Ambassador Dan Gillerman
Permanent Representative of Israel
to the United Nations
March 25, 2008
"Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question"
Allow me to congratulate you on your very able stewardship of the Council this month, and thank you for your principled leadership. We are grateful to the Secretary-General for honoring us with his presence and for his commitment. I also wish to thank Under-Secretary-General Pascoe for his briefing. On this note, I wish to make clear that Israel does not act against "alleged" militants but against declared and recognized terrorists. I hope "alleged militants" is not the UN's new definition of terrorism.
Mr. President, Distinguished Excellencies...
The struggle of the moderates against the extremists which is raging around the world is the defining challenge of our day. Across the globe, forces of extremism seek to transform resolvable political conflicts into endless religious wars, using all means of violence at their disposal. They fight not for their own rights, but to deprive the rights of others. In our region, Iran, a notorious state sponsor of terrorism, uses proxies like Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas among the Palestinians to draw the moderates into a cosmic battle, where victory is not about achievement but about total annihilation.
The very ideology of the extremists makes a dialogue with them impossible. Which is why Israel - along with other like-minded states - understands that dealing with extremists is a zero-sum equation. In contrast, negotiations with the moderates, as Israel is doing with a moderate Palestinian Authority leadership that renounces terrorism and violence, can yield great benefit for both parties.
I want to believe that my Palestinian colleague represents the moderates in spite of the distorted picture he felt compelled to draw today.
As we have seen, the extremists will stop at nothing to break the coalition of moderates and destroy all prospects for peace. During the last month, Hamas fired more than 300 rockets at Israel, at least 23 of them Iranian-made Grad missiles that hit the city of Ashkelon, a quaint coastal city with a population of 120,000.
The rocket attacks marked an escalation of violence not just in number, but also in weaponry. Grad rockets - smuggled into the Gaza Strip from Iran during the breach of the Gaza border this January - have greater range, larger warheads, and fragment on impact. Hamas' new weapon of choice means that a quarter of a million Israeli civilians now live in constant danger of rocket fire. We can all thank Iran for adding another weapon to the Hamas arsenal, in addition to its already heinous suicide attacks and deadly Qassam rockets.
Hamas and its terrorist state backers bear sole responsibility for the escalation of violence. The Secretary-General rightfully told the Council at the meeting held earlier this month (quote) "I condemn Palestinian rocket attacks and call for the immediate cessation of such acts of terrorism, which serve no purpose, endanger Israeli civilians and bring misery to the Palestinian people" (end quote). Indeed, it is terrorism - plain and simple.
As Hamas unleashed its terrorism on the civilians of Ashkelon, it continued to wreak havoc and daily terror on the people of Sderot - a small but resilient city of 23,000, where children no longer run around on playgrounds; they now run to bomb shelters. Such is the reality in Sderot, where 15 seconds is all you have to find safety before a Qassam rocket comes crashing down.
Though some wish to refer to the apparent lull in Hamas' rocket attacks, I must warn that the perceived quiet is only on the surface. The bombs keep ticking, albeit quietly.
The rockets out of Gaza have not stopped. Hamas is using this time to smuggle in and produce more rockets. Building rockets is not quiet. It is a silent promise - a promise of what is to come next: more terror and more violence, more extremism and more bloodshed.
In fact, we have seen the great lengths that the extremists are willing to go to in order to kill and maim Israelis. Just over two weeks ago, a Palestinian terrorist infiltrated the Mercaz Harav rabbinical seminary in Jerusalem and ruthlessly gunned down eight young men, who were studying the Bible in the upstairs library. Eleven others were injured, many of whom remain in serious condition. The terrorist chose his target carefully; Mercaz Harav is one of Israel's most revered institutions of Zionism and Jewish learning, and it is situated in the heart of Jerusalem, footsteps away from the seat of the Israeli Government and our most cherished democratic institutions.
As medical and rescue teams rushed to the scene, as the Israeli public heard the news of this appalling massacre, as mothers and fathers were called to retrieve the remains of their slaughtered sons, the extremists in Gaza rejoiced at the spilling of Israeli blood. I am sure that many in this Council watched with horror and disgust as Hamas terrorists joyfully fired their rifles into the air and passed out candy to children in celebration. If anyone doubted what the extremists stand for, the reaction in Gaza to the murder of eight Israeli boys sets the record straight. It was also a stark reminder that these were the same people who danced on the rooftops after 9/11.
Which is why, Mr. President, it was so sad and disturbing that the Council could not condemn the terrorist attack - particularly in spite of your valiant efforts and those of many other distinguished ambassadors on the Council. The Security Council has a longstanding practice of condemning terrorism, no matter the victims, no matter the location, no matter the perpetrator, no matter the motivation. Yet the Council could not unanimously condemn this terrorist attack and intentional killing of civilians, for the Council was blocked by a politicized opposition, of one Member State in particular.
The hypocrisy and cynicism displayed by this state, with its long history of terror does not bode well for this Council, and draws sad and alarming conclusions as to the screening process states undergo before attaining a seat on this august body. It was indeed a sad moment for this Council, but also one that should be a wake up call to us all.
Lately, a particularly worrisome trend has been apparent when it comes to the discourse concerning our region. Some have a penchant for equating the lawful actions of states in defense of their citizens with the violence of terrorists whose goal is to endanger those very civilians. The misguided tendency to accept the "status quo" of terrorism - as expressed even by some UN officials in their statements and reports - is simply unacceptable. Such parity, which is often in the name of an ill-conceived balance, undermines the strength and credibility of moderate states to bolster one another and isolate the extremists.
Israel goes to great lengths to ensure the safety and well-being of all civilian populations - Palestinian and Israeli alike. Whereas Israel makes all efforts to protect civilians in accordance with international law, Hamas indiscriminately fires rockets into Israeli civilian areas. Whereas Israel ensures that medicines and fuel enter the Gaza Strip to reach hospitals and needy civilians, Hamas hijacks those trucks and diverts them to its bomb making factories and terrorist camps. Whereas Israel allows humanitarian convoys into Gaza - more than 1600 trucks and over 20,000 tons of aid in recent weeks alone - Hamas cynically fires on those same crossing points, so it can fabricate a pretext for inciting the Palestinian public against Israel.
Moreover, the cruelty of Hamas continues to be seen in its holding of Gilad Shalit, who was abducted by that terrorist organization in June 2006 and begins today his twenty-second month in captivity. All the while, Hamas has refused to provide details of his condition or well-being. We continue to hope and pray for his safe return home.
Surely, no similarities can be drawn between Israel and Hamas. The immeasurable difference between the moderates and the extremists can be seen both in their rhetoric in this Hall and their actions on the ground.
In this context, I can only hope that my Palestinian colleague's poignant outcry against the deliberate killing of children, describing it as a sinking to the abyss, was really directed at the Hamas terrorists he again failed to mention by name.
Let us be very clear: while for Israel every dead Palestinian child is a horrible mistake and tragedy, for the terrorists every dead Israeli child is a victory and a cause for celebration.
Allow me to briefly turn to the situation along our northern border. As you know, Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) changed the reality on the ground following the 2006 Second Lebanon War, and constituted an important achievement for this Council. Hence, the international community must ensure that the implementation of resolution 1701 remains a priority issue, and my delegation supports the Council taking the appropriate action to show its resolve.
In this context, I wish to draw attention to three main areas: (1) stemming the illegal flow of weapons through the porous Syrian-Lebanese border, (2) preventing the rearming of Hizbullah - which has already adapted its weaponry and tactics so as to take into account the UNIFIL presence south of the Litani River, as its spokesmen openly declare - and (3) the unconditional release of our boys, the Israeli soldiers Udi Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, kidnapped on 12 July 2006 by Hizbullah. The Council, in adopting resolution 1701, committed itself to seeing their release, and I call on the membership to keep its word.
To be sure, the new and improved UNIFIL on the ground is doing important work, and - among the positives on the ground - Israel welcomes the trilateral meetings between the IDF, the Lebanese Army, and UNIFIL, as well as efforts to demarcate the Blue Line.
However, as I began my statement referring to the dangers of extremism, here too it must be emphasized that Hizbullah poses an extremist threat to the region. Indeed, Hizbullah and Hamas share the same strategies and tactics and are funded and supported by the same ominous backers, Syria and Iran. The relationship between Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbullah are continually reinforced for us, as we recently saw in the expressions of sympathy and support made by those leaders, again just yesterday, regarding the arch terrorist Imad Mughnieh.
Listen to the words of the terrorist leaders themselves, like the Hamas commander in Gaza, who recently told the Sunday Times that Hamas (quote) "has sent seven 'courses' of our fighters to Iran" (end quote). According to the commander, a further 650 Hamas fighters have trained in Syria under instructors who learned their trade, techniques, and ways in Iran. Sixty-two are in Syria right now. He said, Hamas was modeling itself on Hizbullah.
Clearly, Syria and Iran both play host to and support global and local terrorist organizations. The international community must press to end that support.
Israel understands it must work with the moderate, legitimate Palestinian Authority leadership to show the people of the region that the path of moderation will bring tangible benefit to all. This is why suspending the ongoing dialogue and talks between Israel and the Palestinians would be a grave mistake. The extremists have no real solutions to anybody's problems. All they want is to see our failure. Moderation must be seen as the only answer and legitimate alternative to extremism.
Israel knows it cannot accomplish this alone. It needs the support of like-minded moderate leaders in the region that understand the threat posed by the extremists - not just to us but to them and the world - and are willing to do what it takes. This is a goal all the moderates share. If we begin to show divisions and weaknesses, the extremists will take advantage of the indecision and hesitation.
The international community needs to strengthen the bilateral process between the two parties, and to show a collective resolve to support the negotiations that will bring lasting security, stability, and peace to all people of our region. This is the mandate of the international community. This is its calling; this is its duty.
The collective resolve must be shown, first and foremost, by this Council. We in Israel are committed to showing it each and every day, in partnership with the moderates around us, until moderation, modernity, and common sense prevails.