October 17, 2018

The speech Bibi should have made at the U.N.

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen.

Today I will not invoke Iran, the Syrian crisis, ISIS’s murderous expansion — to name but a few of the major concerns for Israel and the Middle East. Instead, I will speak about an issue that has received scant attention in the deliberations in this hall this week: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its eventual resolution. 

[RELATED: How Mahmoud Abbas lies to incite violence]

Israel’s late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin declared: “We will prevail because we regard the building of peace as a great blessing for us and for our children after us. We regard it as a blessing for our neighbors on all sides.  

In view of the violence taking place in Israel and many other areas of the Middle East, I add the following: Israel will never allow extremism and violence to gain the upper hand and further escalate. Therefore, Israel will crush any attempt to use terror and hostilities.

Heeding Prime Minister Rabin’s statement, which is my message today, I call on my fellow leaders President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, King Abdullah II of Jordan, King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia and the leaders of the Gulf Principalities: Let us engage in a candid dialogue about normalizing our mutual relationships and about countering terrorism, fanaticism and extremism jointly. Subject to Israel’s serious reservations about the Arab Peace Initiative, I am ready to explore it as an eventual avenue for peace.

To Palestinian President Abbas I say: Let us resume our negotiations toward an agreement of two states for two peoples. I truly hope that a serious, continuous and binding process would eventually lead to an end of the conflict and a resolution of all core contentious issues.

There are enormous pits and deep holes on the road, but we will find ways to overcome the difficulties.  

As we are tragically witnessing even in the holy city of Jerusalem, when blood is spilled people are filled with vengeance and anger, along with despair, bereavement, mistrust, and frustration. Even for the non-radical person, emotions run high and harsh rhetoric tends to eclipse hope. Therefore, stop inciting and spreading hatred.  There should be ways to resolve, or at least mitigate, even complex, violent, and protracted conflicts between communities and nations like ours. It is our joint responsibility as leaders.

To my fellow Israeli citizens and Palestinians alike I point out that Israel’s May 1948 Declaration of Independence reads: “This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable. This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.” 

This Zionist vision cannot be achieved unless a border is drawn between the secure, democratic nation-state of the Jewish people and a viable, demilitarized nation-state of the Palestinian people. I seek to strengthen the future of Israel for generations to come through a negotiated agreement.

Therefore, I declare that I am willing to meet immediately with President Abbas and negotiate an agreement based on two states for the two peoples, with the border between them to be agreed based on the 1967 lines with equal territorial swaps. 

Moreover, to demonstrate my determination to attain that goal, I hereby announce that Israel has no sovereignty claims east of the West Bank security fence.  In addition, I intend to pass a law in the Knesset that will enable the settlers residing in these areas to voluntarily relocate to Israel-proper and provide assistance for their move.

Regardless of the Palestinian response to this plan, it is my responsibility to delineate a provisional border, incorporating the large blocks of settlements so that our borders will encompass a clear Jewish majority and a true democracy within secure boundaries. 

One word to my brethren, the settlers:  You are the pioneers of our time.  You served as emissaries by the governments of Israel, and led the struggle for the independence and security of our country.   That struggle will achieve one of its most significant milestones with a two-state solution and the recognition in the Arab world of Israel’s legitimacy. However, some of you will have to relocate when the main blocks of settlements, encompassing 80% of you, are incorporated into Israel. 

Finally, I call on all of the parties: the United Nations, the Palestinian people, the Arab world, the international community, the different factions of the Israeli society:  let us all act now on behalf of the future of our hatred-torn Middle East.

Gilead Sher, Chief of Staff for former Prime Minister Ehud Barak and former Israeli senior peace negotiator, heads the Center for Applied Negotiations at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv and is a co-founder of the Israeli NGO Blue White Future.