Browsing Posts in Peace

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech at the Conference of Presidents of Major North American Jewish Organizations

Jerusalem, 16 February 2011

Thank you, Alan, and Malcolm, and all of you. I see here some old hands, practiced hands, loyal hands. You’ve always been steadfast, unequivocal and focused on one purpose – and that is to defend the State of Israel and assure the future of the Jewish state and the Jewish people.

Being focused, having clarity of vision, is abundant in this room, and it is much needed today. I’ve spoken in recent weeks about the shifting sands between India and Gibraltar, between Pakistan and Morocco. I’ve been through one or two sandstorms in my life, and I found being in a sandstorm, the two most important things that you need is not to lose sight of where you are and not to lose sight of where you are going. You have to maintain a clear sense of place and a clear sense of direction.

Two weeks ago, in a speech I gave in the Knesset, I said that everyone is watching this sandstorm. I said that leaders and policymakers in Washington, London, Paris and Berlin were voicing strong support for the protesters in Cairo.

But I also pointed out that, at the same time, these same protesters were supported in Tehran. Now, there is one thing I can assure you: the leaders in the West and the leaders in Tehran do not want the same future for Egypt. American and European leaders want an Egypt that is free, democratic, peaceful and prosperous. They want an Egypt that is looking forward and forward-looking into the 21st century. They want an Egypt that is at peace with its neighbors and that promotes stability throughout the region.

On the other hand, the leaders in Tehran: they want to see an Egypt that is ruled by that same iron despotism that has crushed human rights in Iran for the last three decades. They don’t want an Egypt that looks forward to the 21st century. They want an Egypt that looks back to the 9th century. They want an Egypt that will break the peace with Israel – that will join Iran in supporting terrorism and promoting bloodshed throughout the region and in many parts of the world.

So there is a question here. How can these two visions so diametrically opposed to one another both find hope in the protests in the streets and squares of Cairo? The answer to that is very simple:  no one knows what the future in Egypt will bring.  People in Washington don’t know. People in Tehran don’t know. Now this may be hard for some of you to believe – but even columnists for the New York Times don’t know.

Changing the status quo can definitely lead to a better outcome. This happened two decades ago in Berlin, in Prague and in Bucharest. In 1989, the great change in Eastern Europe we can now say for certain was definitely for the better.

But change can also lead to worse outcomes – worse for freedom, worse for human rights, worse for peace. In 1917 there was great change and great hope when three months of the Kerensky government were followed by 70-years of Soviet darkness.

In 1979, there was a genuine hope for democracy and progress in Iran, but a few months of the Bachtiar government gave way to 30 years of militant Islamic darkness. This is also happening in Lebanon today.

You remember that a few years ago, five years ago, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese poured into the squares of Beirut? That was close to, some reports said, about 800,000 people. That’s close to one fifth of that country’s population, equivalent to tens of millions of Egyptians. The calls for freedom that they chanted there, spearheaded by the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, were no less authentic than the calls for freedom that are now heard in Cairo.

Those protesters also had the support of the free world. They seem to herald a new day for Lebanon, a new dawn, a new beginning, new possibilities. This is what everybody in the democratic world, and even beyond the democratic world, dreamed for Lebanon. But this is not what Iran planned for Lebanon, and they worked very hard in these past five years to ensure that Lebanon has a different future.

Five years later, Hizbullah, a terror organization that respects no human rights, that crushes human rights into the dust, that brutalizes its own people, that spreads terror throughout the Middle East, that rockets Israel – five years later, after that great promise of the Cedar Revolution, five years later Lebanon has been taken over -de facto – by Hizbullah: a proxy of Iran. Just today, Hizbullah’s leader announced that he intends to conquer the Galilee. I have news for you: he won’t. The last thing anyone should have is any doubt about Israel’s determination and ability to defend itself and defend its people. I want to make this point clear in Hebrew as well:

[Translation]

Anyone hiding in the bunker should stay in the bunker. Let no one doubt Israel’s strength or our ability to defend ourselves. We have a determined government, a strong army and a united people. We seek peace with all our neighbors; however the IDF is prepared and ready to defend the State of Israel forcefully from all our enemies.

[End translation]

I commend you, Malcolm, for the number of Hebrew speakers in this audience, but I’m sure everyone got the message.

My Friends,

Israel wants Egypt to succeed in its quest for genuine and lasting democracy. If there is a gap between Israel and the rest of the democratic world, it is certainly not in our shared hopes that the calls for reform in Egypt will be met. I’m not just saying that today. I said this in my first speech in the Knesset after the events in Egypt two weeks ago, just a few days after the protests began. I assumed then that important newspapers have good research teams. Well, evidently, that is not always the case. So here’s what I said (politicians love to quote themselves):

“It is obvious that an Egypt that fully embraces the 21st century and that adopts those reforms would be a source of great hope for the entire world, for the region and for us. In Israel, we know the value of democratic institutions and the significance of liberty. We know the value of independent courts that protect the rights of individuals and the rule of law; we appreciate of the value of a free press, and of a parliamentary system with a coalition and opposition.

It is clear that an Egypt that rests on these institutions, an Egypt that is anchored in democratic values, would never be a threat to peace. On the contrary, if we have learned anything from modern history, it is that the stronger the foundations of democracy, the stronger are the foundations of peace. Peace among democracies is strong, and democracy strengthens peace.”

That’s what I said two weeks ago. Here’s what I say today: if there is a difference between Israel and others who share these hopes, it is that as Prime Minister of Israel, I am responsible for the security of over 7 million Israelis who live in the one and only Jewish state.

I cannot simply hope for the best. I must also prepare for the worst.

Part of that preparation is to alert the leaders and policymakers around the world to the possible dangers that may lie ahead – not because I want those dangers to materialize – I don’t – but because I have a responsibility to do whatever I can to increase the chances that they don’t materialize. As Jewish leaders, that is your responsibility as well. I know that you’ve shouldered it time and time again.

All of us know one thing – that ultimately, the people of Egypt are those who will decide their own fate.  But Israel cannot profess a neutrality as to the outcome.  Because above all, we want the Egyptian government to remain committed to the peace with Israel. Every single Egyptian should know that the people of Israel are committed to peace, both with them and with all our other neighbors.

Nearly two-thirds of Egypt’s vast population, over 50 million Egyptians – they do not remember, because they never knew what life was like before Egypt and Israel made peace. But I remember, and many of you in this room do as well.  We remember the wars, the terror, the fallen soldiers, the shattered families, and we remember that day when Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin shook hands here in Jerusalem, and history changed.

Overnight, our principle enemy became our first partner in peace. After much yearning and much suffering, the promise of peace was finally realized. That peace later expanded into a formal peace with Jordan, which was actually preceded by de facto peace from 1970 on.

While we have not yet achieved a final peace with the Palestinians, or with the Syrians or with the Lebanese, we have not lost hope.  And we won’t lose hope. We remain committed to achieving peace with all our neighbors. All our neighbors should look at the value that the peace contributed to Egypt and Israel.

And I have no doubt that maintaining the peace and deepening peace is an interest of Egypt, and I hope that this will accompany the Egyptian effort to achieve a free and democratic society as they pursue their reforms.  So while we wish the Egyptian people full success as they seek to forge a new future, we make no apologies for our fervent hope that they remain committed to peace, whatever course they take.

You know, my friends, a lot of conventional wisdoms have collapsed recently. What Wikileaks showed – well, some of us knew it before – but what it showed us is that the main concerns of regimes in this region is not the Israeli-Palestinian issue but the question of Iran.

What the protests in Tunisia, in Egypt and elsewhere have shown us in the Middle East is that the main concern of peoples in this region is not the Israeli-Palestinian issue but the policies of their regimes.

Yet there are still those for whom the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the region – and in fact to the world – is nothing less than an article of faith. There is no evidence that these true believers will not ignore. But many fair minded and objective observers are beginning to recognize reality.

Yet still there is one truth that has yet to emerge: that it is not Israel that doesn’t wish to advance negotiations to conclude a final peace with the Palestinians. It is the Palestinians. They don’t want to negotiate. I hope that changes. I hope that the Palestinians finally decide to sit down in a room with us and negotiate a peace settlement. They’re only ten minutes away. They could come here or we could go there. We’re ready to do so. They’re not.

As I said, I hope that changes, because peace cannot be imposed unilaterally or from the outside. It can only come through good faith negotiations between the parties. So I repeat my hope that President Abbas will come forward and negotiate. In these negotiations, I think people can understand today better what we’ve been saying: that security in this part of the world is the foundation of peace. Not merely because we have to protect the peace, but also because we have to protect ourselves in case peace unravels. A peace treaty, in itself, does not guarantee the peace.

We had peaceful relations with one country, not a formal peace but peaceful relations with one country – and that country changed overnight. It’s called Iran. We had formal, excellent peace relations with another country: meetings of leaders, robust trade, joint military maneuvers, and 400,000 tourists a year – I’m one of the few Israelis who didn’t visit that country: Turkey. But that too changed one day in Davos when Turkey’s leader confronted our President, Shimon Peres. We hope that we can bring back the relationship with Turkey, because we never chose to have it deterred. But it makes the point that I wish to make: a peace treaty in itself and the presence of peace doesn’t guarantee its continuity. We have to bolster it with prosperity, with legitimacy, but above all, we have to anchor it in security. And this certainly must be one of the main things that we have to negotiate about.

There are other things, but we cannot negotiate, we cannot conclude a negotiation if we do not begin it. We need to begin it; we need to engage in it; and we need to seek a realistic and secure peace. I think there are many fair-minded people around the world today who can understand better what I am saying.

As we seek to anchor the peace with Egypt and to expand the peace with others, we have to also have a clear sight of the main force that threatens peace in our region. There are many such forces. There is much turbulence. But there is one force that will guarantee that we won’t have peace in the region, and that is if Iran acquires nuclear weapons. This is what it seeks to do. It seeks not a nuclear program, not nuclear power, not a replacement for oil, not radioactive isotopes for medicine – it is seeking to build nuclear weapons, atomic bombs. If Iran, that wants a very different future for Egypt, that has overtaken Lebanon, that has overtaken half of Palestinian society, that calls openly for Israel’s destruction, that spreads terror everywhere – if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, this will be a formidable threat to peace. It will be a pivot of history. All those who seek peace, all those who seek stability, must join in the effort to prevent this from happening.

There has been some important work done. The international community, led by President Obama, adopted important sanctions at the UN, and they were followed by sanctions by like-minded states. There is no question these sanctions have hurt Iran’s economy. But they have not yet affected the regime’s deep determination to develop nuclear weapons.

The only way that will be affected is if the international community proves that it is no less determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The challenge that we face in the coming year, and the great events that are taking place between Pakistan and Gibraltar in the swirling sands, and the earthquake underneath – the greatest challenge that we face is not to lose sight of the true threats to peace.

We may hope for the best of all outcomes. But if our people’s history has shown us anything and has taught us anything, it is not to dismiss the threats we face. We must recognize those threats in time.  And we must be always ready to defend ourselves.

One thing that gives our people that confidence is to know that we have learned these lessons of our history, and to know that the Jewish people everywhere stand by and with Israel in its efforts to secure its future.

You stand with us both in thwarting dangers and in seizing the opportunities.

I want to thank you all – Alan, Malcolm and each and every one of you – for standing with Israel, for your rock solid commitment to our common future, to the future of the Jewish people and to the future of the Jewish state.

Thank you, and it’s good to see you again in Jerusalem.

“[W]e have handed over the word [Zionism] to those who attack and distort it.” ~ Rebecca Sugar, Birthright Alumni Director on February 1, 2011

A couple of years ago I was asked how I would define the Israeli-Arab conflict in one sentence. While rarely caught off-guard I had to think about it and eventually offered that it could be described as a conflict between two national movements over the same piece of land. It is a clash between the Zionist movement, and the Palestinian national movement, as embodied by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Clearly, this is simplified and even simplistic to describe the dispute in one sentence and does not really do justice to complexities and narratives that lie at the heart of the conflict.

What should be reason of concern to the friends of Israel but also to those who are interested in a dispassionate debate (if this is actually possible) is that Zionism, in the minds of so many is not understood and viewed solely through the Middle East conflict. And with Israel’s detractors not getting tired of brandishing the nationalism of the Jews, the dislike and even hatred of Zionism inevitably have formed and colored the term in the political debate. We continue to witness the systematic delegitimization of the State of Israel, and the calling into question of its very existence. So it would have been certainly possible to respond to my curious interlocutor that the Israeli-Arab conflict was about the existence of the State of Israel per se.

Zionism has been and always will be very complex and seems to defy a universally acceptable definition. But I want to state here emphatically: Zionism is a positive and hopeful concept. The seeds of Zionism have led to enormous achievements that should be admired rather than condemned. And Zionism, as described above, it is not the reason for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. continue reading…

[Translated from Hebrew]

Have the lessons of the Holocaust been learned?

For us, the Jewish people, the answer is yes.
For the rest of the world, the answer is no, or at least not yet.

Today, 66 years after the horror, we are here, in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of our nation. We, the representatives of the Jewish nation, are holding a special ceremony to mark the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The lesson that we have learned, first of all, is that we are here, in our sovereign country, in our capital city.

We have learned another important lesson, probably the most crucial lesson to be learned from the atrocity, from the chain of atrocities that brought about one much worse; this has continued for hundreds and thousands of years, since we lost our country and our sovereignty, and since we lost our capability to defend ourselves. The lesson learned was that we had to restore the capacity of the State and the army for self-defense.

This lesson was understood by Herzl even before the great atrocity took place. He foresaw it, and we implemented it.

But there is one other lesson. At the end of the Holocaust, there were 11 million Jews in the world. Before it, there were 18 million.

Even at a very slow rate of natural increase of the population, there should have been almost 30 million Jews in the world, but in fact, there are only 13.5 million; much less, half of what there should be. This did not happen by physical loss; it happened because of assimilation and the loss of identity.

The only place where the Jewish people has grown is here, in Eretz Yisrael, in the State of Israel. We have continuous substantial and blessed growth. There is no nation that could live on a demographic pin head. Therefore, while cultivating our country, we must continue to encourage aliyah, bringing Jewish people to Israel, and to prevent their assimilation abroad. All the projects that we operate – Birthright, Masa and also Moreshet – are aimed at our young adults and also young Jews abroad. They are essential elements in assuring our future.

Have we learned the lesson? The answer is yes. Has the world learned the lesson? Well, I think one thing is clear: the fact that global anti-Semitism is renewing and expanding is obvious. If anyone thought that anti-Semitism stopped after World War II and the Holocaust, it is now evident that it was only a hiatus. The same forces that you mentioned joining together, share a new/old anti-Semitism with the world, and so we must fight it, globally too. For that, I congratulate my friend Silvan Shalom, who, when serving as Foreign Minister, brought about an important United Nations resolution – marking this day, a resolution which was adopted by the UN.

This resolution is indeed implemented in many countries, which is an important achievement and in many ways also unique, at least in the ability to propose an Israeli draft resolution to this organization, which I am well familiar with, I spent a long time there. It was a milestone. But I still ask: does the world that condemns that anti-Semitism also condemn this anti-Semitism?

Every now and then, very feebly – it isn’t just anti-Semitism; it is the regime – a member country of the UN, the regime of ayatollahs – stands up and knowingly and openly calls for the annihilation of at least another six million Jews, without even a hint of pretense. And nobody says a thing. Well, that’s not exact. Here and there a comment might be heard, but where is the anger, the outrage? Where is the outcry? Where is the “J’accuse?”  I’m not asking about us. We are here; we’ve learned our lessons. But where is the global uproar that should have risen from advanced communities around the world in response to explicit declarations of genocide, of exterminating a people, that same people!

We must be honest with each other. Diplomacy is, first and foremost, identifying the situation as it is. If we want to change it, we must understand it. And we have a very disturbing historical phenomenon. I don’t think that it is only hard for us, but for all civilized people, all civilized peoples, who allow such an affliction, such statements, such savagery, barbarism and primitivism to be uttered and spread. It is said; it spreads, becomes acceptable, commonplace, and always prepares the ground for the next action and also prevents those actions that will not take place.

I am aware that there are many leaders and good-hearted, conscientious people around the world. I know that they think what I think. I know that in their hearts, they tell themselves what I am saying today from this podium.

However, that will not suffice. Because in the face of this regime, that calls for our annihilation, and arms itself with weapons of mass destruction in order to fulfill its nefarious intentions, there should be a much stronger protest. This makes me somewhat disheartened, my friend Silvan.

I was in that institution, I served in it as the representative of Israel. One day I heard that there were rumors about a file about Waldheim, who was then President of Austria. It might have been the Secretary-General of the UN. The Secretary-General said he had a profile about a war criminal in some UN archive.

What was this archive? It turned out that there was a war-criminal archive instituted by Churchill and the Allies during the war to collect material against Nazi criminals and their collaborators. They gathered the information, and listened and discussed and prepared the files and at the end of the war they took these files, brought them to the UN, and locked them in the basement, where they just lay for decades.

I asked if I could go in there, and they said “no.”  I asked why, and was told that I needed the consent of all the allied countries, 18 or 19 countries, I think, and there was no such approval. Well, it took me a year until I got the okay and was taken to the archive.

It wasn’t exactly in the basement, it was on the first floor of a UN building somewhere in New York. I walk in and see boxes upon boxes; I go to ‘W,’ pull out the box: Waldheim, Kurt, and various notes. My hair stood on end (I had more hair then). Horrible things, lying there, hidden for dozens of years. I look at the next file (I didn’t start taking boxes out, it was the same box): Birkenau 1944, records of exterminations, the death marches, trains, the S.S., it’s all documented. 1944, but I think I also saw files that referred to 1943.

My friends, these 18 countries, perhaps the best statesmen in history, distinguished men, truly great men – they knew. They knew in real time, and not from this particular testimony that I have just mentioned. There are plenty of testimonies: terrible things that are very hard to read. They knew, but they did not act.

Why did they not act? Because they were busy fighting the major battle against the Nazis, which was their main concern. But how hard would it have been to bomb the railway tracks leading to the death camps? When you go there, and many of you have been there – I was there with some of you, several times – you see they could have bombed the camps. They were already bombing that awful chemical plant only seconds away. They would only have needed to tilt the plane a bit and could also have bombed the ramp and two incinerators, and the tracks. It wouldn’t have made the slightest difference to their war effort. They knew and they did nothing.

Today they are very aware of it. They know, they hear, they see, they photograph. You don’t need special intelligence, you only need to turn on the television, hear the news, read the newspaper. Will they act? Will they talk? Will they really talk? Will they attack? Will they condemn?

The Iranians say that it’s against the Zionists, anti-Zionism. It was Martin Luther King who burst that bubble better than anyone else. He said, and I quote: “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism!”

Martin Luther King. That’s right. So that’s what the Iranians say. But this is the truth. It is not only a threat against us, because it always begins with the Jews but never ends with the Jews. The hatred of Jews kindles an overall fire, and I expect that on this day, when I applaud the world for marking the most heinous crime in world history and the history of our people which was perpetrated against our people – I hope others will also learn the lesson. We already have.

I expect the world to learn the lesson and start fighting in words and in deeds against the new anti-Semitism. That is what I expect and I am certain, my friends, that you expect the same.

In today’s USA Today, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren looks at what the future holds for the Israeli and Palestinian people if both sides get back on track.

“Israelis and Palestinians must touch the most sensitive aspects of our national narratives and our most cherished beliefs. President Obama and Secretary Clinton will continue to play a dynamic role in assisting us to overcome obstacles. Arab states should also support the process and normalize relations with Israel. But there is no substitute for direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Though we have long been rivals in a conflict, we can now be partners for peace.”

To read the full Op-Ed from USA Today, click here.

The Middle East peace process has reached something of an impasse. Israel, together with the United States, has called for direct negotiations, without preconditions, but the Palestinians refuse to join us. Still, Israel remains committed to attaining a genuine peace grounded on the principle of two states for two peoples living side-by-side in security, prosperity and mutual acceptance. That peace is possible, and this is how we can achieve it.

First, we must continue to lay the foundations for peace. Israel will remove additional checkpoints in the West Bank, facilitating the flow of traffic and goods, and encourage Palestinian efforts to establish national institutions. Further measures can be undertaken to strengthen the Palestinian economy and reinforce confidence. But Palestinian leaders must also prepare their people for peace by promoting co-existence and removing calls for Israel’s destruction from public television and textbooks. When attained, peace will exist not only on paper but also in the marketplaces, highways and schools.

Recently, I had the great honor on behalf of the State of Israel of laying a wreath on the grave of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King in Atlanta, Georgia. On the occasion, I recalled the inspiration this great leader provided to me, growing up on the outskirts of riot-ravaged Newarkin the 1960s. My father dedicated his life to building bridges between the Jewish and African-American communities of the city, and for him as well, Dr. King was a sterling example.

Dr. King offered his unequivocal support to the State of Israel. He held Israel’s story as a precedent for the freedom, equality, and national liberation for which African-Americans strived.

On this Martin Luther King Day, we in Israel—home to the Middle East’s only memorial to Dr. King—recall his unflagging courage and undaunted vision of a better world.

יהי זכרם ברוך

May his memory be blessed forever.

Dr. Michael B. Oren is Israel’s Ambassador to the United States.

“Christmas in Bethlehem. The holiday atmosphere was palpable in every corner this week. The city is decorated to the gills, with Santa mannequins on the streets and lots and lots of tourists. The hotels reported full occupancy and the restaurants vigorously prepared for guests. Some of the finest Middle Eastern singers will be performing tonight and tomorrow in Bethlehem and Sahour, in an attempt to entertain the visitors from all over the world, Israel, and even Gaza.”"

“A group from Russia crowded into the Church of the Nativity to hear an explanation of the differences between the three churches in the compound: Roman Catholic, which is observing the holiday tonight; Greek Orthodox (of which the Russians are also members), which will only be celebrating Christmas on January 7th; and the Armenian Church. Abbot (Father) Spyridon sits in a corner of the Orthodox church. He was born in Bethlehem 60 years ago and has served in the church since 1970. “There’s a good feeling this year,” he says. “More stability and fewer problems. After all, Bethlehem is based on tourism.” Some Palestinian police officers are circling around among the tourists, but according to Abbot Spyridon, their job is not just to protect the visitors. “There are still quite a few problems here,” he explains. He speaks Russian, Greek, English, Arabic and a little Spanish, and has seen a thing or two throughout his life inside and outside the church. During Operation Defensive Shield he was home with his wife and seven children.”

To read more from Ha’aretz (in Hebrew), click here.

Unfortunately, the Palestinian position during these 17 years has not moved one inch from its maximalist demands. Isn’t it time that the Palestinians are asked directly and openly if they are prepared to make any concessions? Are they prepared to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and the Jewish connection to the Western Wall and Temple Mount? Are they prepared to recognize that there are Jewish refugees in Arab states, and that Israel has very real security concerns?

While the world has unfortunately focused on settlement building, it has gone largely unnoticed that Palestinian leaders are retreating from previously accepted positions, especially the need for a two-states-for-two-peoples solution.

Click here to read the full Op-Ed in today’s Los Angeles Times.

For Chanukah 5771, we could use the Maccabees with us once again. The story of Chanukah can be many things – the “Festival of Lights,” a day to celebrate miracles – but it is most importantly about the Jewish people solidifying their claim to the land of Israel in the face of revisionism. If it were not for the Maccabees, the Second Temple would be mentioned in our children’s books as “an ancient Greek temple.” Yes, just over 2100 years ago the Second Temple was filled not with Jews but with statues of Zeus and other Greek gods. This was only temporary of course, the real character of the Second Temple being restored when the Jews threw out the statues and rededicated the Temple in 165 B.C.E.

Today, in the face of Arab claims that the Western Wall is “Palestinian,” it is time for a second “dedication,” or “Chanukah”. While Judah Maccabee had to take up arms to protect the Jewish people, Israel’s battle for survival today is also fought on paper. The Palestinians wield an eraser, but one cannot simply erase what has been written in the ink of history. The Palestinians erroneously believe that the current peace process is with a Jewish People that only appeared on the scene in 1948, a fallacy that is as dangerous as it is ignorant.

In 161 B.C.E. Rome, one of the greatest powers in world history, did what the Palestinians can’t seem to wrap their heads around: they accepted the Jewish people. As history tells us, the Roman-Jewish Treaty was an agreement signed by Judah Maccabee and the Roman Republic, which states: “May all go well with the Romans and with the nation of the Jews at sea and on land forever, and may sword and enemy be far from them.”

The Palestinian narrative is solely based on the Jewish People as “outsiders,” an invading force that has no business being in what they see as their land. Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that this is an unfair and historically absurd claim, yet it is a claim that is taking hold and growing stronger every day.

Before the “peace process” began, Arab policy towards Israel was defined by what became known following the Khartoum Resolution as the “Three No’s:” “No peace with Israel,” “No negotiations with Israel,” and “No recognition of the Jewish State of Israel.” That was after the Six-Day War, over 40 years ago. To say that much has happened since then would be a gross understatement. The game changer came in 1979, when Egypt and Israel signed a monumental peace agreement. After living under (and fighting for) a policy of rejection, it took over a decade for one single Arab country to courageously buck the trend and say “yes” to peace.

During the Fatah Revolutionary Council’s fifth meeting in Ramallah this past weekend, the council decided on a not-so-original set of “no’s.” “No” to Israel as a Jewish State, and “no” to the so-called “land swaps.” Perhaps the Arab world wants to turn the clock back to the idyllic “Summer of ‘67”, but the world cannot stand idly by as a conscious effort is made to reverse decades of progress – progress that has benefited Israelis, Palestinians, and Arabs alike throughout the region.

The core problem behind the “no’s” of 1968 and the “no’s” of today is the same: Palestinian revisionism. With their attempts not only to block the peace process but to erase Jewish claims to the land, they exhibit a wish to send Jewish people back to 1947, a place in history not too dissimilar from the time of Judah Maccabee. If the Palestinians assert their claim to Israel based on centuries of Ottoman rule, perhaps the Jewish people should give them a history lesson on the Greco-Syrian Seleucid Empire in Judea. Because, after all, our ancestors were there then, celebrating the very first Chanukah.

Joel Lion is Consul for Media and Spokesperson at the Consulate General of Israel in New York

The following is a joint statement of the Office of the Prime Minister of Israel and the Office of the Secretary of State of the United States following their November 11th meeting:

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Secretary Clinton had a good discussion today, with a friendly and productive exchange of views on both sides. Secretary Clinton reiterated the United States’ unshakable commitment to Israel’s security and to peace in the region.

‪‪The Prime Minister and the Secretary agreed on the importance of continuing direct negotiations to achieve our goals. The Secretary reiterated that “the United States believes that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state, based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.” Those requirements will be fully taken into account in any future peace agreement.

‪‪‪The discussions between the Prime Minister and the Secretary focused on creating the conditions for the resumption of direct negotiations aimed at producing a two-state solution. Their teams will work closely together in the coming days toward that end.

Today marks 15 years since an assassin’s bullet killed my friend, Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister. Since his death, not a week has gone by that I have not missed him. I loved him and his wife, Leah, very much. On the occasion of the anniversary of his death, his yahrzeit, the world would do well to remember the lessons of his life: his vision for freedom, tolerance, cooperation, security and peace is as vital now as it was 15 years ago, when he happily spoke and sang for peace at a huge rally in Tel Aviv just before he was killed.

Rabin was utterly without pretense. When David Ben-Gurion sent him as a young man to represent Israel during armistice talks in 1949, he had never before worn a neck tie, so a friend tied it, and showed him how to loosen it so he could preserve the knot for future use. True to form, two weeks before his assassination, he arrived in Washington at a black-tie event without the black tie. We borrowed one for him, and I still smile whenever I think about straightening it for him, just as Hillary does when she remembers how he complained when she made him go out on the Truman Balcony to smoke.

The story of Yitzhak Rabin and the story of Israel are intertwined. He took up arms to defend Israel’s freedom, and laid down his life to secure Israel’s future. When he came to the White House in 1993 to sign the Declaration of Principles with the Palestinians, he was a military hero, uniquely prepared to lead his people into a new era. Before shaking the hand of Yasir Arafat, a man he had long considered his mortal foe, he spoke directly to the Palestinian people:

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