Minister of Foreign Affairs Shlomo Ben-Ami called on the
Palestinians to bring the Israeli-Arab conflict to an end in his
address to the UN General Assembly today, THE JERUSALEM POST
reported. Ben-Ami said that "Israel is determined to pursue peace
and take the calculated risks attached to it." He added that "the
process itself is not sacred, the real goal is peace."
Regarding the Palestinian refugees, Ben-Ami said that they were
victims of war and that "it is a travesty of historical truth to
present the Palestinian refugee problem as the result of mass
expulsion. It is a ridiculous concept to think that it is
possible to establish a state in order to return the refugees to
another neighboring state."
Concerning Jerusalem, Ben-Ami told the United Nations that
"just as we do not question the sincerity of the sentiments of
others toward their holy sites in Jerusalem, we expect that
others will not question the Jewish people's deep, awesome
attachment to Jerusalem and its holy sites from which we will
never again be parted." He added that "the Jewish people have no
quarrel with Islam" and that throughout its history Israel has
been committed to freedom of religion and access with respect to
holy areas under its control.
Ben-Ami also discussed Prime Minister Ehud Barak's role in the
peace process and said that no prime minister before him, and
probably no prime minister after him, would "touch the outer
limits of what is possible for us as Israelis and Jews without
compromising that which is essential and important to us."
Ben-Ami is scheduled to depart for Paris today for talks on the
peace process with French President Jacques Chirac and will
arrive in Israel on Tuesday evening.