What I’m about to say is going to shock you: Israel has a bright future at the UN. Now I know that hearing that from me must surely come as a surprise, because year after year I’ve slammed the UN for its obsessive bias against Israel. And the UN deserved every scathing word – for the disgrace of the General Assembly that last year passed 20 resolutions against the democratic state of Israel and a grand total of three resolutions against all the other countries on the planet.
And what about the joke called the UN Human Rights Council, which each year condemns Israel more than all the countries of the world combined? As women are being systematically raped, murdered, sold into slavery across the world, which is the only country that the UN’s Commission on Women chose to condemn this year? Yep, you guessed it – Israel. Israel. Israel, where women fly fighter jets, lead major corporations, head universities, preside – twice – over the Supreme Court, and have served as speaker of the Knesset and prime minister.
And this circus continues at UNESCO. UNESCO, the UN body charged with preserving world heritage. Now, this is hard to believe, but UNESCO just denied the 4,000-year connection between the Jewish people and its holiest site, the Temple Mount. That’s just as absurd as denying the connection between the Great Wall of China and China.
The UN, begun as a moral force, has become a moral farce. So when it comes to Israel at the UN, you’d probably think nothing will ever change, right? Well, think again. You see, everything will change, and a lot sooner than you think. The change will happen in this hall, because back home, your governments are rapidly changing their attitudes towards Israel. And sooner or later, that’s going to change the way you vote on Israel at the UN.
More and more nations in Asia, in Africa, in Latin America, more and more nations see Israel as a potent partner – a partner in fighting the terrorism of today, a partner in developing the technology of tomorrow.
Today Israel has diplomatic relations with over 160 countries. That’s nearly double the number that we had when I served here as Israel’s ambassador some 30 years ago. And those ties are getting broader and deeper every day. World leaders increasingly appreciate that Israel is a powerful country with one of the best intelligence services on earth. Because of our unmatched experience and proven capabilities in fighting terrorism, many of your governments seek our help in keeping your countries safe.
Many also seek to benefit from Israel’s ingenuity in agriculture, in health, in water, in cyber and in the fusion of big data, connectivity and artificial intelligence – that fusion that is changing our world in every way.
You might consider this: Israel leads the world in recycling wastewater. We recycle about 90% of our wastewater. Now, how remarkable is that? Well, given that the next country on the list only recycles about 20% of its wastewater, Israel is a global water power. So if you have a thirsty world, and we do, there’s no better ally than Israel.
How about cybersecurity? That’s an issue that affects everyone. Israel accounts for one-tenth of one percent of the world’s population, yet last year we attracted some 20% of the global private investment in cybersecurity. I want you to digest that number. In cyber, Israel is punching a whopping 200 times above its weight. So Israel is also a global cyber power. If hackers are targeting your banks, your planes, your power grids and just about everything else, Israel can offer indispensable help.
Governments are changing their attitudes towards Israel, because they know that Israel can help them protect their peoples, can help them feed them, can help them better their lives.
This summer I had an unbelievable opportunity to see this change so vividly during an unforgettable visit to four African countries. This is the first visit to Africa by an Israeli prime minister in decades. Later today, I’ll be meeting with leaders from 17 African countries. We’ll discuss how Israeli technology can help them in their efforts to transform their countries.
In Africa, things are changing. In China, India, Russia, Japan, attitudes towards Israel have changed as well. These powerful nations know that, despite Israel’s small size, it can make a big difference in many, many areas that are important to them.
But now I’m going to surprise you even more. You see, the biggest change in attitudes towards Israel is taking place elsewhere. It’s taking place in the Arab world. Our peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan continue to be anchors of stability in the volatile Middle East. But I have to tell you this: For the first time in my lifetime, many other states in the region recognize that Israel is not their enemy. They recognize that Israel is their ally. Our common enemies are Iran and ISIS. Our common goals are security, prosperity and peace. I believe that in the years ahead we will work together to achieve these goals, work together openly
So Israel’s diplomatic relations are undergoing nothing less than a revolution. But in this revolution, we never forget that our most cherished alliance, our deepest friendship, is with the United States of America, the most powerful and the most generous nation on earth. Our unbreakable bond with the United States of America transcends parties and politics. It reflects, above all else, the overwhelming support for Israel among the American people, support which is at record highs and for which we are deeply grateful.
I believe the day is not far off when Israel will be able to rely on many, many countries to stand with us at the UN. Slowly but surely, the days when UN ambassadors reflexively condemn Israel, those days are coming to an end.
The automatic majority against Israel at the UN reminds me of the story, the incredible story of Hiroo Onada. Hiroo was a Japanese soldier who was sent to the Philippines in 1944. He lived in the jungle. He scavenged for food. He evaded capture. Eventually he surrendered, but that didn’t happen until 1974, some 30 years after World War II ended. For decades, Hiroo refused to believe the war was over. As Hiroo was hiding in the jungle, Japanese tourists were swimming in pools in American luxury hotels in nearby Manila. Finally, mercifully, Hiroo’s former commanding officer was sent to persuade him to come out of hiding. Only then did Hiroo lay down his arms.
Lay down your arms. The war against Israel at the UN is over. Perhaps some of you don’t know it yet, but I am confident that one day, in the not-too-distant future, you will also get the message from your president or from your prime minister informing you that the war against Israel at the United Nations has ended. Yes, I know, there might be a storm before the calm. I know there is talk about ganging up on Israel at the UN later this year. Given its history of hostility towards Israel, does anyone really believe that Israel will let the UN determine our security and our vital national interests?
We will not accept any attempt by the UN to dictate terms to Israel. The road to peace runs through Jerusalem and Ramallah, not through New York.
I have total confidence that in the years ahead, the revolution in Israel’s standing among the nations will finally penetrate this hall of nations. I have so much confidence, in fact, that I predict that a decade from now an Israeli prime minister will stand right here where I am standing and actually applaud the UN. But I want to ask you: Why do we have to wait a decade? Why keep vilifying Israel? Perhaps because some of you don’t appreciate that the obsessive bias against Israel is not just a problem for my country; it’s a problem for your countries, too. Because if the UN spends so much time condemning the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, it has far less time to address war, disease, poverty, climate change and all the other serious problems that plague the planet.
Are the half million slaughtered Syrians helped by your condemnation of Israel? The same Israel that has treated thousands of injured Syrians in our hospitals, including a field hospital that I built right along the Golan Heights border with Syria. Are the gays hanging from cranes in Iran helped by your denigration of Israel? That same Israel where gays march proudly in our streets and serve in our parliament, including I’m proud to say in my own Likud party. Are the starving children in North Korea’s brutal tyranny, are they helped by your demonization of Israel? Israel, whose agricultural knowhow is feeding the hungry throughout the developing world?
The sooner the UN’s obsession with Israel ends, the better. The better for Israel, the better for your countries, the better for the UN itself.
If UN habits die hard, Palestinian habits die even harder. President Abbas just attacked the Balfour Declaration. He’s preparing a lawsuit against Britain for that declaration from 1917. That’s almost 100 years ago – talk about being stuck in the past. The Palestinians may just as well sue Iran for the Cyrus Declaration, which enabled the Jews to rebuild our Temple in Jerusalem 2,500 years ago. Come to think of it, why not a Palestinian class action suit against Abraham for buying that plot of land in Hebron where the fathers and mothers of the Jewish people were buried 4,000 years ago? You’re not laughing. It’s as absurd as that. To sue the British government for the Balfour Declaration? Is he kidding? And this is taken seriously?
President Abbas attacked the Balfour Declaration because it recognized the right of the Jewish people to a national home in the land of Israel. When the United Nations supported the establishment of a Jewish state in 1947, it recognized our historical and our moral rights in our homeland and to our homeland. Yet today, nearly 70 years later, the Palestinians still refuse to recognize those rights – not our right to a homeland, not our right to a state, not our right to anything. And this remains the true core of the conflict, the persistent Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewish state in any boundary. You see, this conflict is not about the settlements. It never was.
The conflict raged for decades before there was a single settlement, when Judea Samaria and Gaza were all in Arab hands. The West Bank and Gaza were in Arab hands and they attacked us again and again and again. And when we uprooted all 21 settlements in Gaza and withdrew from every last inch of Gaza, we didn’t get peace from Gaza – we got thousands of rockets fired at us from Gaza.
This conflict rages because for the Palestinians, the real settlements they’re after are Haifa, Jaffa and Tel Aviv. Now mind you, the issue of settlements is a real one and it can and must be resolved in final-status negotiations. But this conflict has never been about the settlements or about establishing a Palestinian state. It’s always been about the existence of a Jewish state, a Jewish state in any boundary.
Israel is ready — I am ready — to negotiate all final-status issues. But one thing I will never negotiate: our right to the one and only Jewish state. Had the Palestinians said yes to a Jewish state in 1947, there would have been no war, no refugees and no conflict. And when the Palestinians finally say yes to a Jewish state, we will be able to end this conflict once and for all. Now here’s the tragedy, because, see, the Palestinians are not only trapped in the past; their leaders are poisoning the future.
I commend President el-Sisi of Egypt for his efforts to advance peace and stability in our region. Israel welcomes the spirit of the Arab peace initiative and welcomes a dialogue with Arab states to advance a broader peace. I believe that for that broader peace to be fully achieved the Palestinians have to be part of it. I’m ready to begin negotiations to achieve this today – not tomorrow, not next week, today.
Wouldn’t it be better if instead of speaking past each other we were speaking to one another? President Abbas, instead of railing against Israel at the United Nations in New York, I invite you to speak to the Israeli people at the Knesset in Jerusalem. And I would gladly come to speak to the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah.
I am hopeful about what Israel can accomplish because I’ve seen what Israel has accomplished. In 1948, the year of Israel’s independence, our population was 800,000. Our main export was oranges. People said then we were too small, too weak, too isolated, too demographically outnumbered to survive, let alone thrive. The skeptics were wrong about Israel then; the skeptics are wrong about Israel now. Israel’s population has grown tenfold, our economy fortyfold. Today our biggest export is technology – Israeli technology, which powers the world’s computers, cellphones, cars and so much more.
The future belongs to those who innovate, and this is why the future belongs to countries like Israel. Israel wants to be your partner in seizing that future, so I call on all of you: Cooperate with Israel, embrace Israel, dream with Israel. Dream of the future that we can build together, a future of breathtaking progress, a future of security, prosperity and peace, a future of hope for all humanity, a future where even at the UN, Israel will finally, inevitably, take its rightful place among the nations.
By Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister. (Excerpts).
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