‘We are not Arabs. We are Christians who speak Arabic’

Many of Israel’s Christians feel that their history, culture and heritage have been hijacked by Muslim Arabs in the region, while they feel a much stronger link to Israel’s Jews • The Jewish state is the only place where we are protected, they say.

Rally for Israel by Christians in New York

Rally for Israel by Christians in New York

It was not just any conference. Even the word “historic” would not do it justice. This was nothing short of the shift of an ancient paradigm.

For a long time we had grown accustomed to thinking about the Middle East as an Arab region. But this region, the vast majority of which was actually originally not Arab, was conquered in the seventh century by tribes hailing from the Arabian Peninsula. They imposed their religion, their culture and their language on the indigenous population, and to top it all off, claimed ownership of the land in the region.

But the social and diplomatic firestorms currently raging around us have begun to chip away at this monolithic point of view among various ethnic groups, whose identities are actually different than the ones we have lazily attached to them, and their voices are beginning to be heard loud and clear: “We are not Arabs,” they are saying. “We are Christians who speak Arabic.”

At the “Israeli Christians: Breaking Free? The advent of an independent Christian voice in Israel” conference in Jerusalem, one after another, Israeli Christian representatives took to the stage and greeted the audience with a “moadim l’simcha” (“times of joy” – a common Jewish holiday wish of good tidings). The first speaker was the Rev. Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest in Nazareth and spiritual leader of the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum. Naddaf is an impressive man, who speaks in a reserved tone, but is nonetheless articulate and resolute. “I am here to open the public’s eyes,” he said. “If we want to refrain from lying to our own souls and to the general public, we must say clearly and unwaveringly: enough!”

“The Christian public wants to integrate into Israeli society, against the wishes of its old leadership. There are those who keep pushing us to the margins, keeping us the victims nationalism that is not our own, and of a conflict that has nothing to do with us,” he said.

Naddaf spoke of the Christian roots, planted deep in this land since the dawn of Christianity. This is where Jesus Christ’s doctrine first emerged. The Christian faith, he said, came out of the Jewish faith and its biblical roots. As far as Naddaf is concerned, what happened in the seventh century was an Arab invasion from which the Christians also suffered. He added that he wasn’t very proud of the Christian crusades either, and distanced himself from them.

He surveyed the dire situation currently faced by Christians in Arab states, and said that the realization that Israel is the only country in the region that protects its Christian minority has prompted many Arabic-speaking Israeli Christians to develop a desire to contribute to the state of Israel. That is how the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum came to be.

Naddaf quoted the founder of the forum, Maj. Ihab Shlayan, as saying: “The Christians will not be made into hostages, or allow themselves to be controlled by those who wish to impose their nationality, religion and way of life upon us. We will not agree to hide behind the groups that control the streets. We want to live in Israel — brothers in arms and brothers in peace. We want to stand guard and serve as the first line of defense in this Holy Land, the Land of Israel.”

“We have broken through the barrier of fear,” Naddaf went on to say. “The time has come to prove our loyalty, pay our dues and demand our rights.” He spoke about the death threats that he and his friends face, and added that despite the hardships they continue forward “because the State of Israel is our heart. Israel is a holy state, a strong state, and its people, Jews and Christians alike, are united under one covenant.”

Naddaf was followed at the podium by Lt. (ret.) Shaadi Khalloul, the spokesman of the Israeli Christian Recruitment Forum and an officer in the Israel Defense Forces Paratroopers Brigade. Khalloul, a scholar who studies the history of the Christian faith in the region, spoke about the eastern Christian identity that had been stripped of his people. Over the last three years, he has fought Israel’s Interior Ministry over recognition of his community as Aramaic Christians.

We are “B’nei Keyama,” which means allies in Aramaic, he said. He has nothing against the Arabs, but it is simply not his identity. It is especially problematic for him because being associated with the Arabs pulls him into a conflict that is not his own, entirely against his will.

Khalloul said that the way to integrate into Israeli society was through military service in the IDF, which he described as a melting pot, but also through education. It turns out that Israel’s Christian population is not educated in their own history, only the history of the Arabs and of Islam.

“The typical Christian student thinks that he belongs to the Arab people and the Islamic nation, instead of speaking to the people with whom he truly shares his roots — the Jewish people, whose origins are in the Land of Israel.”

Adding to that point, Rev. Naddaf stepped in and said, “It is unthinkable that our children will be raised on the history of the Nakba and on the hatred of Jews, and not be taught their history.”

It was no coincidence that Khalloul chose the Aramaic word for allies to describe his people. In his view, Israeli Christians are not mercenaries, as they might be perceived, but in fact allies. “We want to defend the holy land alongside the Jews,” he insisted. He mentioned the Christians’ support for the establishment of a national homeland for the Jews in the 1947 UNSCOP Committee. In a letter to the committee at the time, the Maronites rejected any reference to the land of Israel as Arab land.

Khalloul said further that global Christianity supported them, but refrained from making the support public because of the fact that Christians in the Middle East are hostages in the hands of Islamic forces.

Remarking on the ongoing debate surrounding the issue of a Jewish-democratic state vs. a so-called state of all its citizens, Khalloul said that he preferred a Jewish state that takes care of all its citizens over a state governed by all its citizens, without a Jewish identity.

“Several decades ago, 80 percent of the Lebanese population was Christian,” he recalled, “but the 20% Muslim minority imposed their Arab identity on them and many of them left. Today, only 35% of the population is Christian.”

Syria, too, he added, is comprised of Christians and Kurds who are not Arab. “Where is the respect for these groups? For their history and their culture?” Only in a Jewish state, he concluded, will different groups be given the right to exist.

Naddaf then interjected and said, “That is not just [Khalloul’s] opinion. The entire forum shares this view.”

The last representative to take the stage was Capt. Bishara Shlayan, whose initiative to establish the Christian Israeli Party was first reported in Israel Hayom this past July. Following the report, Shlayan was bombarded with responses from all over the world.

“We were raised on Arab political parties,” he said, “the communists, and then the National Democratic Assembly. In time, I realized where these Arab parties were taking us — only against Israel.”

He said that Islam was imposing itself on the Christians in the region. Thus, for example, the ancient “Miriam’s Spring” evolved into the “Nazareth Spring.” In his youth, he had received a red flag, he recounted. But today, he sighed, “our children are being raised on the green flag, on anti-Israeli culture.”

“We need to create a different culture,” he continued. “We need to hand out Israeli flags to every child. Education begins here. You enter a school in Nazareth, and you will not see a single Israeli flag. They don’t recognize it. You will only see Palestinian flags.”

Shlayan is well aware of the claims that Israeli Christians are not afforded all the rights to which they are entitled. “That may be,” he said, but “you have to begin by pledging loyalty to your country and serving it. I believe that.”

All the above is only part of what was said at the recent conference of the Liaison Committee of B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and the Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity in Israel.

The Christian communities’ march toward the heart of the Israeli consensus has an iconoclastic significance. It is reminiscent of Abraham’s smashing the idols and thereby smashing certain thought conventions and patterns. It is important not only on the inter-faith and theological level; it is also important to Israel’s efforts to prove our rights to the world. Parts of the Christian world see us as the crucifiers of the Palestinians, even though this could not be further from the truth. Therefore, when the Israeli Christians stand by the State of Israel and declare that this is the Land of Israel and not Palestine and that Jews did not steal this land but rather returned home as the Bible prophesied, it has immeasurable significance.

We, as a society and as a state, must embrace these courageous people, who spoke from the very deepest recesses of their hearts. We must help them, provide for them and integrate them into our society. And no less importantly, we must protect their lives. Our lives and our future depend on it.

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“Palestinians cannot be trusted with real peace”

Brig. Gen. (res.) Udi Dekel, who was party to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for over 20 years, has a disillusioned view of the peace process • “Chance of achieving peace are slim. Differences on core issues have only grown,” he says.

A caption from Stand With Us in Israel referring to the need for Palestinians to 'reall' want peace

A caption from Stand With Us in Israel referring to the need for Palestinians to ‘really’ want peace

Nine months. That’s the amount of time the people running the American-sponsored talks between Israel and the Palestinians allotted for reaching a peace treaty. If a permanent agreement is reached, Brig. Gen. (res.) Udi Dekel will eat his hat.

But if you ask Dekel, who for two decades closely followed the various attempts to hold talks with the Palestinians, the chance of that happening is slim. So he supports the idea of an interim agreement with the Palestinians, as do formerly high-ranking figures such as Yossi Beilin.

Dekel has been following the talks with the Palestinians from up close for many years. Today he is the deputy director of the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. Recently he presented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a 1600-page book summing up all the talks that have ever taken place between Israel and the Palestinians.

From 2007 to 2009, Dekel served as the head of Israel’s negotiating team in Ehud Olmert’s government. Olmert, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak appointed Dekel after he left the Israel Defense Forces at the rank of brigadier-general, after having served as the head of the Strategic Planning Division in the General Staff’s Planning Directorate. Before that, he served as the chief of staff’s assistant for diplomatic agreements. There really is such a position — it is filled by the army official responsible for the peace talks, and his job is to provide the security-related perspective, which is an essential part of any peace agreement. Before that, Dekel served as head of the Research Division in Air Force Intelligence and as the IAF’s representative in discussions about peace agreements.

“Oslo started with a progressive approach of stage-by-stage progress,” Dekel says in a special interview. “It didn’t work. Ehud Olmert changed the approach. He came along and said, ‘Enough working on the process. Let’s work on the question of the conclusion, the question of the final-status agreement. Let’s decide what we want in the final-status agreement, and then we’ll see how to get there.’ That was the idea of the Annapolis summit: to discuss the final-status arrangement while continuing to move forward according to the road map.

“We had 12 committees at Annapolis that discussed issues such as the economy, infrastructures, environmental quality, border crossings, water transfer, various legal issues such as extradition agreements, and also the issue of the Palestinian prisoners. One of the committees even discussed the culture of peace. We reached agreements on all topics. Tzipi Livni coordinated all the teams’ work. She ran the talks very responsibly and seriously. She examined every issue thoroughly. She did not rush things. She did not promise things she could not commit to. At the same time, she built trust among the Palestinians; they saw that she was truly striving to reach an agreement with them. That was very important. It created a positive approach in the rooms where the meetings took place.

“The subject of Jerusalem wasn’t discussed in the teams. Olmert put it on the table at the end. A partition plan for the city was suggested that got to the level of street names. The basis of the Jerusalem partition plan was that the Jewish neighborhoods would be on the Israeli side, and the Arab neighborhoods would be on the Palestinian side. They suggested a partition of the Old City and the creation of a joint municipal agency. A special status was discussed for the Holy Basin that would include the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives, Mount Zion and the City of David.

“The land would be managed by a third party. An international force would be established that would serve as a police force in the area. For example, the commander would be American and have two deputies, an Israeli and a Palestinian. The Waqf would keep managing the Temple Mount, and an international force would be in charge of security. Regarding sovereignty, a decision was made not to decide. Neither they nor we would give up sovereignty. We demand sovereignty over the place. Now, on the strength of our sovereignty, we give authority to a third party there.”

The result is well known.

“We accomplished nothing because the Palestinians decided to run away,” Dekel says. “The moment Olmert put the things on the table, with a generous proposal from our perspective, they decided to vanish. They didn’t want to say yes or no. They avoided saying no because they wanted to keep all the flexibility that Israel had put on the table.

“As much as we love to blame ourselves — and we do — the other side is as much to blame as we are that there is no agreement. At Camp David, too, in the talks between Arafat, Barak and Clinton and in the talks with Olmert, the other side refused to accept things in which we met them halfway. Every time it reached the testing point, the Palestinians decided not to make the hard decisions.”

Q: What about Olmert?

“Olmert took the whole package and wanted to play give-and-take with it. So we make territorial concessions, and they make security-related concessions. The Palestinians wanted to take Olmert’s proposal and break it up into the 12 committees that we established in Annapolis so they could benefit from Israel’s flexibility without having to give anything in return.”

According to Dekel, “The Palestinians didn’t want to close with Olmert. Later, they said that the reason they didn’t take the proposal was that Olmert didn’t stay on as prime minister, and the next prime minister was evidently going to be Netanyahu and not Livni. Regarding Netanyahu, they didn’t believe he would carry out the agreement that Olmert had proposed, so what would they gain by agreeing to Olmert’s proposal? A situation would be created in which the plan would be revealed and Mahmoud Abbas would be considered a traitor, since all the Palestinians’ flexibility would be exposed, and no agreement was reached.

“When the critical moment arrives where the tough decisions have to be made, they don’t have the courage, leadership or the drive to make those tough decisions. Then it’s easy for them to find some issue and get the process stuck on it, and gain what they can at that moment. Back in Olmert’s time, the Palestinians decided that they were going to play on the international court. They believed that there, it would be easier for them to gain much more.”

According to Dekel, the Palestinians say they have “natural rights to the land, and that they don’t need anything from Israel. They say Israel came from a position of strength, as rulers, with the strong army, but they come with a natural right. Now, with their right, they are coming to receive recognition from the international community.”

They’re still doing that today, aren’t they?

“Yes. Today, too, their purpose in going into the talks is to prove that Israel is not a partner, that Israel is not willing to move forward. Even now, we understand from the leaks on the Palestinian side that they’re saying Israel is not flexible enough and isn’t moving enough, in the talks, in the direction they want. This is an obvious trend whose purpose is to prepare the ground so that later, they will be able to come to the international community and say: ‘We tried, but Israel isn’t willing to move forward and reach an agreement, so go ahead and give us what we want.’

“I don’t see any chance that we will reach a permanent agreement. The gaps in the core issues haven’t narrowed from the talks in Olmert’s time to those in Netanyahu’s. They’ve only grown wider.”

Dekel is the one who coined the phrase “Anything agreed upon will be implemented” — the same motto uttered frequently by those known as “the Oslo people,” who, like Dekel, favor an interim agreement.

“It’s true that I’m the one who came up with that sentence, and people were angry with me when I said it then,” he says, and hastens to explain the idea behind it.

“The rule that governed the talks with the Palestinians during Ehud Olmert’s time was that nothing would be agreed upon until everything had been agreed upon. The idea on which this approach was based was to create flexibility in the negotiating room. What it really did was create stubbornness. My understanding is that to change a reality, you have to take steps that change that reality all the time. My idea says that if something was agreed upon — for example, today we can agree about water — why not implement it?

“The game where you’re not willing to make any concessions as long as there’s no permanent arrangement isn’t relevant. My approach, and that of those who were involved in past negotiations, is that the chance of reaching a final-status agreement is slim. Now, as long as there’s positive potential in the talks, there’s a chance to build an alternative.”

Dekel suggests looking at the possibility of an interim agreement or “independent step,” as he puts it.

“A final-status agreement will remain the final goal, but we need to decide that we’re going to change the reality in stages. Israel has an interest in the establishment of a Palestinian state with temporary borders and in anchoring the two-state solution. So let’s get there, and we’ll catch up on the details later.

“There’s no need to determine the borders — just the principle of the borders. Tomorrow morning, we can establish a state for the Palestinians that includes more than 60 percent of the land in the West Bank without evacuating the settlements, with complete freedom of movement for them, as well as control of the area. It’s true that it isn’t completely a sovereign state, but it’s a significant leap from their current situation.

“While the concepts of ‘unilateral’ and ‘disengagement’ are unpopular, we must also plan unilateral measures as a relevant option. We’re busy with strategic planning in a changing environment. We can no longer plan something and figure out the goal as we go. The new policy has to be that at each point in time, you have to create as many options as you can that will anchor the main principle.

“Now the main thing is to protect Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and anchor the two-state solution. There is broad agreement on these two principles. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition agree on them, and there is agreement outside the coalition as well. After all, we’ve been trying unsuccessfully to reach an agreement for the past 20 years.

“It’s obvious that a permanent agreement is preferable, but if there is no chance of that, then we need to find a solution that is good for us. An interim agreement will anchor what is good for us. It makes no mention of the return of the refugees. There is no change in Jerusalem. We are keeping the settlement blocs in our control and deploying along the route of the security barrier. We are keeping the army deployed in the Jordan Valley. It’s true that the demands are endless, but a new situation has been created that the world will have to deal with.

“What will we accomplish by that? You are giving up land and making concessions on many topics, the conflict is continuing, the other side has made no commitment to stop what it is doing in the international arena and the conflict on the ground is continuing.

“The new strategic approach says: ‘Let’s take the tools we have and shape the situation without depending on what the other side wants. Staying in place is a bad thing because all you do is accumulate demerits without making progress toward your goals, with or without the other side.'”

Dekel adds that the process of unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip is not like the measures that would be taken in a unilateral interim agreement in Judea and Samaria — first, because there would be no evacuation of settlements; second, because the Jordan Valley would remain under Israeli control.

“We’re not making the border porous. We’re preventing the entry of arms and of people whom we don’t want to go inside the Palestinian state,” he says. “One way or another, we reserve the right to defend ourselves, and if we must take security-related measures within it, we will do so.”

Israel Security Agency reports dramatic rise in terror attacks

The Shin Bet says 133 terror attacks were noted in September, compared with 68 attacks in August • West Bank a hotbed for terror activity • Intelligence indicates a steady rise in terror organizations’ motivation to abduct Israeli soldiers.

israeli security forces

israeli security forces

 

The number of terror attacks and attempted terror attacks rose dramatically in September from August, a report by the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) revealed Thursday. According to the Shin Bet’s data, 133 terror attacks took place in September, compared with 68 attacks in August.

The two most notable terror attacks were the murders of Israeli soldiers Staff Sgt. Gal (Gabriel) Kobi, 20, on Sept. 19, and Sgt. Tomer Hazan, 20, on Sept. 21.

The report noted that most terror attacks in the past month — 104 — took place in Judea and Samaria, compared with 68 terror attacks in the territories in August. Four terror attacks took place near the Gaza Strip border in September (compared with five in August), and 26 attacks took place in Jerusalem (25 in August).

The Shin Bet further noted that defense intelligence indicated that there was a rise in terror organizations’ motivation to abduct Israeli soldiers, especially across Judea and Samaria, to use them as bargaining chips in potential negotiations for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

“The effort to carry out abductions is a familiar one and it is directed by the terror organizations’ headquarters abroad, as well as by security prisoners incarcerated in Israel, who strive to use [such abductions] as a means to promote their release,” a statement posted on the Shin Bet’s website said. “Over the past few months, especially since November 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense, a more focused effort has been made to that effect, especially by Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and Fatah.”

The Shin Bet said that since Operation Pillar of Defense Hamas has been promoting the abduction of Israeli soldiers “as part of its attempts to cement its position as the entity leading the ‘resistance’ and armed struggle against Israel.”

The Islamic Jihad, “whose operational leeway has been curtailed by Hamas in Gaza (as it attempts to maintain security in the Strip) is also in search of new operational theaters and is focusing on abduction as a means of promoting the release of its prisoners,” the Shin Bet said on its website.

“Fatah, which is wary of leaving ‘the Palestinian street’ to Hamas, is seeking to garner ‘bonus points’ that, as they see it, would counter Hamas’ achievements in the [2011] Schalit deal and Operation Pillar of Defense,” the statement said.

The Shin Bet’s report said, “There has been growing motivation among Palestinian terror groups to execute abduction attacks for the purpose of a prisoner exchange. The past few months have also seen a rise in the threat of abduction, which has manifested in the growing number of terror cells intercepted by Israeli security forces before they could set their plans into motion.”

According to the report, Israeli security forces have thwarted 37 abduction plots since the beginning of 2013.

 

 

 

 

Incredible Speech by Netanyahu at United Nations

Diplomats laud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to the U.N. General Assembly, saying it brought honor to Israel  • Professor Alan Dershowitz calls it one of the best speeches ever heard at the U.N.

Dozens of U.N. ambassadors and representatives from many countries approached Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday following his address before the General Assembly, to offer him their congratulations on a speech they said honored the State of Israel.

“This is the best combination of solid facts and reason ever spoken in the U.N.,” prominent law professor Alan Dershowitz said.

“This is one of the most brilliant speeches and best performances I have ever seen. As a law professor, I would give his speech an A+. He is sending Iran an important message that Israel will never let it develop nuclear weapons and as a last resort will even take military action. He also sent an important message to the Europeans, that they can’t allow Iran to do what North Korea did. And it also sends an important message to the Americans that they are not acting alone and that Israel is an independent country that won’t outsource its use of force or defense to American citizens.

“The speech also sent a message to The New York Times,” Dershowitz said. “You were wrong about North Korea and you were wrong about Iran, and the world has learned to ignore your opinion pages.”

Members of the Israeli delegation who accompanied Netanyahu to the U.N. also responded to the speech.

“The gimmick of this entire speech was is that you don’t need any gimmicks when you have facts. Any solution will have to stand the test of Netanyahu’s four conditions,” Homefront Defense Minister Gilad Erdan said.

“This was a speech that told the truth, the facts,” Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin said. “There is symbolism in the fact that the last sentence spoken at the U.N. General Assembly, in the face of all the lies and phony smiles, was that ‘the people of Israel will never be uprooted again.’ The president of the United States and the West speak about the fact that they intend to wait for actions. Let us all hope this happens.”

Facts versus smiles

Netanyahu told his advisors on Tuesday that the purpose of the speech was to counter smiles with facts and to illustrate the contradictions behind Hasan Rouhani’s charm offensive at the U.N.

“I feel we can puncture the Iranian balloon,” Netanyahu said on Tuesday.

Netanyahu said he was certain that it would be his message, and not Rouhani’s, that would resonate with the world’s governments and global public opinion. After his address, many representatives from different nations came to shake Netanyahu’s hand, expressing their appreciation for his words.

Netanyahu found a receptive audience during his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday, but Obama is still undecided about his plan of action. The Americans have the upper hand, but the question of what they will do with it still remains. Netanyahu believes that now is the time to decide on a joint U.S.-Israeli policy to stop the Iranian nuclear program. Israel and the U.S. have a common goal and need to make sure that actions and not words are what decide the outcome.

Making life difficult for the Iranians

Netanyahu’s activities vis-à-vis Obama, the U.N. and the U.S. media in the coming days are meant to deflate Rouhani’s momentum, and he intends to combine reason with facts in a way that resonates.

The prime minister’s advisors this week recalled Netanyahu’s first meeting with Obama, which preceded the sanctions on Iran. It took place in 2007 in the janitor’s office at Reagan National Airport. Netanyahu was a candidate for prime minister and opposition MK and Obama was serving on the Illinois Senate. At the time, Obama asked, “What is most important to you?”

“Sanctions combined with a credible threat will stop Iran from becoming a nuclear state,” Netanyahu responded. Two weeks later, Obama proposed a Senate bill to step up the sanctions imposed on Iran.

Netanyahu believes that his recent actions has made life harder for the Iranians. His pressure is helping the Americans decide, the prime minister’s associates hedged.

Netanyahu said that Rouhani wants to turn Iran into a threshold country — a country that would be able to produce a nuclear bomb within three weeks if deciding to do so. Thus, the prime minister believes there is no change in Iran’s approach and that Rouhani is simply Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s lackey. A senior diplomatic source told Israel Hayom on Tuesday that at present, there are three significant players in the arena: Israel, Iran and the United States.

In the past the Europeans and Americans decided to impose economic sanctions on Iran as a result of Israel’s threat that if no such sanctions were imposed, it may take military action.

The Europeans’ real concern is that Israel will act alone. Netanyahu once again raised the specter of a military threat, to advance a diplomatic solution, one that will allow the negotiations with Iran to progress in the right way, without lifting the sanctions. At present, the goal of Netanyahu’s military threat is to keep the sanctions in effect.

Among Israeli politicians, reactions to the speech were mixed.

“Standing there, he honorably represented the entire nation,” said MK Eli Yishai (Shas). “I hope that his cry rouses those who are sleeping.”

“This may be Netanyahu’s most important speech of the past several decades,” said Deputy Minister Ofir Akunis.

Opposition Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) said that she agreed with Netanyahu’s facts but not with his presentation. “The international community must not form the impression or come to believe that the Iranian problem is solely Israel’s problem.”

“Netanyahu is going back to the old rhetoric of threats and fear-mongering,” Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said.

————————————————————————–

Full text of speech:

I feel deeply honored and privileged to stand here before you today representing the citizens of the State of Israel.

We are an ancient people. We date back nearly 4,000 years to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We have journeyed through time, we’ve overcome the greatest of adversities, and we re-established our sovereign state in our ancestral homeland, the Land of Israel.

The Jewish people’s odyssey through time has taught us two things: Never give up hope. Always remain vigilant. Hope charts the future. Vigilance protects it.

Today, our hope for the future is challenged by a nuclear-armed Iran that seeks our destruction. But I want you to know that wasn’t always the case. Some 2,500 years ago, the great Persian King Cyrus ended the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people. He issued a famous edict in which he proclaimed the right of the Jews to return to the Land of Israel and rebuild the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. That’s a Persian decree, and thus began a historic friendship between the Jews and the Persians that lasted until modern times.

But in 1979, a radical regime in Tehran tried to stamp out that friendship. As it was busy crushing the Iranian people’s hopes for democracy, it also led wild chants of “Death to the Jews!” Now, since that time, presidents of Iran have come and gone. Some presidents were considered moderates, others hardliners. But they’ve all served that same unforgiving creed, that same unforgetting regime — that creed that is espoused and enforced by the real power in Iran, the dictator known in Iran as the Supreme Leader, first Ayatollah Khomeini and now Ayatollah Khamenei. President Rouhani, like the presidents who came before him, is a loyal servant of the regime. He was one of only six candidates the regime permitted to run for office. Nearly 700 other candidates were rejected.

So what made him acceptable? Well, Rouhani headed Iran’s Supreme National Security Council from 1989 through 2003. During that time, Iran’s henchmen gunned down opposition leaders in a Berlin restaurant. They murdered 85 people at the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires. They killed 19 American soldiers by blowing up the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia. Are we to believe that Rouhani, the national security adviser of Iran at the time, knew nothing about these attacks?

Of course he did.

Just as 30 years ago, Iran’s security chiefs knew about the bombings in Beirut that killed 241 American marines and 58 French paratroopers.

Rouhani was also Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator between 2003 and 2005. He masterminded the strategy which enabled Iran to advance its nuclear weapons program behind a smokescreen of diplomatic engagement and very soothing rhetoric. Now I know Rouhani does not sound like Ahmadinejad. But when it comes to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the only difference between them is this: Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf’s clothing and Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a wolf who thinks he can pull the wool over the eyes of the international community.

Like everyone else, I wish we could believe Rouhani’s words. But we must focus on Iran’s actions.

And it’s the brazen contrast, this extraordinary contradiction between Rouhani’s words and Iran’s actions that is so startling. Rouhani stood at this very podium last week and praised Iranian democracy. Iranian democracy, he said.

But the regime that he represents executes political dissidents by the hundreds and jails them by the thousands. Rouhani spoke of “the human tragedy in Syria.” Yet Iran directly participates in Assad’s murder and massacre of tens of thousands of innocent men, women, and children in Syria, and that regime is propping up a Syrian regime that just used chemical weapons against its own people.

Rouhani condemned the “violent scourge of terrorism.” Yet in the last three years alone Iran has ordered, planned or perpetrated terrorist attacks in 25 cities on five continents.

Rouhani denounces “attempts to change the regional balance through proxies.” Yet Iran is actively destabilizing Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain, and many other Middle Eastern countries.

Rouhani promises “constructive engagement with other countries.” Yet two years ago, Iranian agents tried to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in Washington, D.C.

And just three weeks ago, an Iranian agent was arrested trying to collect information for possible attacks against the American Embassy in Tel Aviv. Some constructive engagement!

I wish I could be moved by Rouhani’s invitation to join his “WAVE” — a world against violence and extremism. Yet the only waves Iran has generated in the last 30 years are waves of violence and terrorism that it has unleashed on the region and across the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, I wish I could believe Rouhani, but I don’t, because facts are stubborn things. And the facts are that Iran’s savage record flatly contradicts Rouhani’s soothing rhetoric.

Last Friday, Rouhani assured us that in pursuit of its nuclear program, Iran has “never chosen deceit … and secrecy.” Never chosen deceit and secrecy?!

Well, in 2002, Iran was caught red-handed secretly building an underground centrifuge facility at Natanz. Then in 2009, Iran was again caught red-handed secretly building a huge underground nuclear facility for uranium enrichment in a mountain near Qom.

Rouhani tells us not to worry; he assures us that all this is not intended for nuclear weapons. Do any of you believe that? If you believe that, here are a few questions that you might want to ask:

Why would a country that claims to only want peaceful nuclear energy, why would such a country build hidden underground enrichment facilities?

Why would a country with vast natural energy reserves invest billions in developing nuclear energy?

Why would a country intent on merely civilian nuclear programs continue to defy multiple Security Council resolutions and incur the costs of crippling sanctions on its economy?

And why would a country with a peaceful nuclear program develop intercontinental ballistic missiles whose sole purpose is to deliver nuclear warheads? You don’t build ICBMs to carry TNT thousands of miles away. You build them for one purpose — to carry nuclear warheads. And Iran is now building ICBMs that the United States says can reach this city in three or four years.

Why would they do all this? The answer is simple. Iran is not building a peaceful nuclear program. Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

Last year alone, Iran enriched three tons of uranium to 3.5%, doubled its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium, and added thousands of new centrifuges, including advanced centrifuges. It also continued work on the heavy water reactor in Arak. That’s in order to have another route to the bomb — a plutonium path.

And since Rouhani’s election — and I stress this — this vast and feverish effort has continued unabated.

Ladies and gentlemen: underground nuclear facilities?

Heavy water reactors?

Advanced centrifuges?

ICBMs?

It’s not that it’s hard to find evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. It’s hard to find evidence that Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapons program.

Last year when I spoke here at the U.N., I drew a red line. Iran has been very careful not to cross that line. But Iran is positioning itself to race across that line in the future at a time of its choosing. Iran wants to be in a position to rush forward to build nuclear bombs before the international community can detect it, much less prevent it.

Yet Iran faces one big problem, and that problem is summed up in one word: sanctions.

I have argued for many years, including on this podium, that the only way to peacefully prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is to combine tough sanctions with a credible military threat. And that policy is today bearing fruit. Thanks to the effort of many countries, many represented here, and under the leadership of the United States, tough sanctions have taken a big bite out of Iran’s economy. Oil revenues have fallen. The currency has plummeted. Banks are hard pressed to transfer money.

So as a result, the regime is under intense pressure from the Iranian people to get the sanctions removed. That’s why Rouhani got elected in the first place. That’s why he launched his charm offensive.

He definitely wants to get the sanctions lifted, I guarantee you that, but he doesn’t want to give up Iran’s nuclear weapons program in return.

Now, here’s the strategy to achieve this:

First, smile a lot. Smiling never hurts. Second, pay lip service to peace, democracy and tolerance. Third, offer meaningless concessions in exchange for lifting sanctions. And fourth, and the most important, ensure that Iran retains sufficient nuclear material and sufficient nuclear infrastructure to race to the bomb at a time that it chooses to do so. You know why Rouhani thinks he can get away with this? I mean, this is a ruse, it’s a ploy. Why does Rouhani think he can get away with it? Because he’s gotten away with it before. Because his strategy of talking a lot and doing little has worked for him in the past. He even bragged about it. Here’s what he said in his 2011 book about his time as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator: “While we were talking to the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in Isfahan.”

For those of you who don’t know, the Isfahan facility is an indispensable part of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. That’s where uranium ore called yellowcake is converted into an enrichable form. Rouhani boasted, and I quote: “By creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work in Isfahan.”

He fooled the world once. Now he thinks he can fool it again. You see, Rouhani thinks he can have his yellowcake and eat it too.

And he has another reason to believe that he can get away with this, and that reason is called North Korea.

Like Iran, North Korea also said its nuclear program was for peaceful purposes. Like Iran, North Korea also offered meaningless concessions and empty promises in return for sanctions relief. In 2005, North Korea agreed to a deal that was celebrated the world over by many well-meaning people. Here is what The New York Times editorial had to say about it: “For years now, foreign policy insiders have pointed to North Korea as the ultimate nightmare … a closed, hostile and paranoid dictatorship with an aggressive nuclear weapons program. Very few could envision a successful outcome. And yet North Korea agreed in principle this week to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, return to the NPT, abide by the treaty’s safeguards and admit international inspectors. … Diplomacy, it seems, does work after all.”

End quote.

Ladies and gentlemen, a year later, North Korea exploded its first nuclear weapons device.

Yet as dangerous as a nuclear-armed North Korea is, it pales in comparison to the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran. A nuclear-armed Iran would have a chokehold on the world’s main energy supplies. It would trigger nuclear proliferation throughout the Middle East, turning the most unstable part of the planet into a nuclear tinderbox. And for the first time in history, it would make the specter of nuclear terrorism a clear and present danger.

A nuclear-armed Iran in the Middle East wouldn’t be another North Korea. It would be another 50 North Koreas!

I know that some in the international community think I’m exaggerating this threat. Sure, they know that Iran’s regime leads the chants of “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!”, that it pledges to wipe Israel off the map. But they think this wild rhetoric is just bluster for domestic consumption. Have these people learned nothing from history?

The last century has taught us that when a radical regime with global ambitions gets awesome power, sooner or later, its appetite for aggression knows no bounds. That’s the central lesson of the 20th century. Now, we cannot forget it.

The world may have forgotten this lesson. The Jewish people have not.

Iran’s fanaticism is not bluster. It’s real. This fanatic regime must never be allowed to arm itself with nuclear weapons.

I know that the world is weary of war. We in Israel, we know all too well the cost of war. But history has taught us that to prevent war tomorrow, we must be firm today.

This raises the question: Can diplomacy stop this threat?

Well, the only diplomatic solution that would work is one that fully dismantles Iran’s nuclear weapons program and prevents it from having one in the future. President Obama rightly said that Iran’s conciliatory words must be matched by transparent, verifiable and meaningful action, and to be meaningful, a diplomatic solution would require Iran to do four things. First, cease all uranium enrichment. This is called for by several Security Council resolutions. Second, remove from its territory the stockpiles of enriched uranium. Third, dismantle the infrastructure for a nuclear breakout capability, including the underground facility near Qom and the advanced centrifuges in Natanz. And fourth, stop all work at the heavy water reactor in Arak aimed at the production of plutonium.

These steps would put an end to Iran’s nuclear weapons program and eliminate its breakout capability. There are those who would readily agree to leave Iran with a residual capability to enrich uranium. I advise them to pay close attention to what Rouhani said in a speech to Iran’s Supreme Cultural Revolutionary Council. This was published in 2005: “A country that can enrich uranium to about 3.5% will also have the capability to enrich it to about 90%. Having fuel cycle capability virtually means that a country that possesses this capability is able to produce nuclear weapons.”

Precisely. This is precisely why Iran’s nuclear weapons program must be fully and verifiably dismantled. And this is why the pressure on Iran must continue.

So here’s what the international community must do. First, keep up the sanctions. If Iran advances its nuclear weapons program during negotiations, strengthen the sanctions.

Second, don’t agree to a partial deal. A partial deal would lift international sanctions that have taken years to put in place in exchange for cosmetic concessions that will take only weeks for Iran to reverse. Third, lift the sanctions only when Iran fully dismantles its nuclear weapons program.

My friends, the international community has Iran on the ropes. If you want to knock out Iran’s nuclear weapons program peacefully, don’t let up the pressure. Keep it up.

We all want to give diplomacy with Iran a chance to succeed. But when it comes to Iran, the greater the pressure, the greater the chance.

Three decades ago, President Ronald Reagan famously advised: Trust but verify. When it comes to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, here’s my advice: Distrust, dismantle, and verify.

Ladies and gentlemen, Israel will never acquiesce to nuclear arms in the hands of a rogue regime that repeatedly promises to wipe us off the map. Against such a threat, Israel will have no choice but to defend itself. I want there to be no confusion on this point: Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons. If Israel is forced to stand alone, Israel will stand alone. Yet in standing alone, Israel will know that we will be defending many, many others. The dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran and the emergence of other threats in our region have led many of our Arab neighbors to finally recognize that Israel is not their enemy. This affords us the opportunity to overcome historic animosities and build new relationships, new friendships, new hopes. Israel welcomes engagement with the wider Arab world. We hope that our common interests and common challenges will help us forge a more peaceful future.

And Israel continues to seek a historic peace with our Palestinian neighbors, one that ends our conflict once and for all. We want a peace based on security and mutual recognition in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state of Israel. I remain committed to achieving a historic conciliation and building a better future for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Now, I have no illusions about how difficult this will be to achieve. Twenty years ago, the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians began. Six Israeli prime ministers, myself included, have not succeeded in achieving peace with the Palestinians. My predecessors were prepared to make painful concessions. So am I.

But so far, Palestinian leaders haven’t been prepared to offer the painful concessions they must make to end the conflict. For peace to be achieved, the Palestinians must finally recognize the Jewish state and Israel’s security needs must be met. I am prepared to make an historic compromise for a genuine and enduring peace. But I will never compromise on the security of my people and of my country of the one and only Jewish state.

Ladies and gentlemen, one cold day in the late 19th century, my grandfather Nathan and his younger brother Judah were standing in a railway station in the heart of Europe. They were seen by a group of anti-Semitic hoodlums who ran towards them waving clubs, screaming, “Death to the Jews!”

My grandfather shouted to his younger brother to flee and save himself. And he then stood alone against the raging mob to slow it down. They beat him senseless. They left him for dead. Before he passed out, covered in his own blood, he said to himself: “What a disgrace! What a disgrace! The descendants of the Maccabees lie in the mud, powerless to defend themselves.”

He promised himself then that if he lived, he would take his family to the Jewish homeland to help build a future for the Jewish people. I stand here today as Israel’s prime minister because my grandfather kept that promise.

So many other Israelis have a similar story: a parent or a grandparent who fled every conceivable oppression, and came to Israel to start a new life in our ancient homeland.

Together, we’ve transformed a bludgeoned Jewish people left for dead into a vibrant, thriving nation, defending itself with the courage of modern Maccabees, developing limitless possibilities for the future.

In our time, the biblical prophecies have been realized. As the prophet Amos said:

They shall rebuild ruined cities and inhabit them,

They shall plant vineyards and drink their wine,

They shall till gardens and eat their fruit.

And I will plant them upon their soil, never to be uprooted again.

Ladies and gentlemen, the people of Israel have come home, never to be uprooted again.

French diplomat who struck soldier to be expelled from Israel

Marion Fesneau-Castaing, a cultural attaché at the French Consulate in Jerusalem, to leave Israel before the end of the year • Israeli official: This was an isolated incident that does not characterize Israel-France relations.

French Diplomat hit Israeli soldier in the face

French Diplomat hit Israeli soldier in the face

The French diplomat who was involved in a physical clash with Border Police personnel in the Jordan Valley last Friday will be expelled from Israel.

Marion Fesneau-Castaing, a cultural attaché at the French Consulate in Jerusalem, will leave Israel before the end of the year.

A video of the incident near Khirbet al-Makhul last Friday shows Fesneau-Caistaing striking a Border Police officer in the face.

Israel filed a complaint with France about the incident. The two countries decided to handle the matter while “maintaining Israel-France relations,” as an Israeli official put it.

“This was an isolated incident that does not characterize relations between the two countries,” the official said.

The incident occurred as Israeli security forces seized tents and emergency aid that a European delegation was trying to deliver to Palestinians whose homes had been recently demolished in Khirbet al-Makhul. The homes were demolished after Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled that they had been built illegally without proper building permits.

Obama stands up too long at speech, stood up by Iran at lunch

Reserved reactions to US president’s triple-length address from both American and international officials

obama-at-un

After coming under fire from some Republicans in Washington for his overly conciliatory stance when dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Barack Obama delivered an underhanded response to his Russian counterpart on the floor of the UN.

“Some may disagree, but I believe America is exceptional”, Obama told the assembled plenary of the world governing body. America, Obama said, supports not only its own interests, but the interests “of all”.

Obama’s comments served as a response to an opinion piece that the Russian president published in the New York Times, in which Putin warned that “it is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional.” The op-ed by Putin was widely read in Washington, where lawmakers took offense at its supercilious tone toward American policy.

Obama’s speech on the floor of UN was absent any of the dramatic parliamentary fireworks that can come out during contentious speeches at the world governing body. The delegations of Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria all sat quietly through the speech without any visible acts of protest or frustration.

Israel sits alphabetized in the second row, across the aisle in the temporary plenary from both Iran and Iraq. The UN buildings are currently being renovated, and so the General Assembly is not meeting in the hall in which it is traditionally held.

Leaders are asked to keep their speeches to a 15-minute limit, but Obama spoke for almost 45 minutes. Other delegations could be seen chatting in their rows, and checking their cellphones during the long address, which was greeted at the end by polite, somewhat reticent, applause.

Immediately after the speech, Secretary of State John Kerry was positive but unenthusiastic, telling reporters that the speech was “good” but not elaborating.

During this – and every – opportunity for contact with Obama, the press has pushed him on whether he will meet one-on-one with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who addressed the UN plenary later Tuesday. The president remained intently close-lipped on the subject. Later it emerged that the US had offered such a meeting, and Iran had spurned it.

One opportunity previously considered likely for such a meeting went by unfulfilled Tuesday afternoon when a number of heads of state gathered for the traditional lunch hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Obama milled around for a number of minutes before sitting at his table, but the Iranian delegation, including Rouhani, proved to be no-shows for the event.

Before starting on their appetizers of tuna tartare, Ban and Obama both offered toasts, with Obama pointedly saluting the UN personnel who came under fire while attempting to investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria last month.

Israeli shot in Hebron area; in serious condition

Man sustains serious wounds in shooting near Cave of Patriarchs; rushed to Jerusalem hospital on helicopter

Israeli-Medics-evacuate-person-wounded-Photo-AP

An Israeli man sustained serious wounds on Sunday in a shooting near a checkpoint in Hebron’s Cave of Patriarchs. A helicopter evacuated him to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem.

An initial estimate suggests he was shot by a Palestinian sniper.

On Saturday it was revealed that Sgt. Tomer Hazan, an Israeli soldier, was murdered by Nidal Amar, who had worked with him at a Bat Yam restaurant.

Amar had lured Hazan to his home in the West Bank, murdered him and dumped his body in a well.

He told investigators he had murdered Hazan in order to use the body as a bargaining tool to free his brother, a Tanzim operative held in Israel for involvement in terrorist activity.

Hazan was laid to rest in a Holon cemetery on Sunday afternoon.