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Remarks by Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Alternate Representative of the United States for Special Political Affairs in the United Nations, At a Security Council Open Debate on the Middle East, July 25, 2012

Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Special Coordinator Serry, for your briefing.

Mr. President, last week the world witnessed – and the Security Council appropriately condemned – a heinous terrorist attack in Bulgaria. The target was innocent Israeli tourists on vacation in the Black Sea. Five Israelis and one Bulgarian were murdered and scores more were injured, including citizens of Bulgaria, Italy, Slovakia, and the United States. There is no justification whatsoever for such attacks against innocent people. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families and to the people of Israel, Bulgaria, and all those whose citizens were harmed in this awful event.

Celebrating the traditional Bastille Day in his elegant estate in Jaffa, the French Ambassador Christopher Bigot hosted Israeli President Shimon Peres and former captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, accompanied by his father Noam Shalit.

In his speech, Bigot recalled the full support his country lent Shalit during the 5 years he was held prisoner by Hamas in Gaza.
Bigot also assured Israel continued support by the newly appointed French President Francois Hollande.

This morning Israel's President Shimon Peres hosted a delegation of honorary Israeli consuls around the world.

Yossi Beilin, who served as Israeli Justice Minister and Deputy Foreign Minister, conducted the secret peace negotiations that led to the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

You have called on the Palestinian Authority, which was supposed to be the Palestinian state in embryo, to dissolve itself. Why now?

The Oslo Peace Process called for an interim agreement that would last five years and end with a permanent settlement. It has dragged on for almost 20 years. What was supposed to be a corridor leading to a final settlement has become a living room – a very convenient one – for people like Prime Minister Netanyahu and for the opposition in Palestine. They want to keep the status quo.

A traditional reception commemorating Columbus Day, HISPANIDAD DAY, was held at the residence gardens of Hon. Alvaro Iranzo, Ambassador of Spain to Israel and his wife, in Herzliya Pituach.

The Honorary guests were former President of Israel Yitzhak Navon and his wife.

During the party we received the notice of Shalit's release and the ambassador expressed his hope in his speech. Shalit's release and Columbus Day both symbolize the dawn of new eras... Gilad's freedom was returned to him so that he could embark on a new chapter in his life. Columbus' discovery of the New World began a sea change in world history.

Below is the Ambassador's speech, during which he welcomed the attendees and expressed hope for the future and summed up the activity between Israel and Spain during this last year:

I am most honoured to welcome you on the occasion of our National Day. This year, like many others, the celebration comes close to the Rosh Hashaná Festivities. It is therefore easy to pause and consider the achievements of the past year, as well as to express our commitment to further bilateral cooperation for the year 5772.

In 1986, Spain and Israel put an end to a historic anomaly, through the establishment of diplomatic relations. We then decided to open a new page in our History, drawing from the millenary Jewish presence in the Iberian Peninsula. During 2011 we are actively commemorating the 25th Anniversary of that milestone, to which President Navon much contributed.

It is rewarding to look back at last year and see how our relations have grown wider and deeper, even if we just consider the number and the level of the exchanges which have taken place, beginning with the visit paid to Spain by President Shimon Peres in February.

During his stay in Madrid, President Peres inaugurated the new headquarters of Casa Sefarad-Israel, the public diplomacy institution which plays a major role in the Spanish government's fight against anti-Semitism and to spread Jewish culture among the Spanish public.

Among other high level Israeli authorities, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and –last but not least- Minister of Education Gideon Sa'ar have officially visited Spain and moved our common agenda forward.

On the other hand, the echoes of the visit of Their Royal Highnesses the Crown Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia still reverberate across Israel, as much as the deep impressions left on them by your country and by your warm reception. Their long-awaited visit bears witness to the fraternal links between Sefarad and Israel. We much appreciated the role, once again played by Minister Sa'ar during that visit.

As for the Spanish Foreign Minister, Ms. Trinidad Jiménez, she has already visited Israel twice during her term, which began only about a year ago.

In our political contacts, the Spanish side has shown its firm commitment towards a successful resolution of all pending conflicts in the Middle East.

My country has invested more than words joining the international undertaking to attain peace. Twenty years ago the Madrid Peace Conference set the basic principles of a peaceful settlement. We contribute as a major donor to the social, economic and institutional stability of Israel's main partner. Furthermore, around twelve hundred Spanish troops under UNIFIL command fulfil a key role in maintaining the calm along Israel's northern border.

As stated by Minister Jiménez since she first came to Israel, Spain has consistently advocated for the resumption of the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Authority as the privileged way to reach peace under the two-State formula.

Based upon that premise, the Spanish commitment to peace implies both support to the legitimate Palestinian aspiration to statehood and support for effective security guarantees for your country. In her recent speech before the General Assembly in New York, my Minister defined Israel as the embodiment of the project to create a homeland for the Jewish people.

Returning to the 25th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, I wish to express to the Israeli Governement –represented tonight by Minister Gideon Sa'ar, always an active and loyal friend of Spain- the Spanish satisfaction about the success of the numerous cultural events through which we have been sharing with all of you the joy derived from this Anniversary.

We tried to cover the main fields of interest to the Israeli public: classical, modern and flamenco music, cinema, literature, dance, Spanish studies and Jewish heritage. The year is not yet over: I encourage you to go and admire the portrait of "St. John, the Evangelist" by El Greco, a masterpiece loaned by El Prado and exhibited at the Israel Museum.

Next month, we will open a magnificent exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of one hundred artworks by Pablo Picasso, on the theme of bullfighting. The Maestro José Mercé, arguably the best Flamenco singer alive –Cantaor, as we say- will perform at the end of the month in Jerusalem.

In the economic field, our relations are growing stronger, with active participation of many Israeli companies in the Spanish market and a growing presence of Spanish firms in Israel, often to engage in technological developments. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry recently awarded to Prof. Schejtman attests to the way your country nurtures excellence in science and technology, the very same fields in which we have decided to increase our bilateral cooperation, as it is the best collective investment we can make to ensure continued social and economic well-being.

Every year, scores of Israelis and Spaniards fly across the Mediterranean Sea to enjoy our respective cultural heritage, our landscapes and our busy cities.

Minister Sa'ar will certainly not deny that, for Israelis, there is an additional motive: watching live football matches. This year there was no World Cup, but Barcelona retained its Champions League title and Spain did the same with the European Basketball Championship.

I fervently hope that closer contact between our peoples will bring about a better understanding of our common past and of each other's perspective in the interdependent world we live in.

Before ending my words, I would like to thank our sponsors for their generous support to this event. Together with its partner Minrav, Valoriza Agua is building an important desalination plant in Ashdod. Iberia, the main Spanish airline, is steadily increasing its connections between Tel Aviv, Madrid and Barcelona.

I now have the pleasure to invite you to join Minister Sa'ar and myself in a toast to the long life and well being of our Heads of State, President Shimon Peres and King Juan Carlos of Spain, and to our mutual friendship.

The guests were very pleased with the excellent cuisine who was served at the event.