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Comment by RVK:Robert V. Keeley
   I for one greatly appreciate having a colleague/correspondent (and of course friend) living in Paris where he scans the European press. I learned about this speech by Peres at the UN on Sept. 24 from retired ambassador John Gunther Dean yesterday, confirmed by his email that follows today. This speech and the reference to the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 initiated by King Abdullah certainly got nearly zero coverage in the mainstream media here in the U.S. I have spent some time searching for any references to it, and found only brief coverage by the AP, and perhaps the Wall Street Journal, both of which stressed Peres's attacks on the president of Iran, and not the peace initiative. I finally found a summary of the speech on the UNGA website, and that is copied below, after Dean's email. Peres's reference is in the summary paragraph beginning "While acknowledging...  It is noteworthy that after mentioning Jerusalem as the venue for a summit peace conference, Peres offers an alternative to be chosen by the Arabs. It is well-known that the Israeli president has very limited powers and Peres himself is not a notably important figure in the present day scheme of things, but I would make two observations: (1) For any Israeli leader to refer to the Arab Peace Initiative in any manner is noteworthy in itself; and (2) the nearly complete absence of any mention of it in the U.S. mainstream media is indicative of the very poor coverage given Middle East peace efforts and the clear bias in favor of Israel, which has for years officially ignored what the Arab League accomplished in Beirut in 2002, and the seriousness of the peace offer there launched. The absence of any U.S. Government reaction is also notable.
   P.S. The UNGA website has a 20-minute video of the Peres speech in English. See www.un.org/ga/63/generaldebate/israel.shtml

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Fro
Date: Tue, Sep 30, 2008 at 5:37 AM
Subject: Peres's speech at the UN



Dear Robert and John:

            The September 25, 2008, edition of the conservative Paris newspaper Le Figaro published an article on page 7 entitled "Peres calls for the Arab leaders to come for a dialogue." The article is from the Figaro correspondent in New York, and the Peres speech was given at the U.N. General Assembly on September 24. According to the newspaper, the Israeli President gave "an invitation for a global peace which could convert the battlefield into a field of understanding."

The newspaper states that Peres "at the speaker's platform congratulated the peace initiative launched by King Abdul Aziz al-Saud of Arabia to solve the Palestinian Question and he encouraged the Saudi leader to go further, which might lead to a global peace." Peres is quoted as saying: "I especially invite all leaders to come and discuss peace at Jerusalem, which is holy land for all of us. But Israel would accept with joy an Arab invitation at any place where a significant dialogue could take place."

Comment by J.G.D.: I have seen nowhere else any reference to this speech that Peres made at the United Nations in New York, which, in Figaro, is given prominent exposure. The Anglo-Saxon press in Europe did not give it coverage, as far as I know. Wouldn't it be a good idea for King Abdullah to reply and to suggest the U.N. facilities at Geneva as a proper place for the negotiators to meet in November to find a way toward peace in the Near East? I am thinking of Geneva because I recall Arafat always preferred the U.N. facilities in Geneva to New York. Also Geneva has resident diplomats from nearly all countries represented in the U.N. and, hence, the meeting could be broader than just having Israeli-Arab participants.
Comment by J.G.D.: I have seen nowhere else any reference to this speech that Peres made at the United Nations in New York, which, in Figaro, is given prominent exposure. The Anglo-Saxon press in Europe did not give it coverage, as far as I know. Wouldn't it be a good idea for King Abdullah to reply and to suggest the U.N. facilities at Geneva as a proper place for the negotiators to meet in November to find a way toward peace in the Near East? I am thinking of Geneva because I recall Arafat always preferred the U.N. facilities in Geneva to New York. Also Geneva has resident diplomats from nearly all countries represented in the U.N. and, hence, the meeting could be broader than just having Israeli-Arab participants.

Do you think you can call this Israeli initiative to the attention of the proper officials interested in moving toward a negotiated solution to the problems of the Near East?

Best,

John
Israel
H. E. Mr. Shimon Peres, President
24 September 2008

    * Video: English [RealPlayer - 20 min]
    * Statement: English [PDF]
    * Back to the list of speakers

Statement Summary
H.E. Mr. Shimon Peres, President of the State of Israel

© UN Photo
Click for caption and to enlarge

SHIMON PERES, President of Israel, said more than 60 years had passed since the Assembly voted on a historic resolution that would have ended the Arab-Israeli conflict.  Resolution 181 called for the creation of a Jewish and an Arab state, and the "Plan of Partition with Economic Union" had envisioned two States for two peoples, each fulfilling a distinct national aspiration.  The Jewish people adopted the resolution, and created the State of Israel.  The Arabs rejected it, and that move had led to war.

Israel had turned military victories into a peace process and reached two peace agreements, the first with the largest Arab country, Egypt, and the second with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.  All the land, water and natural resources that fell in Israel's hands through the war were repatriated after the peace agreements were sealed.  He also noted that another pressing regional need was to repair the damaged environment and land.  "If we shall not overcome the desert, the thirst, the pollution […] they will overcome us," he said.

At the centre of the region's violence and fanaticism stood Iran, "a danger to the entire world".  Its quest for religious hegemony and regional dominance divided the Middle East, and held back chances of peace while undermining human rights.  Iranian support for Hizbullah had divided Lebanon, and its support for Hamas had divided Palestinians and postponed the creation of the Palestinian State.  Yesterday, in his address to the Assembly, the Iranian leader "renewed the darkest anti-Semitic libel –- the protocol of the elders of Zion".  That despicable denial of the Holocaust was a mockery of indisputable evidence, a cynical offence to survivors of the horror, and contradictory to the resolutions adopted by the Assembly.

He said Iran continued to develop enriched uranium and long-range missiles.  The Assembly and Security Council had a responsibility to prevent agonies before they took place.

Continuing, he said terrorism stood to make the world ungovernable, and the free world needed to unite to combat it.  Israel would continue to seek peace, and had suggested immediate peace with Lebanon.  Israeli leaders had indicated to Syria that they were ready to explore a comprehensive compromise for peace, and in order to gain trust and save time, Israel had suggested face-to-face meetings with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  Israel was waiting for a response.

While acknowledging the growing concern that Middle East peace was a distant hope, President Peres said his life-long experience gave him a different point of view.  He could identify a road in the right direction:  peace agreements; a series of summits; Israel's acceptance of the two-State solution; and Arab nations' backing of the peace initiative, inaugurated by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud.  He urged the Saudi leader to expand his initiative, so it could become an invitation for a comprehensive peace.  He also invited all leaders to discuss peace in Jerusalem, which was holy to all.  Israel would gladly accept an Arab invitation to meet at a designated venue, where a meaningful dialogue could take place.

Global dangers united and divided the international community at the same time.  The dangers included the deterioration of the environment, the shortage of water, the lack of renewable energy, the spread of terrorism, and increased poverty, he said.  Unity offered many alternatives and would direct global investment to new areas, including to address demanding challenges such as health, security, education and the environment.  The twenty-first century called for pioneers, and was an opportunity to provide the children with peace, knowledge, strength and friendship.  It was their children's right and the international community's moral obligation.

[Source: GA/10751]




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Robert V. Keeley
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