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Wednesday, November 12, 2008
[Equal blame for war?] President Shimon Peres's Speech at the Inter-Faith Dialogue at the UN

[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA: Israel and the Arabs are equally guilty?

"Instead, we confronted one another, abandoning faith for greed and forging
swords instead of peace. They tore apart the land and increased hostility,
resulting in a region of barriers and walls that rose higher, destroying any
bridges that may have been built."]


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

His Excellency Shimon Peres, President of the State of Israel
Speech for the UN General Assembly Meeting on Inter-Faith Dialogue

Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary General,
Your Majesty,
Your Majesties,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Earlier this week, we commemorated 13 years since the assassination of Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin - my friend and partner to our journey. He was
murdered while singing a song of peace.

Assassins may take a life, but they cannot kill a dream. That fateful night
at the square, we stood together and sang of peace, the aspiration of my
people for generations.

Then came three shots.

However, we were not alone in our despair. Many who cherished Rabin's
vision from around the world came to stand at our side and share our grief.
Arab and Muslim leaders came, and at the time it felt like sorrow shattered

Tragedy had united the sons and daughters of all religions. Our shared
agony shed light on our shared hopes, our hunger for fraternity, the dream
of peace which we nurtured in our hearts.

Mr. President,

In our region, children bear the names of prophets who are sacred to us all.
Why should Moses, Moshe, and Musa, Avraham, Abraham and Ibrahim grow up as
adversaries, in animosity? As our prophets asked:

"Have we not all one father? Hath not one God created us? Why do we deal
deceitfully every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our

And Abraham added to his nephew Lot: "Please let there be no strife between
me and you, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are kinsmen."

That was the first call for peace among brothers in history. Brotherly
relations should not involve violence or domination. We all worship the
same Lord in Heaven.

Religion carries the word of God to man, as is written in Psalms: "What man
is he that desires life and loves many days that he may see good? Depart
from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it."

Religious belief requires that we recognize the eternal message that all men
were created in God's image. Harming a human being is tantamount to harming
God himself. When nuclear weapons, long-range missiles, indiscriminate
terror and fanatical incitement determine the agenda, we have to change that

Mr. President,

The Jewish and Arab national revivals occurred at almost the same time and
in almost the same place. They occurred rapidly and in a land that was

However, after the First World War, a window of opportunity was opened when
Emir Feisal and President Weizmann aspired to create a new environment.
They met 89 years ago, in November of 1919 to announce an understanding
between the two peoples from the same crib, who could have lived under the
shadow of the same trees - the old olives and tall date.

Their declaration states: "Mindful of the racial kinship and ancient bonds
existing between the Arabs and the Jewish people, and realizing that the
surest means of working out the consummation of their national aspirations,
is through the closest possible collaboration."

This was great statesmanship and timely wisdom.

Alas, we did not take heed of them.

Instead, we confronted one another, abandoning faith for greed and forging
swords instead of peace. They tore apart the land and increased hostility,
resulting in a region of barriers and walls that rose higher, destroying any
bridges that may have been built.

Hundreds of thousands of men and women from all sides lost their lives.
Many were incurably injured; others lost their homes and became refugees.

Fortunes were wasted on the purchase, maintenance and replacement of new
weapons that inevitably became obsolete - resources were spent on sustaining
hostility instead of advancing life.

The can be no consolation for the bereaved families or orphaned children
other than the end of violence and bloodshed.

There is an Arab proverb that states that there are three events that cannot
be reversed: an arrow released from its bow; a word which has escaped one's
mouth; and a bullet that splits the heart.

We cannot change the past. HOWEVER, we can shape our future.

This seems more feasible today in light of the Saudi proposal which evolved
into a Arab peace initiative.

The initiative's portrayal of our region's future provides hope to the
people and inspires confidence in the nations.

YES - in order to change the world we have to change ourselves.

The Arab peace initiative states that: "A military solution to the conflict
will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties".

Israel agrees with that assumption.

Further on, the initiative states that: "A just and comprehensive peace in
the Middle East is the strategic option of the Arab countries".

This is Israel's strategy as well.

It continues that its goals are to: ".consider the Arab-Israeli conflict
ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security
for all the states in the region.

Establish normal relations with Israel in the context of comprehensive

Stop the further shedding of blood, enabling the Arab countries and Israel
to live in peace and good neighborliness, and provide future generations
with security, stability and prosperity."

These expressions in the Arab peace initiative are inspirational and
promising - a serious opening for real progress.

A comprehensive regional peace requires the completion of the bilateral
negotiations with the Palestinians and sharing the painful cost. We are
ready for this as we have proved many times in the past.

30 years ago when the peace accords with Egypt were signed;

15 years ago when the Oslo process began;

14 years ago when the peace agreement with Jordan was signed;

8 years ago when we withdrew completely from Lebanon;

And 3 years ago when we evacuated Gaza and dismantled willingly all our
settlements there.

Today we are making progress with the negotiations with the Palestinians; we
are exploring the possibility of real peace with the Syrians, the last in
the list of the historic conflicts.

However, there are those in our region who sow hatred and try to widen the
abyss and erect barriers, those who seek to wipe out other people and
encourage killing.

In order to stand up against those who instigate discord and violence, we
must bear the flag of brotherhood and peace. This will be a beacon for a
world in trouble.

It will end many conflicts and offer a comprehensive peace for all people -
real freedom without domination or occupation; global economic cooperation
and cultural relations - a new vision for the entire region.

I know it is harder to pursue peace than to wage war; building is more
difficult than destruction. Yet, this is my life experience - it is
worthwhile to strive for peace and build homes.

This is the proper biography for men of good will.

For the sake of our children, let us break the bonds of hostility which stem
from the past.

When the world faces a serious crisis, let us offer a new remedy to overcome
old maladies. The global crisis worries us just as our crisis worries the
world. However, we can adopt a position acceptable to the entire world
without erasing our national identities and offering global opportunities.

This meeting of religious leaders can produce a movement of profound
significance and one which will bear great responsibility. By calling on
their believers to serve peace in every nation for all nations, for every
person and for all peoples, the bridges we build will render the barriers

Let us free the world from the perception that an irrevocable curse darkens
the skies of our region.

Our shared history has known golden ages during which we lived as friends
and brothers.

Inter-faith dialogue will elevate our spirits, bring a breath of fresh air
to our peoples today and live on in posterity. Let us renew our faith in
one God.

This is the duty and responsibility of all states and religious leaders.
Let us not recoil from hardship; we must not hesitate when faced with risk.

Working for peace will justify our prayers and bring a new sense of purpose
to our lives; it will demonstrate our values to our children.

Peace is not just a goal. It is a promise made to us at the dawn of time
and the pinnacle of the holiest mountain.

Let's claim them together.

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