Today an announcement was published simultaneously in Jerusalem, Damascus and Ankara regarding the initiation of peace negotiations between Israel and Syria, under the sponsorship of Turkey.

I came here this evening to present you with my ideas and those of the Government, in the field which is perhaps closest to my heart – education. However, before that I would like to dedicate a few words to the political developments of the past several weeks which, like the topic of education, shape the ability to ensure our future and security here in the State of Israel.

Today, as you know, an announcement was published simultaneously in Jerusalem, Damascus and Ankara regarding the initiation of peace negotiations between Israel and Syria, under the sponsorship of Turkey. The announcement this morning constitutes the end of a phase in a process which has lasted over a year, during which we sought to establish a track which would allow for the existence of peace talks with Syria. To my pleasure, the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan met the challenge of mediating between the parties, and after long months of talks and contacts, the announcement was made this morning about preliminary talks.

The renewal of negotiations with Syria, after eight years of stagnation, is certainly an exciting topic, but beyond this it is a national obligation which must be exhausted. Three prime ministers before me also reached this same conclusion: the late Yitzhak Rabin, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, who, each in their own turn, invested efforts in this channel and were even prepared to make painful and far-reaching concessions to achieve peace with Syria. The years which have passed since the negotiations were frozen did not improve the security situation on our northern border, which still serves as our primary source of concern for regional deterioration.  In such a situation, it is always better to talk than to shoot, and I am pleased that both sides decided to do so.

I have no illusions: negotiations will not be easy, it will not be simple and it is possible that it will take a long time and may eventually involve difficult concessions. At the same time, after weighing all the relevant data and hearing the opinions of all Israel’s security and intelligence bodies, I reached the conclusion that the chances in this case outweighed the risks, and with this hope, today we embark on this path.

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Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni (May 22): "Israel has always aspired to peace with its neighbors, but the Syrians must understand that this involves their complete renunciation of support for terror in Hamas, Hizbullah and Iran."