UNITED NATIONS (Sep. 24)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has issued a stern warning to the world.
Palestinian plans to declare an independent state next May would “cause the complete collapse” of the peace process, Netanyahu said Thursday in his address to the United Nations General Assembly.
Netanyahu strongly urged the Palestinian Authority “not to take this course,” calling such a move “arbitrary” and “unilateral.”
“It will inevitably prompt unilateral responses on our part,” he warned. “This development will not be good for the Palestinians, will not be good for Israel, will not be good for world peace.”
Netanyahu’s remarks before the 185-member world body came just days before Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s scheduled appearance here.
The Palestinian Authority chairman is expected to appeal Monday for international support of a Palestinian declaration of statehood on May 4, 1999, which is the end of the interim period spelled out in the Oslo accords.
With the peace process deadlocked for more than 18 months, it appears that final-status talks will not be concluded in the next eight months.
But the Palestinians have repeatedly affirmed their intention to go ahead with a declaration in the absence of a final-status agreement.
In a 20-minute speech received with polite applause, Netanyahu returned repeatedly to the tenuous balance between Palestinian autonomy and Israeli security.
His appearance at the U.N. occurred just hours after a rush-hour explosion at a Jerusalem bus stop injured one soldier.
That occurrence, he said, proved that Israel’s security concerns were “not hypothetical.”
For enduring peace to succeed, Netanyahu said, “the Palestinians should have all the powers to govern their lives and none of the powers to threaten our lives.
“They will have control of all aspects of their society,” Netanyahu insisted, “such as law, religion and education, industry, commerce and agriculture, tourism, health and welfare.
“They can prosper and flourish. What they cannot do is endanger our existence.”
The Israeli premier stressed Israel’s right to ensure that “the Palestinian entity” would not become a base for hostile or foreign forces, terrorists or weaponry.
“This is the great challenge of the permanent-status negotiations,” he announced. “To achieve a durable peace that will strike a balance between Palestinian self-rule and Israel’s security,” which he added, could be achieved “by negotiations and negotiations alone.”
Netanyahu conjured up a vision of Middle East peace in which the region’s children would interact peacefully and respectfully and in which countries would cooperate in a regional market-based economy.
“The absence of violence will allow all of us — Palestinians, Jordanians and Israeli — to reach a standard of living and quality of life now considered unimaginable.”
He also expressed his desire for peace with Lebanon and Syria to “complete the circle of peace with our immediate neighbors.”
Taking up a theme introduced at the U.N. this week by other world leaders, including President Clinton, Netanyahu called terrorism “a global cancer.”
He also pointed to the development of medium-range missiles by Iran and Iraq’s refusal to comply with U.N. weapons inspections as dangers threatening all nations.
Netanyahu peppered his remarks with references to Jewish liturgy, tradition and history, including the Jewish people’s historical ties to the land of Israel, which he said had been recognized by the organized international community with the creation of the state of Israel.