By Naomi Farrell
UNITED NATIONS (WUP)...There was much less Israel bashing at this years General Assembly meeting in which speeches of Presidents, Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers from some 190 countries were heard.
Surprisingly, there was none of the usual name calling of Israel such as, “barbarians,” “Nazis”, “the cruel occupiers” and “terrorists”.
Even the darling of the press for the first week of the Assembly Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, only referred to Israel as the “Zionist Regime” and said that they should give back the Palestinian lands which “they have illegally occupied for 60 years.”
Last year he was more explicit and spoke about a Palestinian State which included all of present day Israel in which Jews and Christians may be allowed to live.
The Arab League’s Secretary-General, Amre Moussa told correspondents at a Headquarters press conference: “We on the Arab side have shown through our initiative that we are ready for peace with Israel.” This too was quite a turn-about. For many years this former Egyptian Ambassador to the UN has spewn alot of poisonous rhetoric in regard to Israel. Now he said, “We are ready to turn the page.”
Meanwhile, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority President told the Assembly: “Missing opportunities to reach comprehensive solutions – particularly on the Palestinian question – is moving people towards the precipice of despair, and making them easy prey for the forces of ignorance and extremism,” as he called for an end to years of self-serving politics in the region, and declared his commitment to an upcoming United States-sponsored international conference aimed at resurrecting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. He called on the international community to promote understanding, saying that attempts to manufacture a clash among religions and cultures were dangerous. “Global wars were wars of interests, not religions or cultures,” he said, asserting that Islam was a humane religion and that portraying it unfairly was a method used by international terrorists to sow mistrust. “Islam is against extremism,” exclaimed Abbas.
He believed that the Palestinian people were capable of overcoming the situation that extremist forces had pushed them into and that, “the forces of moderation” were committed to creating a new future for the region and aimed to end the “spiral of lost opportunities”.
Even Syria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Walid Al-Moualem said:”Syria has the will to make a genuine peace with Israel – that is a strategic choice of my government,” – but –would need to recover the Golan Heights.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, told the Assembly, with her cool and concise demeanor, that the international community should offer support, no conditions in the “risky” quest for peace.
Calling for help in “confronting those determined to prevent us from succeeding”, especially extremists undermining democracy, tolerance and education—fundamental values of every modern society.
The notion that the battle was local had collapsed in New York with the twin towers six years ago, she said. Today, it was clear that extremists were engaged in a bloody war against civilians, and further, that the Middle East conflict was a consequence – not a cause – of the global extremist agenda.
Israel was prepared for the territorial compromise necessary in order to reach a true peace agreement with the Palestinian people. “But we also know – especially after withdrawing from Lebanon and Gaza --- that territorial withdrawal by itself will not bring peace, unless we address the core clash of values that lies beneath the conflict,” she added.
Warning that extremists in many places were entering the democratic process, not to abandon their violent agenda, but to advance it, she said it was time for the international community to reclaim democracy and called for the adoption of a universal set of standards for participation in genuine democratic elections.
Such groups as Hamas and Hizbullah must be presented with a clear choice - - between the path of violence and that of legitimacy, “they cannot have both,” she stressed.
She also called for the enhancement and deepening of regional ties and cooperation between Israel and the Arab world, while advancing in parallel towards Israeli-Palestinian peace.
“We must stand up to those who have no respect for human life or human liberty, who held Israeli soldiers captive, and who after Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, targeted Israeli homes with missiles.” Despite such obstacles, there was a “new moment of opportunity,” but time was of the essence. “We owe it to ourselves and to our children to find both the courage and the wisdom to make the right choices in the right way,” she said.