July 10, 2000
Israeli citizens, we face crucial decisions in the days ahead.
Just over a year ago, the Israeli people elected this government by a sweeping majority, and provided it with a mandate to lead the country – not in order to maintain the existing situation, but in order to change the situation at its very roots – to ensure a more secure future for Israel, and to provide hope for our children. We fulfilled our promise to end the 18-year tragedy and to bring our sons home from Lebanon; … and we will act in a similar way, leaving no stone unturned, in an effort to end the bloody 100-year conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. We will act with determination, courage and resourcefulness, while insisting on separation from the Palestinians, and upholding our assurances on these critical "red lines":
In the elections, the Israeli people provided us with a clear and decisive mandate to lead the country, to identify problems and resolve them, and to identify challenges and confront them from positions of strength and with self-confidence. In our history, there have been governments which have preserved the existing situation and there have been governments which changed the very roots of the situation, and promised a better future for all our children. Thus did the Provisional State Council act, under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion, when it established the state, in spite of the fierce internal opposition. Thus did the Begin government act when it broke through the circle of enmity surrounding Israel and made peace, despite the strong opposition of the right wing. The Rabin government took this path, when it paved the way towards [reconciliation with] our Palestinian neighbors, in spite of the bloody incitement in the streets, and this is the approach of the present government under my leadership.
The great leaders of Israel set out from here, from united Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel, in order to meet with the great and important leaders and to make the crucial decisions of Israel’s history. Today, I wish to depart from Jerusalem for Camp David, in order to complete the peace-making mission begun by the late Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin.
I will not be traveling alone. I will be joined by two million voters who entrusted us again with leading the country. I will be joined by the Israeli public and by citizens who are open to change, and who seek peace, hope and a strong and modern Israel built upon the foundations of security and peace – a state which will put an end to thirty years of coping with the burdens of ruling over another people, enabling its citizens instead to focus their energies and talents on domestic needs, on the Galilee and the Negev, on the elimination of social deprivation and inequality, on education and hi-tech, on science, the technological revolution, the 21st century and the future of all our children.
I am joined by millions of youngsters, adults, immigrants and veterans who wish to give peace a chance, and are asking the prime minister to do everything possible in order to try and end the cycle of bloodshed, and to bring peace, while maintaining our red lines.
I feel the acute pain but also the hope of Yitzhak Frankental, whose son Arik was killed in a Palestinian terrorist attack; the pain and hope of Smadar Haran who lost Yael, Einat and Danny in a cold blooded terrorist act, and of Yehezkel Cohen whose son Noam was killed in a terrorist attack. I feel the pain and the hope of thousands of anxious bereaved families. In my heart, I also feel the hurt of the pioneering Israeli settlers in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. I fully understand the depth of sincerity and anguish in their cries .
I have been a soldier for over 35 years. In fighting for peace, just as in war, even when it is painful and difficult, I will not take my eye off the target; I will keep my hand steady on the helm and the compass. Therefore, I can tell you that there is no basis to the bleak prophecies of extremists who wish to scare us away from reaching a peace agreement. These are the same prophets who warned us about the duplicity of Sadat when he visited Jerusalem, and of the Katyushas falling on Kfar Saba following the signing of the Oslo Agreement. These are the same prophets who would not dare to withdraw from Lebanon. It is these prophets who are unwilling to make the effort required to end the cycle of bloodshed. We are prepared to make the effort.
My head echoes with the recognition which the late Menachem Begin carried with him when embarking on his mission for peace: "The difficulties of peace are certainly preferable to the pain of war. War destroys life, ruins dreams and sows bereavement and loss."
I am embarking on my journey in order to try and return with an agreement that will strengthen Israel – an agreement that will be presented to the people for their approval, as it was the people who sent me and provided me with the mandate.
Mr. Speaker, distinguished Members of Knesset, I am saying to the citizens of Israel that peace is not simply a matter of ceding parts of the land that we love. Rather, it is the key to a profound change in our entire lifestyle. Peace will bring about real change in the lives of each and every one of us.
Peace will bring foreign investment, the continuation of economic growth, higher employment and more jobs. It will lead to greater funding for education, health and infrastructures. Peace will reduce social inequalities and deprivation, and will provide equal opportunities for all, including those who have fallen behind.
I wish to tell the Palestinians that Israel’s military strength was established in order to defend ourselves and to enable us to achieve peace. We cannot be threatened on the battlefield. We will not be defeated in war. Israel is the strongest military power in the region. We will continue to preserve Israel’s military strength in the future in order to consolidate the stability of peace and to deter the opponents of peace who believe that they can hurt us. This military power, backed by a profound sense of moral justice, will bolster peace and ensure that it is preserved.
I am saying to the world: Israel is pursuing peace because it is strong, and because it possesses self-confidence. Israel is pursuing peace because it seeks a future that is more secure, and it seeks new hope for its children…
In the name of you all, citizens of Israel, parents and children, the people of Israel, I depart today from Jerusalem, our eternal capital, in order to carry Israel forward. I will exhaust every opportunity to bring peace and security, carrying in my heart the prayer of peace of the Jewish people since time immemorial: "Bestow peace, goodness and blessing, life, favor, kindness and mercy upon us and upon all Israel Your people." The prayer ends:" Blessed art Thou, Almighty God, who blesses His people Israel with peace."
I will conclude with the words of the Psalmist: "The Almighty will grant His people strength; the Almighty will bless His people with peace."
|Statement by PM Barak prior to Departure for the Camp David Summit – July 10, 2000|
|The Camp David Summit – July 2000|