect for human rights meant, for Israel, refraining from dominating the Palestinians. Accordingly, the recent negotiations had not been the usual matter of give and take. Moreover, while the State of Israel had something to give, it had nothing to take. It had acted so as to make Israel what it wanted Israel to be in moral terms, rather than to gain political advantage. For the Palestinians, human rights meant being able to live as they wished, in freedom, prosperity and peace, and Israel sincerely wished them success in that endeavour.
7. The negotiations in Cairo had been unique. To begin with, they had not been conducted under the threat of war - terrorism was another problem and would in all likelihood take many a year to settle - and also they were the first of their kind and therefore constituted a precedent. The fact that all the initiatives taken were new, and in so many ways, explained why the process was so complex.
8. As to the substance of human rights, he thought that there were essentially three. The first was the right to live free from the possibility of war, both as a people and as an individual, safe from all fatal threats, which were obstacles to the free exercise of human rights. For that reason, efforts should be made to arrive at political solutions to military conflicts and not military solutions to political conflicts, and to put an end to violent reactions by eradicating the causes that produced them.
9. The second essential human right was to live in democracy. He was convinced that there was no room for human rights outside a democratic system, for without such a system those rights could not be exercised. Dictatorship was, moreover, extremely costly. It cost a great deal to fulfil the ambitions and pander to the whims of dictators, to their wish to subject each and everyone to their boundless ego and their blindness, their secret services, their censorship, their interference with privacy, their death squads. One need only think of all the rich countries that dictatorship had impoverished.
10. The third fundamental human right was the right to live in happiness and in good health. Science now made it possible to overcome sickness, aging, suffering and ignorance, and the purpose of democracy was to enable each and everyone to enjoy its benefits and fulfil himself freely.
11. As far as the Middle East was concerned, those three rights formed a whole. Peace could not prevail until the region cleaved to democracy, and economic growth would come only with peace and democracy. Peace was the first step that would free millions of people from suffering, from prison or the threat of death. Admittedly, it did involve a risk, but Israel took that risk consciously, despite considerable difficulties, despite continued terrorism, despite being ignored, and even threatened, by some countries. While so many States were ready to take the risk of war and to jeopardize the lives of their citizens, Israel thought that the time had come to take the uncommon risk of making peace, holding to the view that the better its neighbours felt, the better they would behave towards it. No condition was imposed on any other country, no other country was called on to become a democracy, but Israel hoped that, in their own interest, they would give up the present forms of government and would stop maintaining, at immense cost and to the detriment of the civilian population, armies intended for display and for the cult of personality.
12. The principles governing international relations at the present time prohibited intervention in the affairs of other nations. However, it was his hope that from the information in the media young people throughout the world could compare their lives with those of young people in Israel, who lived as they wanted to. Communism had collapsed because information on freedom had spread like pure fresh air and no curtain, whether of iron or anything else, had been able to stop it. It must remain so everywhere and at all times.
13. Peoples living in peace and in freedom had greater chances in the economic field. The modern sources of a country's strength were not a matter of the country's size or the number of inhabitants. They were the result of education, science and equality, irrespective of age, sex, religion or race, and the means were within the grasp of all nations. In 25 years Israel had increased its agricultural output by a factor of 12, whereas its land and water resources remained the same. Israel, once described as the land of milk and honey, had now also become a land of electronic chips, more suitable than cows and bees for bringing an abundance of milk and honey. Investment in the peaceful activities of education, science and technology meant that a country, even a small one, could move ahead.
14. He went on to evoke the painful history of both the Israelis and the Palestinians, the memory of Mr. Holst, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, who had recently died and had so discreetly and so effectively helped to change the world, and the situation in Bosnia, where the clash of arms was still to be heard. He was convinced that Israel had made the right choice, a choice that would make it possible for everyone, without discrimination, to live, to live freely and to live prosperously in complete safety.
The meeting was called to order at 6.05 p.m.