Statement by Counsellor Gilad Cohen
Chargé d’Affaires, a.i.
Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations
United Nations, New York
22 January 2008
The situation in the region today did not develop overnight. It is the consequence of many choices, repeatedly the wrong choices, made by the Palestinians, to adopt terrorism and violence over peace and negotiations with Israel.
In contrast, Israel has shown that it understands the consequences of making the right choices. More than two years ago, Israel made the choice to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, uproot families, and remove all its forces, in order to create a new horizon for peace in the region. We chose to disengage, despite all the difficulties, and despite the fact that the Roadmap did not require it at this stage.
And ever since then, Hamas has ruled the Gaza Strip – first politically and now physically – using the area as its personal base for launching rocket attacks against Israel. The Palestinians in Gaza did not choose to engage Israel in dialogue and reconciliation to advance the two-state vision. Rather, they chose Hamas who uses terrorism and violence to advance its vision to destroy Israel.
Since the year 2000, more than 7,000 rockets and mortars have been fired at Israel by terrorists in the Gaza Strip. Last year alone, that number was over 2,000. And since Hamas’ violent takeover of Gaza in June 2007, the frequency of rocket attacks rose 150 percent, to more than 250 rockets and mortars a month. This means, on average, one rocket is fired at Israel every three hours.
Most of these rockets fall on the southern city of Sderot. Normal life in Sderot is a thing of the past. Not a day goes by when the Red Alert warning system does not sound, which gives children on playgrounds and in schools, and parents at home and at work, less than 15 seconds to find the nearest shelter before the next rocket comes slamming into their lives.
Liora Fima, a Sderot mother and head of a local elementary school, knows firsthand the traumatic impact of these rockets on the youth of Sderot – where up to 94 percent of children suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, including sleep and concentration problems, and even bed wetting. Listen to her words: “for the children in Sderot, red is not the colour of roses, but of blood and flames”.
Why is the Council not concerned with the safety and security of Israel’s children, women, and elderly who live in the southern city of Sderot? Why is the Council silent as they live in fear and panic each and every day?
With Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip and its rocket launchers pointed at Sderot, Israel faces an impossible situation. Israel must and will protect its civilian population from these rocket attacks. It is the duty of all States to ensure the right to life and safety of its people, especially from vicious acts of violence and terrorism that are carried out with the sole purpose of maiming, terrorizing, and murdering the innocent.
I ask each Member of the Council: what would you do if London, Moscow, Paris, or Tripoli was attacked and fired on? Would you sit back and do nothing? I am certain that no Member State on this Council – and certainly no country in the world – would be silent. And Israel is no different. It will act in accordance with its inherent right under article 51 of the United Nations Charter to protect and defend its people. This is the very obligation and right of all States.
Hence, it is deeply disturbing, Mr. President, that some falsely equate Palestinian terrorism with Israel’s actions taken in self-defense. A clear distinction must be made between Palestinian terrorism and Israeli defense – not only in practice and tactic, but also in terms of their morality and legality.
Palestinian terrorists choose to directly target Israeli civilians, and even use their own civilians as human shields. Hamas’ brutality towards its own people can also be seen in the daily violence on the streets of Gaza, where attacks on civilians have become routine. Terrorists produce, transport, and launch rockets and mortars from inside densely populated Palestinian residential areas. And by firing on border-crossings, the terrorists cynically force closures, which hamper efforts to deliver humanitarian aid and relief. Recently, we even saw humanitarian convoys used by terrorists to smuggle explosives and weapon materials into Gaza, yet another cynical act to harm their own people.
In this regard, Israel chooses to ensure the humanitarian welfare of the Palestinians in Gaza, even as Hamas chooses to abuse those efforts. Hamas chooses to divert fuel from domestic generators for its own terrorist purpose, including the production of Kassam rockets. Similarly, Israel chooses to allow electricity and fuel, as well as medicines, into Gaza, and works closely with the humanitarian organizations and relevant agencies on the ground to ensure that the needs are met.
Since June 2007, my government has allowed more than 9,000 Palestinians to enter Israel to seek medical treatment. Contrast this with the more than 1700 rockets and mortars Hamas has fired out of the Gaza Strip at Israel during the same amount of time.
As the rockets hit Sderot and other towns in southern Israel, we must not forget that Gilad Shalit is still held captive by the terrorists in the Gaza Strip. More than twenty months have passed since his abduction, while his whereabouts and condition remain unknown. President Abbas himself said on Friday that Hamas “destroyed and tries to destroy our dreams, future and national aspirations”.
Hamas controls the fate of Gaza. If terrorism ceases, life in Gaza will change. The Palestinians must understand that they will not profit from terrorism. Hamas does not represent the Palestinian national vision. Hamas is the antithesis of two states living side-by-side in peace and security. It does not recognize Israel’s right to exist. There is no hope in choosing terrorism, and there is surely no hope in the Hamas leadership.
There can be no moral equivalence made between the choices of Israel and the choices of Hamas. Israel is not only mindful of the humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip. It is a neighbor, interested in the well-being of the population living next door with whom it wants to work with to advance the vision of two-states.
The international community must make it clear that Hamas’ actions are unacceptable, and that continuing to choose Hamas will only lead to continued suffering – for both Israelis and Palestinians. It is up to the international community to tell those states that initiated this debate, and those states that think singling out Israel and condemning it will bring about change, that Israeli security cannot be sacrificed. Guaranteeing the welfare of all Israelis and Palestinians begins, first and foremost, with an end to terrorism and violence.
It is the international community’s choice to make clear that the path of rejection, of violence and of terrorism, will not be tolerated by this Council. Those who seek to subvert the bilateral process and use violence to achieve their aims will not secure the support of the international community.
Peace begins with the people and their choices. Dr. Adrianna Katz, an Israeli doctor living in Sderot, was recently asked what would make her life easier. Her answer is an important reminder for all of us of what needs to be done. She said (quote) “We need all the help we can get. But the best thing that can happen would be a lasting peace” (end quote).
Remember these words. And let us hope that the right choices are made.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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Right of Reply
Thank you for allowing my delegation the opportunity to address the Council once again.
The Hamas terrorist organization that operates in the Gaza Strip and is responsible for the current situation facing the Palestinian people did not materialize out of thin air. Hamas – and other terrorist organizations for that matter – is supported, financed, and backed by states in the region, such as Syria, in violation of their obligations under international law, and in particular Security Council resolution 1373.
It is hence the height of hypocrisy, cynicism, and indecency for the distinguished representative of Syria to address the Council and condemn Israel for merely defending itself against the very Hamas terrorists that it supports. Damascus is home and headquarters to numerous terrorist organizations, including Islamic Jihad and Hamas, the latter whose political leader – Khaled Mashal – lives there while continuing to orchestrate the killing of Israelis. Israel urges all states to end their support for terrorists and terrorism, in accordance with international law.
It is deeply regrettable that during its statement this morning, one Member State of this Council utilized the term “genocide” to refer to the situation in the Gaza Strip. It is highly insensitive to the survivors of genocide around the world and to the sensibilities of this Council for language to be used so cheaply. My delegation urges Member States to be more responsible with the language used in their statements.
Lastly, Mr. President, it is astonishing – though perhaps not surprising – that some delegations who addressed the Council today were able to refer to the situation in the Gaza Strip through a one-sided prism, without any understanding of the true causes of the situation. The absent reference to Hamas is validation of the fact that the deliberations in this room are often all too detached from the reality on the ground.
I reiterate Israel’s commitment to facilitate the necessary humanitarian aid to the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip. The current situation that Israel faces is the same challenge that every democracy confronts when dealing with terrorism: to uphold the standards of international law, even while the terrorists it fights willfully violate these norms.
Thank you, Mr. President.