Shimon Peres

48th United Nations General Assembly Address

delivered 28 September 1993, New York, NY


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

  Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General:

Congratulations upon your unanimous election to preside over the 48th General Assembly of the United Nations.

Mr. President, we feel strongly that the time has come for all of us -- communities, nations, peoples, families -- to finally lay down the last collective wreath on the tombs of the fallen combatants and on the monuments of our beloved. It is the right way to honor their memories and to answer the needs of the newly-born. We have to lay the foundations for a new Middle East.

The peace agreement between us and the Palestinians is not just an accord signed by political leaders. It is an ongoing profound commitment to the next generation -- Arabs and Israelis, Christians, Moslems, Jews, all other faiths. We know it is not enough to declare an end to war. We have to try to eradicate the roots of all hostilities. If we shall only be trying to bring down violence, but ignore misery, we may discover that we have traded one menace for another peril.

Territorial disputes may have been the reason for wars among nations Poverty may become again the seed of violence among peoples. While signing the documents on the lawn of the White House, I could almost sense the breeze of a fresh spring and my imagination began to wander to the skies of our land that may have become brighter to the eyes of all people agreeing and opposing. On the lawn you could almost hear the heavy tread of boots leaving the stage after a hundred years of hostility. You could have listened to the gentle tiptoeing of new steps making a debut in the awaiting world for peace. Yet, we couldn't depart from reality. I know that the solution to the Palestinian issue may be the key to a new beginning, but it is no way the answer to the many needs awaiting us upon returning home.

The last decade was comprised of great changes. It saw the finale of East-West confrontation. It opened the gradual disappearance of the North-South polarization. The great continent of Asia, the picturesque continent of South America, introduced the dynamics of an economic making of their own. The dramatic event in South Africa is a declaration to the same effect. So, contrary to all assumptions it has been demonstrated that neither geography nor race is a harassment or an advantage to an economic promise.

We witnessed the end of some wars only to discover that the warriors did not reach their own promised land. Some colonized people gained their independence, but they hardly enjoyed its fruits. The dangers may have been over but their hopes evaporated. We have learned that the end of a war should be the beginning of a new genesis which will be the end belligerency, and will put an end to the psychological prejudices. No nation, rich or poor, is able nowadays to attain security, unless the region in which they live becomes secure. The scope of the regional security must exceed the range of ballistic missiles which may hit each and all of us. We are striving to achieve a comprehensive peace. No wound must remain unhealed.

Geographically speaking, we live side by side with the Jordanian Kingdom; and what is so obvious geographically, must become clear politically. We have agreed already with the Hashemite Kingdom on many complicated issues and there is no doubt that we can complete the story fully, that we can offer the people of both sides of the river full peace, that the Dead Sea can become a spring of new life, that old waters of the Jordan River can be a source of prosperity flowing from side to side. We hope -- as a matter of fact we are determined -- to make peace with Syria. Yet we ask the Syrian leadership, if it has chosen peace, why does it refuse to meet openly? If Syria is aiming at the Egyptian fruits of peace, it must follow the process that led to it. Both of us have to look ahead and realize that the threats of war are no more than an illusion can return to its unbearable past.

We shall not give up our negotiations with our Lebanese neighbors. We do not have any territorial claims, nor any political pretensions concerning Lebanon. We pray, together with many Lebanese, that their country will no longer be a backyard for troublemakers. It is for Lebanon to make a choice between the Hezbollah that operates from its territory and then takes orders from another government, or to insist on having one army, one policy, and a real offer of tranquility to its people and security to its neighbors. Lebanon does not need a license to regain its independence, and Lebanon should not postpone its return to her balanced, traditional policy.

Mr. President, I am sure that if there is a new order -- I am not sure if there is a new order in the world, but all of us feel that there is a new world awaiting an order. We're encouraged by the new attempt of the United Nations and its Secretary General to answer the social and economic call of the present era. The United Nations was created as a political answer. Today it must face social and economic questions. The Middle East, which has been an important agenda of the United Nations' history, must become prosperous, not only peaceful. To construct a modern Middle East we need wisdom not less than financial support.

We have to rid ourselves of the costly follies of the past and adopt the principles of modern economy. Who will and who should pay the cost of oversized armies? Who will and who should bear the price of the price of an arms race which has reached the level of 50 billion dollars annually? Who will and who should pay for the inefficiencies of old systems? Who will and who should compensate for outmoded censorship of mail, of trade, of travel? And who will comply with the state where suspicion intercepts the enterprising spirit of the people. We can and we should turn to the promise of scientific development, of market economy, of comprehensive education. We must base our industry, our agriculture, our services on the height of the current technologies. We have to invest in our schools. Israel, a country of immigration, is blessed with many scientists and engineers. We shall gladly make this wealth -- this human wealth an available contribution.

I know that there is a suspicion that when referring to a common market in the Middle East, or announcing a[n] Israeli contribution, it may be perceived as an attempt to win preference or to establish domination. Ladies and gentlemen, may I say sincerely and loudly that we did not give up territorial control to engage ourselves in economic superiority. The age of domination, political or economic, is dead. The time of cooperation is open. As a Jew, may I say that the virtue, the essence of our history since the times of Abraham and the commandments of Moses, have been an uncompromising opposition to any form of occupation, of domination, of discrimination. For us, Israel is not just a territorial homeland, but a permanent moral commitment as well.

There are other questions concerning the building of a common market in the Middle East as to how to attain this when governments are so varied and when economies are so different. The differences in government and economies should not prevent us from doing together what can be done together -- combating the desert and offering fertility to an arid land. The FAO declared that the Middle East must double its agricultural production in the twenty five years to come. The population of the region in the same period of time will double itself anyway. The region is cut by many and large deserts. Its water resources are stingy and scarce. Yet, we know that in a similar period of time, in 25 years between 1950 and [19]75, Israel was able to increase its agriculture production twelve-fold -- unprecedented in history. And during the last decade, 95 percent of the growth of our agriculture resulted from research, planning, training, and organizing.

High technology permits nations to attain real independence, and to experience genuine freedom, political as well as economic. There is nothing new about the scarcity of water in our midst. Jacob and Esau drank from the same wells even when their path[s] were separated. But then, unlike today, they couldn't desalinate the sea water. They couldn't computerize irrigation. They couldn't enjoy the potential of biotechnology. We are meeting again with an entirely different opportunity. Greening the land can be accompanied by creating many new jobs for all people in the area.

The most promising opportunity may be the development of tourism. No other branch of modern industry assures an immediate growth of the Middle East like this one. Our area is blessed by nature and by history -- a history which is still very much alive. The eternity of Jerusalem, the magnificence of the pyramids, the symbols of Luxor, the hanging gardens of Babylon, the pillars of wisdom in Baalbek, the red palaces of Petra, the inimitable charm of Marakesh, the old winds which still blow in Carthage, not ignoring the beaches of Gaza and the breathing of the perfume of the Jericho fruits. We have to open roads to those wonders and keep them safe and hospitable. Tourism depends on tranquility. Tourism enhance[s] tranquility. And it makes friendship into a vested interest.

Thirdly, we have to build an infrastructure with modern means so as to dodge the chasms of the past. Modern transportation and revolutionary communications -- crossing the air, covering the grounds, connecting the seas -- will turn geographic proximities into an economic advantage. We should not ask taxpayers of other countries to finance follies of our own. We have to correct them ourselves. We do not have the moral right to ask the financing of unnecessary wars or wasteful systems.

If the thumping of hammers will replace the thunder of the guns, many of the nations will be more than willing to extend a helping hand. They will invest in a better future. They will support the replacement of unwarranted confrontation with much-needed economic competition. Markets may serve the needs of the people not less than the flags are signifying their destinies. The time has come to build a Middle East for the people, not just for the rulers.

Mr. President, it wasn't simple to open the locked doors to peace. In the name of God, let them not be closed again so that peace will be comprehensive, embracing all issues, all countries, all generations. We suggest that we'll all negotiate together as equals. We offer a common ground made of mutual respect and mutual compromises. Thirteen years ago have passed since we made peace with Egypt. We are grateful to Egypt and its President for expanding understanding, identified and hidden. In a world in which so many insoluble problems reside, the Palestinians and us have finally shown that in fact there are no insoluble problems -- only people who tend to believe that many problems are insoluble.

We have negotiated one of the most complicated issues of the last hundred years. We are grateful to the United States for its support and leadership. We are grateful to both President Clinton and Secretary Christopher for their crucial role. We appreciate the Egyptian role and the Norwegian encouragement, the European involvement and serious contribution [for] the Asian support and blessing. May we now have the right to say to other people in conflict: "Don't give up. Do not surrender to old obsessions and do not take fresh disappointments at face value." What we did others can do as well.

Mr. President, we are determined to make the agreement with the Palestinians into a permanent success. Israel would consider an economic success of the Palestinians as though it were its own; and I believe that a newly-achieved security will serve the aspirations of the Israelis and the necessities of the Palestinians. Gaza, after 7,000 years of suffering, can emancipate itself from want. Jericho, without her fallen walls, can see her gardens blossom again.

As the 20th century comes to a close, we have learned from the United States and Russia that there are no military answers to the new military dangers -- only political solutions. Successful economies are no longer a monopoly of the rich and the mighty. They represent an open invitation to every nation ready to adopt the combination of science and open-mindedness. We see at the end of this century that politics can achieve more by goodwill than by power, and that the young generation watching their televisions, compare their lot with the fortunes or misfortunes of others. They see freedom, they watch peace, they view prosperity all in real time. They know that they can attain more if they will work harder.

If we want to represent their hopes, we have to combine wise policies and regional security and market economies. Historically we were born equal and equally we can give birth to a new age.

Behold days are coming, says the Lord, when the ploughman shall overtake the reaper and the trader of grapes, him who sows the seeds and the mountains shall drop sweet wine and all the hills shall melt.1

So said the prophet.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

1 Amos 9:13

Page Updated: 8/1/22

U.S. Copyright Status: Text = Uncertain.

Top 100 American Speeches

Online Speech Bank

Movie Speeches

Copyright 2001-Present. 
American Rhetoric.
HTML transcription by Michael E. Eidenmuller.