Speech by Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Dinner Hosted By President Clinton

Washington, D.C.
July 18, 1999

President Clinton,
Mrs. Clinton,
Vice President Gore, Senators and Members of the House,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

First, for myself, for Nava, for all the people of Israel, let me say that we share America’s sorrow tonight.

The little boy who sustained your nation and the world in a moment of grief, is lost at the high noon of his own promise, with his wife and her sister.

The family that has given us all so much has suffered another loss that can hardly be borne.

Now we offer their families our prayers – and in their spirit, we continue to ask "what we can do for our countries" and for the cause of peace.

There are poets who have never known the smell of gunpowder, who have written epics about war.

There are authors who have never heard the sound of cannon fire, who have written books on war.

I have never written a poem or a book.

But, I was there in combat, on the firing lines, in the fight against terrorism, and I can tell you that there have never been words or images that truly convey the horrors of the battlefield.

Only those who have survived it can understand.

In that spirit, I have been sent here tonight by thousands of Israeli soldiers who have given their lives; by tens of thousands who have served valiantly and continue to contribute to their nation; and by hundreds of thousands of children who have yet to serve.

They are all prepared to defend their country to the last drop of their blood, but they do not want another war.

In the words of the ancient prophet Zachariah:
"Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit."

As Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, I pray that the time will never come when I have to give the order to go to war.

Until the end of my days, I will remember the most agonizing times: they were neither the moments under fire, nor even when we gathered our dead.

My hardest moments were at the door of a fallen soldier’s family, on the day he was lost. It is the memory of those moments which I carry with me here this evening.

Mr. President,

We stand today on the eve of what can be a new era of secure and lasting peace in the Middle East.

History will record that few have worked more tirelessly or more effectively than the President of the United States to prevent the breakdown of the peace process – to give hope and help for all the peoples of our region to take up this historic opportunity.

You are really a great friend – "haver"!

We have a profound trust in your resolve and your leadership – so powerfully demonstrated again this year in Kosovo.

Somehow I believe the extraordinary victory there has been underestimated. It was a defining moment in the new world we are entering – proof that the free world will stand against the violation of fundamental values in our own backyard; a signal to tyrants that if they cross the line, the free world, led by the United States, can and will respond.

The victory would not have been achieved without President Clinton, who stood firm against pressure, uncertainty, and doubt along the way.

I have spent much of my adult life fighting – and I say to you that this was a top-notch example of leadership.

In our renewed pursuit of peace in the Middle East, we need the same qualities.

There will be obstacles.
There will be crises.
But there will also be good times.

I can assure you, on behalf of the people of Israel, that we will overcome the obstacles and endure the pain – knowing that America stands by us.

In that spirit, we now follow the road of Menachem Begin and of my beloved commander and mentor Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated while fighting for peace.

And we will follow in their footsteps all the way to a "peace of the brave" in the Middle East.

Mr. President, you are our partner, our fellow pilgrim on this journey. We know that we can count on you and the American people as we cross a great historic divide and extend a hand of friendship to our neighbors.

Mr. President,

In the name of the soldiers – past, present and future,
In the name of the mothers and children of the Middle East,
In the name of the orphans and those who, thanks to you, will enjoy a full and secure family life, and on behalf of all Israelis –

I propose a toast to you and to Mrs. Clinton, for your warm hospitality this evening;

To you, for your singular role as the world’s peacemaker of the 1990’s;

To the deep and enduring friendship between the United States and Israel;

To the prosperity of the United States of America;

To the wellbeing and strength of the State of Israel;

And most of all, to President Kennedy’s dream so brilliantly advanced by President Clinton, of a world "where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved."

And allow me to end in the words of our old prayer:

"May the Maker of peace in the heavens, make peace upon us, and on all of Israel, and let us say ‘amen’."

And please allow me now to raise a toast to President Clinton, to the United States of America, to the State of Israel. L’chaim.