Remarks by Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon at the Press Club

Paris, January 15, 1999

These days, almost everybody here in France and in Israel talks and is concerned about a Palestinian state; Palestinian rights and Palestinian peace.

I came here today, first and foremost as a Jew, to talk to you about my main concern: Jewish survival and the security of the Jewish state in the land of Israel.

Peace, I want you to know, is most important for us, and everyone in Israel wants peace. But without security for the Jews in their one and only ancient homeland – it is meaningless and will never materialize.

We are living through difficult times, in which critical decisions for the future of Israel have to be taken.

As the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel, it is my duty to deal with the existential issues facing the Jewish state. The Government of Israel and myself share a heavy responsibility for the life and security of Jews in Israel and elsewhere in the world.

I am talking about the basic issue of ensuring the security of Israel against Palestinian or other Arab terror, strengthening Israel’s security and maintaining defense capabilities to meet other threats in the region – all for the purpose of achieving durable peace with security not just today, but for our future generations as well.

Therefore negotiations and agreements with the Palestinians or with anyone else can be realized only if it contributes to strengthening the Jewish state in the land of Israel.

I want to make it very clear, and I made this point to Mr. Vedrine, France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, in our meeting yesterday: If the Palestinians wish to reach an agreement with us and move towards real peace, they must take into account our security requirements and fully comply with all the obligations and agreements they signed. Furthermore, if they are sincere, we can move ahead immediately. Today the Palestinians are just wasting time for nothing.

Israel is committed to the Oslo accords and Wye River memorandum as well as the peace process with our other neighbors. But unlike the previous government, the government headed by Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu insists and is determined that the Palestinians fulfill all the obligations they took upon themselves based on the overriding principle of reciprocity.

If they will comply we will apply the redeployment. They comply – we apply (the redeployment). They fail to comply – we do not apply the next phase – it is as simple as that.

We do not need to prove to anyone our desire for peace. Israel as small a country as it is – is the only country that has given up voluntarily territory which is part of its historical homeland – the cradle of the Jewish nation – for the sake of peace.

Second, we have already implemented the first phase of the three-stage withdrawal of the Wye agreement.

Finally, due to its determination and commitment to implement the Wye agreement, the Israeli government lost its majority coalition and had to call for early elections.

As of today, Israel took risks and has already paid a heavy price for its commitment to peace. But one thing our government will not do: we will not continue to pay in blood and casualties the price of peace, and no outside pressure or threat of sanctions will change this just position.

Following repeated questions from the press here with regard to what I said about a Palestinian state, I wish to clarify what I said and what I meant.

The concept I used to describe the future Palestinian entity is limited sovereignty. This entity, which will be more than what they have today but less than a full state, can only be reached through negotiations and an agreement with Israel, and never by a unilateral act or declaration.

This entity will be limited in terms of types and amounts of weapons it will be allowed to possess; Israel will maintain control of the borders and ports of entry and departures; military agreements and defense treaties that threaten Israel will not be allowed; free flying zones for Israeli aircraft over that entity will have to be maintained as well as other specific measures – all of which are intended to limit and curb the danger and threats such an entity may pose in the future for the State of Israel. Even if relations are normalized in the future Israel will have to monitor the development of such an entity and ensure that its security interests in the long-run are not hampered or compromised in any way.

Israel has high hopes and dreams for peace growth and development. But it also faces challenges and threats.

I am fully convinced that if we stand firmly today on our security requirements we will be able to reach lasting peace with the Palestinians and our other neighbors, as well as the fulfillment of the dreams of the Jewish people today, and those of our future generations.

Thank you.