PM Sharon to Knesset: "Israel wants peace"

Jerusalem, October 24, 2001

Following are excerpts from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s speech today (Wednesday), 24.10.2001, to the special Knesset session marking the end of the week of mourning for the late Minister Rechavam Ze’evy, who was assassinated last week by Palestinian terrorists affiliated with the PFLP:

"Members of Knesset, just over one year ago, the Palestinians began a campaign of violence in the midst of peace talks on a permanent settlement – true, not with our government, but with a government in Jerusalem. They thought that they could defeat Israel by terror and violence. They assumed that they would – by violent means – succeed in achieving further concessions from the same government – whose intentions certainly stemmed from its beliefs – that had discussed and offered unprecedented concessions. They assumed that they would succeed in isolating Israel in the international arena and thus maneuver it into an agreement the principles of which stood in complete contradiction to Israel’s national interests. They believed that they would succeed in causing Israeli society and its quality of life to crumble. They interpreted Israeli democracy and the multiplicity of opinions in Israel as weaknesses.

Mr. Speaker, my friends and Members of Knesset, they were wrong. After a year, they have yet to achieve anything. While the Israeli people want peace, they are united in their opposition to concessions to terrorism. A national unity government has been established in Israel that will not negotiate under fire. The attempts to isolate Israel in the international arena have failed. Moves at the UN Security Council have hitherto been foiled; I hope that this will also be the case in the future. Our security forces have registered exceptional successes in the war against terrorism. Our deep friendship with the US is strong and enduring despite – and I say this with pain – revelations of disrespectful localized panic. Ours is a true friendship and partnership even if we don’t always agree on everything. This is exactly the strength of true friendship.

I said that the Palestinians have not achieved anything. This is not surprising. Whatever the Arabs have achieved, they have done so through negotiations. By resorting to violence, they have only brought tragedy on themselves. Even today, we still hope for, and desire, peace. But today it is clear what are the necessary conditions for establishing a true peace process. First, all Palestinian terrorist organizations must be disarmed. Unless the infrastructure for terrorism is dismantled, unless the terror option is gotten rid of, there can be no genuine progress toward peace because we will not compromise with terror. I am not talking about declarations and promises; we have had enough of those. Not declarations, but action. Not words, but facts.

The Jews are a people of believers and perhaps this is good but let us remember that we are facing brutal, treacherous and determined terrorism. I have said from this dais that I am prepared for painful concessions on behalf of a true peace, a peace for generations, but true peace cannot exist in the shadow of terror, burning hatred, relentless incitement and the aspiration to annihilate Israel.

Members of Knesset, Israel is committed to peace and wants peace. Israel is interested in returning to the diplomatic negotiating table and has stated its acceptance of the Mitchell plan. This is our position. No one can preach peace at the Jewish people. We are committed to peace because we have seen the full horrors of war. The purpose of the IDF actions in Judea and Samaria in recent days is to prevent terrorism and arrest terrorists. Arafat is not making arrests – so we are. Many important arrests were made overnight, which will certainly affect the terrorist organizations’ ability to continue attacking us. Arafat is not preventing terrorism – so we are.

Israel’s supreme obligation, as in any state, is to protect its citizens, and Israel will continue to exercise its right to self-defense. We have clarified our position – not in the wake of the various reports that circulated here, not in the wake of publications, remarks or conversations that were held yesterday, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Foreign Minister Shimon Peres for his aggressive stand on the issue of the necessity of stopping terrorism. We shall continue to act until we accomplish our goals. We have clarified that we have no intention of remaining in "A" areas, and when we conclude our mission, we shall withdraw. If we should need to exercise our right to self-defense in the future, we shall not hesitate to act. We have clarified that Israel will do all it can in order to prevent an escalation.

(…)

It is impossible to present a diplomatic plan at this point. We’ve already tried to. The moment the plan is presented it becomes the starting point in future negotiations. The military plan should also not be discussed. There is a plan and it is being successfully implemented.

Honorable Knesset, the situation Israel is grappling with is neither simple nor easy. It requires endurance, patience, determination and perseverance;, it requires mobilization of the will power of our nation. There are no magic solutions, no easy solutions. We will pay a heavy price if we are tempted to surrender to terrorism. The government that I lead will not be so tempted and will not surrender to terrorism. On the other hand, we should not forget that at the end of this confrontation, there will still be two peoples here who are destined to live together in the space of this small country, and it is possible to live together.

We, the elected representatives, need to strengthen the endurance of the public more than perhaps in any other situation. We must set an example in our unity.