Last updated on September 27, 2023
I would encourage you to read this unofficial transcript that I wrote today—an impassioned plea from Prime Minister Netanyahu for peace that should stir the hearts of all Christians and Jews.
Ladies and gentlemen, in Israel, our hope for peace never wanes.
Our scientists, doctors, and innovators apply their genius to improve the world of tomorrow.
After all, it was here in 1975, the age-old yearning of my people to restore our national life and our ancient Biblical homeland, it was then that this was branded shamefully, as racism.
And it’s here, year after year, that Israel is unjustly singled out for condemnation.
You might say that’s the past.
And then he said, remember, that even in the darkest place, the light of a single candle can be seen far and wide.
I came here to speak the truth.
The truth is ‑‑
The truth is that Israel wants peace.
The truth is, that I want peace.
The truth is, that in the Middle East, at all times, but especially during these turbulent days, peace must be anchored in security.
The truth is, that we cannot achieve peace through U.N. resolutions, but only through direct negotiations between the parties.
The truth is, that so far, the Palestinians have refused to negotiate.
Ladies and gentlemen, when I first came here 27 years ago, the world was divided between East and West. Since then, the Cold War ended.
Great civilizations have risen from centuries of slumber. Hundreds of millions have been lifting out of poverty. Countless more are poised to follow and the remarkable thing is, so far, this monumental historic shift has largely occurred peacefully.
Not to build, but to destroy. That malignancy is militant Islam.
>> Since 9/11, militant Islam has slaughtered countless other innocence. In London, in Madrid, in Baghdad, in Mumbai, in Tel Aviv, in Jerusalem, and every part of Israel.
That would be a tragedy. Millions of Arabs have taken to the streets to replace tyranny with liberty. And no one would benefit more than
Leaders must see reality as it is. Not as it ought to be.
Now, some argue that the spread of militant Islam, especially in these turbulent times, if you want to slow it down, they argue, Israel must hurry to make concessions, to make territorial compromises.
International troops will do the job.
We actually left territory.
We left Gaza hoping for peace.
We didn’t freeze settlements in Gaza.
We uprooted them.
We did exactly what the theory says.
Go back to the 1967 borders.
Dismantle the settlements.
And I don’t think people remember how far we went to achieve this.
We uprooted thousands of people from their homes.
We pulled children out of their schools and their kindergartens.
We bulldozed synagogues.
We even moved loved ones from their graves.
And then having done all of that, we gave the keys of Gaza to President Abbas.
Now, the theory says, it should all work out.
And President Abbas and the Palestinian authority now could build the peaceful state in Gaza.
You can remember that the entire world applauded, they applauded our withdrawal as an act of great statesmanship, as a bold act of peace.
But ladies and gentlemen, we didn’t get peace.
We got war.
We got Iran.
Which through its proxy, Hamas, promptly kicked out the Palestinian authority.
The Palestinian authority collapsed, in a day, in one day.
President Abbas just said on this podium that the Palestinians are armed only with their hopes and dreams.
Hopes, dreams, and 10,000 missiles, and rockets supplied by Iran, not to mention the river of lethal weapons now flowing into Gaza from the Sinai, from Libya, and from where else.
Thousands of missiles have already rained down on our cities, so you might understand that, given all of this, Israelis rightly ask, what’s to prevent this from happening again in the West Bank?
See, most of our major cities in the South of the country are within a few dozen kilometres from Gaza.
But in the centre of the country, opposite the West Bank, our cities are a few hundred metres or at most a few kilometres away from the edge of the West Bank.
So I want to ask you, would any of you, would any of you bring danger so close to your cities, to your families?
Would you act so recklessly with the lives of your citizens?
Israel is prepared to have a Palestinian state in the West Bank, but we’re not prepared to have another Gaza there, and that’s why we need to have real security arrangements which the Palestinians simply refuse to negotiate with us.
Israelis remember the bitter lessons of Gaza.
Many of Israel’s critics ignore them.
They irresponsibly advise Israel to go down this same perilous path again.
You read what these people say and it’s as if nothing happened.
Just keep repeating the same advice, the same formulas, as though none of this happened.
And these critics continue to press Israel to make far reaching concessions without first assuring Israel’s security.
They praise those who unwittingly feed the insatiable crocodile of militant Islam as bold statesmen.
They cast as enemies of peace those of us who insist that we must first erect a sturdy barrier to keep the crocodile out.
Or at the very least, jam a bar between its gaping jaws, so in the face of the labels and the Libels, heed advice.
Better a bad press than a eulogy, and better a press that extends beyond breakfast and recognizes Israel’s legitimate security concerns.
I believe in serious peace negotiations, these needs and concerns can be properly addressed.
But they will not be addressed without negotiations, and the needs are many, because Israel is such a tiny country.
Without Judea and Samaria, the West Bank, Israel is all of nine miles wide.
I’ll put it for you in perspective, because you’re all in the city.
That’s about 2/3 the length of Manhattan.
It’s the distance between Battery Park and Columbia University.
And don’t forget, that the people who live in Brooklyn and New Jersey are considerably nicer than some of Israel’s neighbors.
So how do you protect such a tiny country?
Surrounded by people sworn to its destruction and armed to the teeth by Iran?
Obviously, you can’t defend it within that narrow space alone.
Israel needs greater strategic depth and that’s exactly why security Council Resolution 242 didn’t require Israel to leave all the territories it captured in the Six‑Day War.
It talked about withdrawal from territories, to secure indefensible boundaries.
And to defend itself, Israel must therefore maintain a long‑term Israeli military presence in critical strategic areas in the West Bank.
I explained this to President Abbas.
He answered that if a Palestinian state was to be a sovereign country, it could never accept such arrangements.
America has had troops in Japan, Germany, and South Korea for more than half a century.
None of these states claim that they are not sovereign countries.
And there are many other vital security issues that also must be addressed.
Take the issue of airspace.
Again, Israel’s small dimensions create huge security problems.
America can be crossed by jet airplane in six hours.
To fly across Israel, it takes three minutes.
So is Israel’s tiny airspace to be chopped in half and given to a Palestinian state not at peace with Israel?
Our major international airport is a few kilometres away from the West Bank.
Without peace, would our planes become targets for anti‑aircraft missiles placed in the adjacent Palestinian state?
And how will we stop the smuggling into the West Bank?
It’s not merely the West Bank, it’s the West Bank Mountains that dominates the Coastal Plains where most of Israel’s population sits below.
How can we prevent the smuggling into these mountains?
From those missiles that could be fired on our cities?
I bring up these problems because they are not theoretical problems.
They are very real.
And for Israelis, they are life and death matters.
All of these potential cracks in Israel’s security have to be sealed in a peace agreement before a Palestinian state is declared.
Because if you leave it afterwards, they won’t be sealed.
And these problems will explode in our face and explode the peace.
The Palestinians should first make peace with Israel and then get their state.
But I also want to tell you this.
After such a peace agreement is signed, Israel will not be the last country to welcome a Palestinian state as a new member of the United Nations.
We will be the first.
>> And there is one more thing.
Hamas has been violating international law by holding our soldier (name) captive for five years.
They haven’t given him even one Red Cross visit.
He’s in a dungeon and darkness against all natural norms.
He’s the grandson of (name) who escaped the Holocaust by coming in the 1930s as a boy to the land of Israel.
He’s the son of every Israeli family.
Every nation represented here should demand his immediate release.
If you want ‑‑
>> If you want to pass a resolution about the Middle East today, that’s the resolution you should pass.
>> Ladies and gentlemen, last year in Israel, at the University, this year, in the Knesset and the U.S. Congress, I laid out my vision for peace in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state, yes, the Jewish state.
This is the body that recognized the Jewish state 64 years ago.
Don’t you think it’s about time the Palestinians did the same.
The Jewish State of Israel will always protect the rights of all its minorities, including the more than one million Arab citizens of Israel.
I wish I could say the same thing about a future Palestinian state, for the Palestinian officials made clear the other day, in fact, I think they made it right here in New York, they said the Palestinian state won’t allow any Jews in it.
They will be Jew‑free, Heathen run.
That’s ethnic cleansing.
There are laws today in Ramallah that make the selling of land to Jews punishable by death.
And, you know which laws this evokes?
Israel has no intention whatsoever to change the democratic character of our state.
We just don’t want the Palestinians to try to change the Jewish character of our state.
>> We want to give up ‑‑
>> We want them to give up the fantasy of flooding Israel with millions of Palestinians.
President Abbas just stood here and he said that the core of the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict is the settlements.
Well, that’s odd.
Our conflict has been raging for ‑‑ was raging for nearly half a century before there was a single Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
So if what President Abbas is saying was true, then I guess that the settlements he’s talking about are Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jaffa, and Beersheba.
Maybe that’s what he meant the other day when he said Israel has been occupying Israeli land for 63 years.
He didn’t say from 1967, he said from 1948.
I hope somebody will bother to ask him that question.
Because it illustrates a simple truth.
The core of the conflict is not the settlements.
The settlements are a result of the conflict.
>> The settlements have to be ‑‑ it’s an issue that has to be addressed and resolved in the course of the negotiations but the core of the conflict has always been, and unfortunately remains, the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize a Jewish state within any border.
I think it’s time that the Palestinian leadership recognizes what every serious international leader has recognized.
From Lord Balfour and Lord George in 1917 to President Truman in 1948 to President Obama just two days ago, Israel is a Jewish state.
>> President Abbas, stop walking around this issue.
Recognize the Jewish state and make peace with us.
In such a genuine peace, Israel is prepared to make painful compromises.
We believe that the Palestinians should be neither the citizens of Israel nor its subjects.
They should live in a free state of their own.
But they should be ready, like us, for compromise.
And we will know that they are ready for compromise and for peace when they start taking Israel’s security requirements seriously, and when they stop denying our historical connection to our ancient homeland.
I often hear them accuse Israel of Judaizing Jerusalem.
That’s like accusing America of Americanizing Washington, or the British of Anglicizing London.
You know why we’re called Jews?
Because we come from Judea.
In my office in Jerusalem, there is an ancient seal.
It’s a Cygnet ring of a judicial official from the time of the Bible.
The seal was found right next to the Western Wall.
It dates back 2,700 years to the time of King Hezekiah.
Now, there is a name of the Jewish official inscribed on the ring in Hebrew.
His name was Netanyahu.
That’s my last name.
My first name, Benjamin, dates back 1,000 years earlier to Benjamin, the son of Jacob, who was also known as Israel.
Jacob and his 12 sons roamed these same hills of Judea and Samaria, 4,000 years ago, and there has been a continuing Jewish presence in the land ever since.
And for those Jews who were exiled from our land, they never stopped dreaming of coming back.
Jews in Spain on the eve of their expulsion, Jews in the Ukraine fleeing the pogroms, the Warsaw ghetto, as the Nazis circled around it.
The day I came into office, I called for direct negotiations without preconditions.
Once again ‑‑
>> You applaud but there was no response.
But with all my reservations, I was willing to move forward on these American ideas.
President Abbas, why don’t you join me?
We have to stop negotiating about the negotiations.
Let’s just get on with it.
Let’s negotiate peace.
>> I spent years defending Israel on the battlefield.
I spent decades defending Israel in the court of public opinion.
President Abbas, you’ve dedicated your life to advancing the Palestinian cause, must this conflict continue for generations?
Or will we enable our children and our grandchildren to speak in years ahead of how we found a way to end it.
That’s what we should aim for.
That’s what I believe we can achieve.
In 2 1/2 years we met in Jerusalem only once.
Even though my door has always been open to you.
If you wish, I’ll come to Ramallah.
Actually, I have a better suggestion.
We both just ‑‑ have just flown thousands of miles to New York.
Now we’re in the same city.
We’re in the same building.
So let’s meet here today, in the United Nations.
>> Who is there to stop us? What is there to stop us? If we genuinely want peace, what is there to stop us from meeting today and beginning peace negotiations? And I suggest we talk openly and honestly, let’s listen to one another.
Let’s do as we say in the Middle East, let’s talk ‑‑ straightforward.
I’ll tell you my needs and concerns.
You tell me yours.
And with God’s help, we’ll find the common ground of peace.
>> There is an old Arab saying that you cannot applaud with one hand.
The same is true of peace.
I cannot make peace alone.
I cannot make peace without you.
President Abbas, I extend my hand, the hand of Israel in peace.
I hope that you will grasp that hand.
We’re both the sons of Abraham.
My people call him Abraham.
You people call him Abraham.
We share the same patriarch.
We dwell in the same land.
Our destinies are intertwined.
Let us realize the vision of Isaiah, the people who walk in darkness will see a great light.
Let that light be the light of peace.