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R. Cohen: Address to World Summit 2013



Thank you for inviting me to participate in this very important peace conference. First of all, I would like to say something that I did not prepare in advance. You cannot imagine what it means for a man like me to come from Israel and to sit at breakfast or at dinner with my neighbors from the Arab countries -- to sit at the same table and speak, by the way, Arabic (I try to as I can). To meet with my brother Imam Murad from Jordan, with Professor Abdel Rahman Abbad -- we became here very good friends. He is living 10 minutes from my home; he is living in East Jerusalem and I in West Jerusalem. [applause] Just a minute: we have more! The ladies: Fatma from Kuwait, Nada and Siham from Lebanon, Sonia from Egypt. I am sorry, Hisham, I have not met you before, but now I am very proud to be on stage with you. And Anas, the young man from Libya. This is just the beginning of creating peace between people. Believe me, this is more than I can believe I felt in the past, in all my tens of years of efforts to make peace. It is a lovely thing to do it. [applause]

For me it is a great present. I am very happy for that. I think that in a very short dialogue we succeeded to build some kind of belief between each other. Maybe we don't achieve peace in the Middle East, but we achieved a little peace zone between us. This is also very important. It's my opinion. I would like to emphasize that maybe just the UPF now gives the chance for people like us to build this type of relations between people who came from the conflict -- and unfortunately will return to the conflict.

I would like to emphasize in these words of mine the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because this is the heart of the conflict in the Middle East. I really believe that in case we solve the problem between us and the Palestinians, all the roads to peace with other countries and other regimes will be much, much easier.

It would like to make it very, very clear that both in Israel and in Palestine, the current situation does not signal a breakthrough in the peace process: In Israel we just a month ago held an election that did not result in an optimistic option for peace. In the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, there will probably be a re-shaping of governance -- I don't know when -- either through elections or some other way. Regardless, one cannot find either in Israel or in Palestine any optimism for a massive strengthening of the power of peace. This is unfortunately the fact.

There are two phenomena typical to the Middle East region (and maybe not only in the Middle East):

First, in a place of conflict and argument there isn't any vacuum. There is either a peace process or a war process. There is no vacuum. In the absence of a peace process, violent conflict will appear, sooner or later. Therefore, since no peace process is taking place, we are surely walking on the track toward violence that would soon explode and cause the loss of many lives, both in the Israeli side as well as the Palestinian side, and maybe -- unfortunately -- even in other Arab countries from the region. I am sorry. It is very sad, but it is a fact. I can only say the truth.

The second phenomenon I would like to emphasize is that 75 percent -- the middle 75 percent -- of both the Palestinian and Israeli people support a two-state solution. Yet at election time, the people on both sides elect leaders who oppose such a solution: Hamas in the Palestinian side and Netanyahu in our side. In connection to the visit of Obama to Israel, Netanyahu is talking about a two-state solution, but he has not any intention of implementing it. He will not do it. He is Prime Minister and is going to be next time -- unfortunately, in my opinion.

Yet, the only real solution that remains is two states for two nations. The recognition by the United Nations of the Palestinian state, even though Palestine is not a member of the UN, is perhaps a small but an important step forward.

This is indeed the only true solution: a dialogue needs to be created between the two leaderships, despite the fact that they oppose a two-state solution. The enlightened world should make a dialogue between the two leaderships happen. The leaders on both sides might not be nice, and might not be honest in their intentions, but if -- with the support of the enlightened world -- they reach a route of agreement which includes mutual recognition, security arrangements, and economic cooperation for the benefit of both sides, that can be the track to prevent the expected war and create a base to establish a stable peace.

If such an agreement would be brought to the governments both in Ramallah and Gaza and in Jerusalem, it would not be approved. BUT, if it would be offered as a referendum to the two peoples of the two nations, it would be approved by a large majority! That would force the people in leadership to implement this solution! The people CAN impose a peace solution over the heads of the leaders -- and this is the only way, for now, to implement a two-state solution. I am sorry. [applause]

Another two points I would like to emphasize after I came here to this lovely meeting: peace is not just between nations. Peace is between people. I would like to emphasize, first of all, that I have met here Professor Abdel Rahman Abbad. Please stand. [applause] May I say, Abbad, my friend after two days, I really find you a friend. He is living in East Jerusalem; I am living in West Jerusalem. Believe me, it is about a 10-minute, maximum 12-minute drive apart. Now we are living in a condition of war. But believe me, if a two-state solution is adopted, his home would be open to my family and children to come, and my home will be open to his family and children. [applause] Why not? Why not?

The second point I would like to add. I have not prepared to speak about the Israeli-Iranian conflict, which is also a horrible thing, a terrible thing for us -- for all. I have to tell you that I have met here an Iranian man -- a very good man, I have to say -- Nasir. Nasir is here? [applause] Nasir was born in Iran, grew up in Iran, and escaped from Iran to the United States. I was born in Baghdad, and I escaped from Baghdad through Iran. The Iranian people saved my life and the lives of many Jews. So now, in this horrible conflict with the Iranian leadership and the Israeli leadership, I have to emphasize, Nasir, that the Iranian people and Israeli people can be a loving two people. Why not? [applause] I don't like to have any Iranian bomb over Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. I don't like to have any Israeli or other bomb over Iran. [applause] Let's make peace even between Israel and Iran. Thank you very much.

For more information about World Summit 2013, click here.