Outgoing US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley addressed the UN Security Council today.
"The problems of the Middle East are numerous, and yet we spend a vastly disproportionate amount of time on just one of them. The UN has shown itself to be hopelessly biased, as we witnessed again just two weeks ago when the General Assembly failed to even condemn Hamas’s terrorism against Israel.
"Most of the region’s problems have nothing to do with the Israel-Palestinian conflict.... The UN [should] move away from its obsession with Israel. This UN obsession has been entirely unproductive. It’s actually worse than that. The UN’s obsession with this issue has been counterproductive. It has sent a loud and false message to the Palestinians that they might be able to achieve their goals by relying on the UN, rather than through direct negotiations. And it has sent a loud and accurate message to the Israelis that they can never trust the UN.
"Israel is a thriving, strong, prosperous country. It has always wanted peace with its neighbors. It has clearly demonstrated its willingness to make big sacrifices for peace, including giving up large areas of land. No UN resolutions, anti-Semitic boycotts, or terrorist threats will change that. Throughout its existence, and even today, Israel has been surrounded by threats to its security. It would be foolish for it to make a deal that weakened its security. And yet, even in the face of constant threats, Israel has become one of the leading nations of the world. It wants a peace agreement, but it does not need one.
"And then there are the Palestinian people. Like the Israelis, they are a deservedly proud people. They too do not need to accept a peace agreement at any price. Terrorists rule much of the territory, undermining the safety of all civilians. The Palestinian people are suffering terribly, while their leadership clings to fifty-year old demands that have only become less and less realistic. What awaits the Palestinian people with a peace agreement are the prospects of a massive improvement in the quality of their lives and far greater control over their political future.
"It is time we faced a hard truth: both sides would benefit greatly from a peace agreement, but the Palestinians would benefit more, and the Israelis would risk more. Unlike previous attempts at addressing this conflict, this plan is not just a few pages, containing unspecific and unimaginative guidelines. It is much longer. It contains much more thoughtful detail. It recognizes that realities on the ground in the Middle East have changed in powerful and important ways. This plan will be different from all previous ones. The critical question is whether the response to it will be any different. There are things in the plan that every party will like, and there are things that every party will not like. That is certainly true for the Israelis and the Palestinians; but it is also true for every country in the world that has taken an interest in this subject.
"Every country or party will therefore have an important choice to make. They can focus on the parts of the plan they dislike. For irresponsible parties, that would be the easiest thing to do. Just reject the plan because it does not satisfy all of your demands. Then we would return to the failed status quo of the last fifty years with no prospects for change. The other choice is to focus on the parts of the plan that you do like and to encourage negotiations to move forward. And I assure you there is a lot for both sides to like. Ultimately, as always, the final decisions can only be made by the parties themselves. Israelis and Palestinians will decide their own futures. They will decide what sacrifices they are willing to make. And they will need leaders with real vision to do it.
"But my friends at the United Nations -- in particular my Arab and European friends – will also play an important part. You will face the same choice. The choice between a hopeful future that sheds the tired, old, and unrealistic demands of the past, or a darker future that sticks with the proven failed talking points of the past.
"The world will be watching.
"More importantly, the Palestinians and Israelis will be watching. Their response can be affected by your response. I have heard privately from many Arab Ambassadors that they know a solution is urgently needed. But your governments have not been willing to talk to your constituencies about what is realistic, or to the Palestinian leadership about the harm they are doing to their own people. By taking the easy way, you are really saying the Palestinian people are not a priority for you. Because if they were, you would all be in a room helping bring both sides to the table.
"As for the American people, we have demonstrated time and again our commitment to peace in the Middle East. We will continue to offer our hand in friendship to the Palestinian people, whom we have financially supported by far more than any other country has done. he Palestinians have everything to gain by engaging in peace negotiations. But whatever it is that others decide, the world must know that America will remain steadfast in our support for Israel, its people, and its security. That is an unshakeable bond between our two peoples. And it is that bond – more than anything else -- that makes peace possible."
US Special Envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt tweeted in response to Haley's speech: "Thank you Nikki Halley for your friendship, leadership, support and vision. Wishing you all the best in your promising future!"