We come together today after a year of turmoil in the Middle East. Great challenges stand on the horizon.
People are demanding dignity and seeking liberty after generations of oppression. Extremism threatens fragile societies. Human rights continue to be trampled. Unrest has shaken the foundation of the political order from the straits of Gibraltar to the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea.
And what issue has this Council deemed the most pressing in its monthly debate on the Middle East?
Surprise, surprise…the status of municipal building applications in the West Bank.
In the last two monthly briefings by the Secretariat, barely a square inch of Jerusalem or the West Bank was left unexamined. Yet, entire Middle Eastern countries where people are being killed, repressed and tortured daily continue to go without mention.
How many times have members of this Council – and many others – repeated this statement: the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is the central conflict in the Middle East. If you solve that conflict, you solve all the other conflicts in the region.
Today one would ridicule that statement. It is obvious that Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Bahrain, and many other conflicts in the Middle East have nothing to do with Israel. The constant repetition of the statement does not make it true.
And how many times have members of this Council – and many others – repeated: settlements are the primary obstacle to peace. The repetition of the statement also does not make it true.
The primary obstacle to peace is not settlements. The primary obstacle to peace is the so-called “claim of return.” Let me repeat that: the major hurdle to peace is the Palestinian’s insistence on the so-called “claim of return.”
You will never hear Palestinian leaders say, not even here in this Council, “two states for two peoples”. […]
You won’t hear them say “two states for two peoples” because today the Palestinian leadership is calling for an independent Palestinian state, but insists that its people return to the Jewish state. This would mean the destruction of Israel.
The idea that Israel will be flooded with millions of Palestinians will never be accepted. The international community knows it. The Palestinian leadership knows it. But the Palestinian people aren’t hearing it. In a poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion last November, 90%, and I repeat, 90% of Palestinians said that they would not give up the so-called “claim of return.” This gap between their perception and reality is – and will remain – the major obstacle to peace.
Since the Palestinian leadership refuses to tell the Palestinian people the truth, the international community has the responsibility to tell them the truth. You have a responsibility to stand up and say that the so-called “claim of return” is a non-starter.
Yet, many around this table who never miss an opportunity to tell Israel what it has to do for peace –conveniently lose their voices when it comes time to tell the Palestinian people about the basic compromises they will have to make for peace.
Israel’s UN Ambassador Ron Prosor at the UN Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, January 24, 2012.