Speech by Prime Minister Barak at the Signing of the Sharm e-Sheikh Memorandum

September 4, 1999

President Mubarak, His Majesty King Abdullah, Chairman Arafat, Secretary Albright, ladies and gentlemen,

Today we embark on a new road, which will hopefully lead us within five months to a major milestone, a framework agreement for permanent status. Today we are paving the way to the end of a century of conflict between us and the Palestinians. Reaching within a year the permanent status agreement, which resolves all outstanding issues, is bound to present us with numerous problems and obstacles and crises. But together, as partners, with trust, goodwill, consultation and above all determined leadership, we will prevail and achieve peace, security and prosperity for our peoples.

Tonight I wish to pay tribute to the memory of my mentor and friend, the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, whose legacy of peace and security will continue to guide us throughout the peace process.

I have said all along that my government is committed to the full implementation of the Wye River Memorandum. The logic for today’s accord is rooted in our desire to implement Wye in such a way that enhances the prospects of arriving at the permanent status talks with a minimum of pitfalls and landmines along the road. This is a common Palestinian-Israeli interest. Indeed, I believe that this accord facilitates a smooth transition from the Wye River Memorandum to permanent status negotiations.

I am committed to the security of Israel and will do my utmost to enhance it. I also want every Palestinian to feel secure and prosperous. Thus, we must prevent terrorism from derailing our peace efforts and fight it with all our might. The process of peace does not tolerate threats of violence and any kind of acts of terrorism.

I wish to say to our Palestinian neighbors: The bitter conflict between us has brought great suffering to both our peoples. I am not only aware of the suffering of my people, but also of that of the Palestinians. There is no sense in settling accounts over past mistakes, as we cannot change the past. But we do have an historic opportunity to shape a better future for our children and grandchildren, and for generations to come. My desire is to bring an end to violence and suffering and to work with the Palestinian leadership under Chairman Yasser Arafat, in partnership, respect, and in a forward-looking manner, in order to jointly arrive at a fair settlement for co-existence in peace, prosperity, and good neighborliness in this beloved land where our two peoples will always live.

We wish to resume the peace process with Syria and Lebanon as well. From here I call upon President Assad to put aside all past disagreements and together find the appropriate way to resume peace negotiations. Peace between Syria and Israel is an especially important element of the needs of both sides. We intend to pursue the peace process on all tracks. All are equally important and vital in order to arrive at a comprehensive and stable peace in the Middle East.

The accord we sign today is the result of the major common effort of both Israel and the Palestinians. Chairman Arafat has proven to be a leader determined to protect the rights of his people, but at the same time committed to the constant search for peace. Both Chairman Arafat and the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin laid the foundation for the peace of the brave.

We would like this evening to thank all those who have contributed and will continue to contribute to the success of the process, particularly President Clinton, a great leader of the United States of America, and Secretary Albright; our host, President Mubarak; and King Abdullah. We attach great importance to the support given under the leadership of President Mubarak to the resumption of the peace process.

Mr. President, Your Majesty, Mr. Chairman, Madame Secretary, we are at the threshold of the 21st century and the new millennium. The people of the Middle East are ready for the dawn of a new era. I believe in a vision of peace and security, which ensures the needs of all parties and is achieved through dialogue, mutual respect, and good neighborliness. I believe that it is our duty, leaders of all parties, to pave the way and lead our peoples to the common destination of peace, security, and prosperity, without deviating from this clear goal. We must rise to the occasion, and for the sake of our fathers and mothers, children and grandchildren, turn the vision of a comprehensive peace into a lasting reality.