Israeli PM Olmert met with Egyptian President Mubarak, Jordanian King Abdullah II, and PA President Abbas.

 Statement by PM Ehud Olmert at the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit


Israeli PM Ehud Olmert and PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Sharm el-Sheikh (Photo: GPO)

[Translated from Hebrew]

President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Mohammad Hosni Mubarak,
King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Abdullah II, Son of Hussein,
President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas,
Distinguished Members of the Delegations,

I wish to thank my friends, the President of Egypt and the King of Jordan, for their initiative in holding this meeting, which is likely to provide us with the push we need to advance the political process between Israel and the Palestinians and between Israel and other countries in the Middle East. This summit can move the region towards a better future and create hope for the peoples of the region, hope which they deserve, hope for which they yearn.

I believe that the conditions are ripe for this. I intend to exhaust every avenue, together with you, so that we do not disappoint this hope, and transform it into reality. I am naturally optimistic, and it is precisely during these stormy past few days that I see a chance as well. An opportunity has been created to advance seriously the political process in the region, and I do not intend to let this opportunity pass.

The new government in the Palestinian Authority, which recognizes Israel’s right to exist and a solution of two states for two peoples, which is ready to implement the agreements signed, one which eschews terror and violence as a means and a goal, and a government which has no members of terrorist organizations, is a government which we recognize. We will work together to implement the Roadmap and advance the goals set out therein.

Today I met with the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and informed him that we will work with the new government and maintain continuous ties with it. We will continuously pass on the tax monies which we collect; we will renew the security and economic cooperation between us; we will improve the freedom of movement of the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria in a significant manner; we will renew and expand trade relations between us in Judea and Samaria, which will lead to economic well-being. The residents of Judea and Samaria will feel that the choice of a path which is not terror and violence, but rather a path of dialogue and peace opens up new political possibilities and leads to a better life, one which is more comfortable and tranquil.

I acceded to the request of Mahmoud Abbas to continue humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian population living in the Gaza Strip. We will continue to provide this population with electricity, water, medical services, food and medications, in order to prevent a humanitarian crisis.

We have no interest in punishing this population simply because it is ruled by a terrorist organization and extremist forces interested in destruction and ruin. We cannot and we will not cooperate with these forces, who wish to lead the region into ruin and prevent the moderate Palestinian people from realizing its aspirations.

We agreed to meet at least once every two weeks, in order to advance all the issues on our shared agenda, both in the short- and long-term, in order to create the necessary political horizon and the appropriate conditions which will lead, as soon as possible, to discussions on the establishment of a Palestinian state, which will live beside us in peace and security. I have no intention of delaying this; on the contrary, I will make every effort to expedite the process which will lead us to negotiations on the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel.

I wish to use this opportunity, presented to me by the honorable President of Egypt and his Majesty the King of the Hashemite Kingdom, to appeal to the Palestinian people and say: I am aware of the difficult period you are facing, the arduous days, the hardships, the pains and challenges facing your leadership.

Our peoples know suffering and pain from the conflicts and wars which we had between us. In Israel, there are many families who lost their loved ones. I personally know many of them. The scenes are difficult, the stories are heartrending, the suffering is immense, almost endless. On the Palestinian side, there are many families who lost their loved ones, who lost their property and homes, and became refugees. Their suffering is profound as well; their pain and memories are infinite. We know that among the Palestinians, as with us, suffering is an inseparable part of our daily existence. We are not indifferent to their pain, we do not ignore the need to end it, through mutual understanding, compromise and reconciliation.

As Prime Minister of Israel, I tell you that we have no desire to rule over you, we do not presume to run your lives, we have no intention of deciding for you. I believe that the day is coming when you can live in your own state, alongside the State of Israel.

As Prime Minister of Israel, my supreme duty is to do everything in order to provide my people with the full security it deserves; to ensure that our children can go to school without fearing for their lives; to ensure that our children can sleep without fearing that they will wake up in terror due to a missile explosion; to ensure that our children can go to shopping and entertainment centers and not fear a suicide bomber, who decides to sacrifice them as victims due to his extremist beliefs. It is our right to live in security; it is our right to live without terror and violence.  It is the duty of every Prime Minister to ensure this for his people.

I take this opportunity to reiterate that we will not cease our efforts for the release of the soldiers Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who were kidnapped by extremists one year ago.  We are acting to secure their release, and I will spare no effort in returning them home. I view this as a supreme value.

I appeal to the families of the Palestinian prisoners and say: I know how close this issue is to your hearts, how important it is to you. I understand how much you miss your loved ones. We do too. As important as it is for your sons to return home, so too is it as important for us. We will not stop or curtail our efforts until we bring them back to us.

Terrorist organizations which hold our solders act in a cruel and inhuman manner. Again and again they try to pressure the soldiers’ families and the Israeli public through media manipulation and emotional blackmail, an additional example of which we say today. This is unacceptable.

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, more than once made a commitment to me that he will act to secure the release of Gilad Shalit from the extremists who are holding him.  I believe that his intentions in this matter are sincere, but he himself faces a wall of silence and cruelty by the Hamas and terrorist organizations. As a gesture of good will towards, and given the importance of the prisoner issue I decided today to present to the Israeli government at its upcoming meeting and a proposal to release approximately 250 prisoners who are members of Fatah, who do not have blood on their hands, with their commitment not to involve themselves again in terror. I do this because it is important to me that all Palestinians know that those who are ready to maintain relations of peace and reconciliation with us will receive a hand extended in reconciliation and acceptance.

I know that this too is your dream, Mahmoud Abbas, and I consider you as a true partner on this path. Only if we work together can we realize this dream. 

I appeal directly to those leaders of the Arab states, with whom we do not have official relations, and hope they listen and take our words to heart. Your peace initiative, the Arab initiative, is important to us. We cannot ignore your sincere calls for full normalization with Israel. Let us speak of this. This is the time for you to join the movement towards peace and not to oppose it, not say, “later”. There is no reason to wait.

Give our people, Israelis and Palestinians, your support, assistance and backup. They need this.

It is not easy. Each and every one of you has internal public opinion to deal with, the criticism expected at home if you take only one step which is not routine.

My colleague, Mahmoud Abbas, will hear this criticism upon his return to Ramallah. My political rivals will not spare me from their criticism upon my return to Jerusalem. I presume that you, President Mubarak and King Abdullah, expect difficult days in your capitals. They will ask us all, why? What for? Our answer will be: for our peoples, for our hope, for peace. This should be the answer of all the leaders of our neighboring countries.

This is the time to demonstrate leadership; this is the time to lead your public opinion and not fear it; this is the time to join the process at its inception. I appeal to all leaders, do not wait for developments – help shape them. Do not let this opportunity pass; take advantage of it.

We have similar goals. The common denominator between us is greater than it perhaps seems. We have many common enemies: extremists – terror – poverty – ignorance – disease. If we fight all these illnesses together, we will overcome them and ensure a better life for our peoples.

We must prevent extremists from dictating our agendas to us. The moderate voice, the rational voice, the voice which yearns for peace, must be heard today, and become the dominant voice, the leading voice.

At the funeral for the late Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, the late King Hussein said: “Let us raise our voices and not be silent. We will speak of our commitment to peace forever. And let us say to those who live in darkness, to the enemies of the light and faith and religion: here we stand, this is our camp, the peace camp.”

At the same time, you, President Mubarak, said: “We must double our efforts and strengthen our commitment to achieving the sacred mission – a just and sustainable peace. We must prevent treacherous hands, hostile to our goals, from reaping the fruits of their villainous acts.”

My colleague, President of the Palestinian Authority,

Our greatest desire was and is achieving peace with you. I believe that you too, and the majority of your people, share this goal, and are ready to be true partners in order to realize this. Together, we can transform this piece of land, which is so precious to us and so precious to you, from a focus of fighting and division into one of peace and neighborliness, for the generations to come.

Thank you.