(October 19, 2020 / JNS) The following is the text of a speech given in the Knesset plenum ahead of the Oct. 15 vote ratifying Israel’s peace agreement with the United Arab Emirates.
To our neighbors and new friends in the region: Assalamu aleykum, shalom aleichem.
I am proud to stand here today, in Israel’s Knesset, in order to mark this historic moment in Israel’s relations with the United Arab Emirates—a possible first step towards collaboration in the region as a whole. May we identify and realize the tremendous opportunities inherent to this process and advance them—together—in the continued journey towards peace and prosperity. May we merit to pray—all faiths together—here in the holy city of Jerusalem, “For my house is called a house of prayer for all nations.”
The paradigm shift taking place in the Middle East challenges the misconceptions we have all been held hostage to for years, potentially marking the official “beginning of the end” of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
This change enables a fundamental pivot from the rejectionism manifested in the “Three Nos” of the 1967 Khartoum Conference, with the Abraham Accords reflecting a historic transition towards the “Three Yeses”—yes to recognition, yes to negotiation and yes to peace.
The order of the process is essential. To achieve prospective regional peace, it is essential to begin with mutual recognition, enabling meaningful dialogue, so that true and lasting peace can be achieved.
Since the re-establishment of the modern State of Israel in 1948, the Arab world has refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist within any borders. According to the accepted narrative, the very existence of Israel, as a Jewish and democratic state, is the obstacle to peace in the Middle East, regardless of boundaries.
In reversing this paradigm, the Abraham Accords present a historic opportunity for the future of all peoples in the region, and beyond.
As the name indicates, these accords underscore our shared values and interests that belong to our peoples and faiths. Rather than highlighting differences and extremism, which so often receive media attention, the Abraham Accords affirm the voices of the silent majority, which strives for normalization, coexistence, respect and tolerance.
However, alongside the excitement and sense of historic transformation in the international arena, dramatic internal struggles challenge Israel’s very resilience. The COVID-19 pandemic and the economic, health, emotional and societal crises alongside it expose these internal divides.
In the face of these challenges, we can and must draw inspiration from the Abraham Accords, utilizing it to create unity and peace within our own society. We must all take personal responsibility to restore trust and solidarity. We must stop blaming others and shirking responsibility, and reaffirm our collective commitment to the vision, mission and values of the Jewish and democratic State of Israel, as defined in the Declaration of Independence.
Such recognition and dialogue will enable the renewal of the covenant between us—Arabs and Jews; ultra-Orthodox, religious, and secular; old and young; new immigrants and sabras. All of us. In so doing, we will realize the potential of this historic moment, both internally and externally—yes to recognition, yes to dialogue and yes to peace.
Michal Cotler-Wunsh is a Knesset member for Israel’s Blue and White Party.
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