Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday said a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was “the right thing” for Israel, but he cautioned that a future Palestinian state must not be “another terror base”.
In his first address to the UN General Assembly, Mr. Lapid said that despite its ‘hostile surroundings,” Israel has become a strong and prosperous democracy because “we decided not to be a victim”.
“We chose not to dwell on the pain of the past but rather to focus on the hope of the future…to invest our energies into building a nation…[and] a happy society, optimistic and creative,” he continued.
Unity is possible
Nevertheless, earlier this year during the Negev Summit with the US Secretary of State, Foreign Ministers of Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Israel, which “only two years ago no-one would have believed was possible,” a terrorist attacked Tel Aviv.
“In an instant we all understood that the goal…was to destroy the summit…[but] five minutes later we put out a joint statement…condemning the attack and sanctifying life, cooperation and our belief that there is a different way,” Mr. Lapid said, adding that the summit continued, and agreements were signed.
Two major threats
He went on to note two impending threats: that terrorist states and organizations will acquire nuclear weapons and “the demise of truth,” referring to lies and fake news.
“Last May, the picture of Malak al-Tanani, a three-year-old Palestinian girl, was published all over the world, with the terrible news that she was killed with her parents in an attack by the Israeli Air Force. It was a heartbreaking image, but Malak Al Tanani doesn’t exist. The photo was taken from Instagram. It is of a girl from Russia,” the Prime Minister said, as an example of the false villainization of his country.
He asked the Heads of States why they are listening to those who invest billions into distorting the truth and siding with Islamic extremists.
As a proud sovereign nation and equal UN Member State, Mr. Lapid upheld that he would not be silent when those who wish to harm Israel “use this very stage to spread lies about us”.
“Conducting this orchestra of hate, is Iran,” he continued, describing the regime haters of Jews, women, gay people, the West and Muslims who think differently, “like Salman Rushdie”.
Their hate preserves their oppressive rule, he explained, recalling Iran as the only UN Member “that openly states its wish to destroy another Member State.
Yet, despites its many declarations for Israel’s “total destruction…this building is silent”.
“The country that wants to destroy us, is also the country that founded the largest terrorist organization in the world, Hezbollah,” said the senior Israeli official, adding that if Iran gets a nuclear weapon, “they will use it”.
The only way to prevent this, is to “put a credible military threat on the table” and then negotiate a longer and stronger deal with them.
“It needs to be made clear to Iran, that if it advances its nuclear programme, the world will not respond with words, but with military force,” said the Prime Minister.
He stressed that Israel strives for peace with the Arab world, particularly the Palestinians.
“Despite all the obstacles…a large majority of Israelis support the vision of this two-state solution. I am one of them”, he said, on the sole condition that “a future Palestinian State will be a peaceful one,” and not another terror base that threatens the country’s very existence.
“An agreement with the Palestinians, based on two states for two peoples, is the right thing for Israel’s security, for Israel’s economy and for the future of our children,” he stated.
Mr. Lapid recounted a personal story of having to wake up his non-verbal autistic daughter at 3 am to take her to a bomb shelter, because missiles were exploding above his home.
“All those who preach about the importance of peace, are welcome to try running to a bomb shelter at 3 a.m. with a girl who does not speak. To explain to her, without words, why there are those who want to kill her”, he said.
To the people of Gaza Mr. Lapid underscored his desire to help them build a better life and economy, but “we only have one condition: Stop firing rockets and missiles at our children”.