Netanyahu puts peace process back in proper perspective

Tuesday, September 29, 2009 |  Ryan Jones

For decades the international community has let the Arabs define the Middle East peace process as the rectifying of wrongs done to the Palestinians by the Israelis. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to correct that error when he addressed the UN General Assembly on Thursday.

In a brief but powerful speech, Netanyahu reminded the world that it was the ancient prophets of his people that once inhabited the Holy Land and whose words are today holy scripture for billions of people.

"The Jewish people are not foreign conquerors in the Land of Israel. This is the land of our forefathers," declared Netanyahu. "Inscribed on the walls outside this building is the great Biblical vision of peace: 'Nation shall not lift up sword against nation. They shall learn war no more.' These words were spoken by the Jewish prophet Isaiah 2,800 years ago as he walked in my country, in my city - in the hills of Judea and in the streets of Jerusalem. We are not strangers to this land. It is our homeland."

The Israeli leader said he is ready and willing make peace based on giving part of that land to the Palestinian Arabs who live there, but will not do so based on lies and false accusations against his people.

In particular, Netanyahu said he wants the Palestinians to finally acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state, just as the UN itself did in 1947 when it divided the Holy Land between Jews and Arabs, a decision the Jews accepted but the Arabs rejected.

"We ask the Palestinians to finally do what they have refused to do for 62 years: Say yes to a Jewish state."

Netanyahu also devoted a large chunk of his speech to blasting the recent UN-mandated Goldstone Commission report, which accused Israel of committing war crimes in its invasion of the Gaza Strip earlier this year in response to years of Hamas rocket fire.

The prime minister recalled how the world cheered when Israel withdrew from Gaza and promised to "back our right of self-defense" should anything go wrong, only to turn around and accuse Israel of the most heinous crimes when it was forced to defend itself.

And that despite the fact that Israel went to extraordinary lengths to avoid Palestinian casualties, unlike the way self-righteous Western powers responded when one of their cities was rocketed decades earlier.

"There is only one example in history of thousands of rockets being fired on a country's civilian population. It happened when the Nazis rocketed British cities during World War II," said Netanyahu, in a short history lesson. In response, "the Allies leveled German cities, causing hundreds of thousands of casualties."

Netanyahu insisted that if Israel cannot count on fairness, even when is goes the extra mile to protect innocent lives on the other side, then it will find it increasingly difficult to take risks with its security in the name of peace.

The bulk of Netanyahu's speech focused on Iran, and the Islamic Republic was even mentioned in those sections of the speech dealing with the peace process.

Netanyahu said that without firmly dealing with existential regional threats, the international community could not reasonably hope to oversee a viable peace between Israel and its neighbors. He also strongly condemned the UN for providing a podium to Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a day earlier, despite Iranian leader's repeated denial of the Nazi Holocaust and his open desire to destroy Israel.

"Yesterday, the man who calls the Holocaust a lie spoke from this podium. To those who refused to come here and to those who left this room in protest, I commend you. You stood up for moral clarity and you brought honor to your countries," said Netanyahu. "But to those who gave this Holocaust-denier a hearing, I say on behalf of my people, the Jewish people, and decent people everywhere: Have you no shame? Have you no decency?"

Netanyahu warned the international community that "history has shown us time and again that what starts with attacks on the Jews eventually ends up engulfing many others."

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