|REMEMBRANCE DAY/INDEPENDENCE DAY 1998|
|Excerpts from Speeches by the Prime Ministers of Israel|
Prime Minister: 1954-55
Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations, as a Jewish Agency representative, May 12, 1947
"The Jews … come to Palestine not to fight the Arab world, but to live at peace with it. They are not an outpost of any foreign domination. Their ambition is to integrate themselves into the modern structure of reviving Asia. They are an old Asiatic people returning to their home. At the same time, they are anxious to make their contribution to the great work of bridge-building between modern Asia and the rest of the world. Their intense experience in development within the narrow confines of Palestine is yielding results which may be of value to all who are interested in social and economic progress in the Middle East and beyond. But their true partnership with their neighbors can only be based upon equality of status and mutual respect. They claim what is the natural right of any people on the face of the earth: that as many of them as possible should live together in their own country, freely develop their civilization, make their contribution to the common stock of humanity, and be self-governing and independent. They cannot possible surrender that claim, and for its attainment they appeal for the assistance of the entire family of nations.
Prime Minister : 1948-53, 1955-63
Broadcast to the nation, May 15, 1948
"Something unique occurred yesterday in Israel, and only future generations will be able to evaluate the full historical significance of the event. It is now up to all of us, acting out of a sense of Jewish fraternity, to devote every ounce of our strength to building and defending the State of Israel, which still faces a titanic political and military struggle.
Now is not the time for boasting. Whatever we have achieved is the result of the efforts of earlier generations no less than our own. It is also the result of unwavering fidelity to our precious heritage, the heritage of a small nation that has suffered much, but at the same time has won for itself a special place in the history of mankind because of its spirit, faith and vision.
At this moment let us remember with love and appreciation the three generations of pioneers and defenders who paved their way for later achievements, the men who created Mikve Israel, Petach Tikva, Rishon Lezion, Zichron Yaakov and Rosh Pina, as well as those who recently established settlements in the Negev desert and the Galilee hills; the founders of Hashomer and the Jewish Legion, as well as the men who are now locked in fierce battle from Dan to Beer Sheva. Many of these about whom I have spoken are no longer among the living, but their memory remains forever in our hearts and in the heart of the Jewish people.
The State of Israel was established yesterday and its Provisional Government has already turned to the nations of the world, great and small, in the East and in the West, announcing its existence and its desire to cooperate with the United Nations in the interests of international peace and progress. We have received unofficial reports that several countries have recognized the State of Israel. The first official recognition came from the government of the United States of America. We hope that other nations in the East and in the West will soon follow suit. We are in contact in this matter with all members of the United Nations and with the United Nations itself.
But we should not deceive ourselves by thinking that formal diplomatic recognition will solve all our problems. We have a long thorny path ahead of us…We must never forget that our security ultimately depends on our own might.
We must prepare to receive our brethren from the far-flung corners of the Diaspora; from the camps of Cyprus, Germany and Austria, as well as from all the other lands where the message of liberation has arrived. We will receive them with open arms and help them to strike roots here in the soil of the Homeland.
The State of Israel calls on everyone to faithfully fulfill his duties in defense, construction and immigrant absorption. Only in this way can we prove ourselves worthy of the hour.
Prime Minister: 1963-69
Statement to the Knesset, June 12, 1967
"A week ago the momentous struggle opened. The existence of the State of Israel, the hope of generations and vision that has been realized in our days, hung in the balance.
Now, only a week after the last session of the Knesset, which took place to the accompaniment of the thunder of guns, we meet with the tidings of victory ringing in our ears…
…Jerusalem has been reunified. For the first time since the establishment of the State, Jews can pray at the Western Wall, the relic of our holy Temple and our historic past, and at Rachels Tomb. For the first time in our generation, Jews can pray at the Cave of the Machpela in Hebron, the city of the Patriarchs. The prophecy has been fulfilled: "There is recompense for the work, the sons have returned to their borders.
Now that victory has been won, let us bow our heads in reverent memory of the fallen. Hundreds of soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces and civilians have given their lives for this victory. I know that there can be no consolation for the loss of the individual and the bereavement of a family. Every living soul is an entire universe. Let all the bereaved families know that there can be no cause more just and vital than that for which the dead have fought. Let them know that by their deaths they bequeathed life to all of us. In the name of the entire nation, in the name of the Government and in my own, I assure them that we share in their grievous sorrow.
Our people stood the test because it was united, because at the fateful hour it was able to concentrate its efforts and act as one man.
The people stood the test. Hundreds of thousands of young people and new immigrants, in big or little tasks, each according to his age and his abilities, proved that their roots in this country are eternal. It was shown that the spirit of the people flows from the spiritual revival of the State.
We saw clearly that this is no mere ingathering of the exiles, but a new yet ancient nation, a united nation, which has been tempered in the furnace of one Israel, forged out of all our tribes and the remnants of scattered communities they, their sons and daughters. A nation has come into being which is ready for any effort or sacrifice in order to achieve its goals.
The State of Israel has stood the test because it knew that it carried the hopes of the entire Jewish people. The unity of our people has been forged anew in these days. All the Diaspora communities were keenly conscious of their solidarity with the State of Israel, the heart of the Jewish people. Thousands of our people came forward to help. Hundreds of thousands, millions, are ready to give us all the assistance in their power. Even those who are unable to offer their aid have their hearts with us in our struggle. Just as our own country has attained a higher unity, so has the unity of the Jewish people been reinforced. Jerusalem has been joined together, and in its unity, as our sages said, it has made all Israel brethren.
Israel has emerged stronger than before from the test of fire and blood. Faithful to herself and looking with confidence toward the future, with the aid of the Rock and Redeemer of Israel, this nation shall yet dwell in safety.
Prime Minister: 1969-74
Broadcast to the nation, October 6, 1973
"Citizens of Israel,
Shortly before two p.m. today, the armies of Egypt and Syria opened an offensive against Israel, launching a series of air, armored and artillery attacks in Sinai and on the Golan Heights. The Israel Defense Forces have entered the fight, and are beating back the assault. The enemy has suffered grave losses.
Our enemies had hoped to surprise the citizens of Israel on the Day of Atonement, when so many of our people are fasting and worshipping in the synagogues. The aggressors thought that on this day we would not be ready to fight back. We were not caught by surprise.
We are in no doubt that we shall prevail, but we are also convinced that this renewal of Egyptian and Syrian aggression is an act of madness. We did our best to prevent this outbreak. We appealed to quarters with political influence to use it in order to frustrate this infamous move of the Egyptian and Syrian leaders. While there was still time we informed friendly countries of the confirmed information that we had of the plans for an offensive against Israel. We called on them to do the utmost to prevent war, but the Egyptian and Syrian attack has started.
The Israel Defense Forces are ready to repel the enemys attack. Early this morning a partial call-up of reserves was approved and got under way.
Citizens of Israel,
This is not the first time that we have been compelled to endure ordeal by battle. I am confident that none among us will fall prey to panic. The mobilization will no doubt cause hardships and interference in the normal course of life and work but we must try to accept these difficulties as we have done in the past, with full understanding. We are called upon to demonstrate responsibility and discipline in our conduct. We must be ready for every burden and sacrifice needed for the defense of our survival, our freedom and our independence. Let us, then, conduct ourselves so as to be worthy of our soldiers of Israel who are valiantly doing their duty in the air, in the armored forces, on the ships, in the artillery, in all units and services in the outposts, in the villages and settlements, along the lines of fire in all sectors.
We have full confidence in the spirit and the strength of the IDF to overcome the enemy. The victory of the IDF is our certain assurance of life and peace.
Prime Minister: 1977-83
Statement upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, jointly with Egyptian President Sadat, December 10, 1978
"I have come from the land of Israel. The land of Zion and Jerusalem. And here I stand in humility and with pride as a son of the Jewish people, as one of the generation of the Holocaust and the redemption.
The ancient Jewish people gave the world the vision of eternal peace, of universal disarmament, of abolishing the teaching and learning of war. Two prophets, Yeshayahu ben Amotz and Micha Hamorashti, having foreseen the spiritual unity of man under God with His word coming forth from Jerusalem gave the nations of the world the following vision expressed in identical terms:
"And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
We mortals who believe in Divine Providence when recalling these sacred prophecies, ask ourselves not whether, but when, is this vision going to become reality. We remember the past. Even in this century alone and we know, we look around we see millions of men of all nations under arms. Intercontinental missiles deposited in the bowels of the earth or lying on the beds of the oceans can destroy man and everything he has built.
Not in Alfred Nobels time, but in our own era, has mankind become capable of destroying itself and returning the earth to tohu vavohu. Under such circumstances, should we, can we, keep our faith in an eternal peace that will one day reign over mankind? Yes. We should and we can. Perhaps that very capability of total destruction of our little planet achieved for the first time in the annals of mankind will one day, God willing, become the origin, the cause and the prime mover for the elimination of all instruments of destruction from the face of the earth and ultimate peace, prayed for and yearned for by previous generations, will become a portion of all nations, despite the tragedies and disappointments of the past. We must never forsake that vision. That human dream. That unshakable faith.
Peace is the beauty of life, it is sunshine, it is the smile of a child, the love of a mother, the joy of a father, the togetherness of a family. It is the advancement of man, the victory of a just cause, the triumph of truth. Peace is all of these and more.
And so reborn Israel always strove for peace. Yearned for it. Made endless endeavors to achieve it.
My colleagues and I have gone in the footsteps of our predecessors since the very first day we were called by our people to care for their future. We went any place. We looked for any avenue. We made any effort to bring about negotiations between Israel and its neighbors. Negotiations without which peace remains an abstract desire.
We have labored long and hard to turn it into a reality because of the blessings it holds for ourselves, for our neighbors. The world. In peace, the Middle East, the ancient cradle of civilization, will become invigorated and transformed. Throughout its lands there will be freedom of movement of people, of ideas, of goods, and cooperation and development in agriculture will make the deserts blossom. Industry will bring the promise of a better life. Sources of water will be developed and the almost year-long sunshine will yet be harnessed for the common needs of all the nations. Yes, indeed, the Middle East, standing at the crossroads of the world, will become a peaceful center of international communication between East and West, North and South a center of human advancement in every sphere of creative endeavor. This and more is what peace will bring to our region…
Prime Minister: 1983-84, 1986-92
Address at the Madrid Peace Conference,October 31, 1991
The people of Israel look to this palace with great anticipation and expectation. We pray that this meeting will mark the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the Middle East; that it will signal the end of hostility, violence, terror and war; that it will bring dialogue, accommodation, coexistence and above all peace.
For many hundreds of years, wars, antagonisms and terrible sufferings cursed this continent on which we meet. The nations of Europe saw the rise of dictators and their defeat after lengthy and painful struggles. Now, they are together former bitter enemies in a united community. They are discussing the good of the community, cooperating in all matters, acting almost in one unit. I envy them. I would like to see such a community rise in the Middle East. And I believe that, despite all differences between us, we should be able, gradually, to build a united regional community. Today it is a dream but we have seen, in our own lifetime, some of the most fantastic dreams become reality. Today, the gulf separating the two sides is still too wide; the Arab hostility to Israel too deep; the lack of trust too intense, to permit a dramatic, quick solution. But we must start on the long road to reconciliation with this first step in the peace process.
We believe that the blessing of peace can turn the Middle East into a paradise; a center of cultural, scientific, medical and technological creativity. We can foresee a period of great economic progress that would put an end to misery, hunger and illiteracy. It could put the Middle East the cradle of civilization on the road to a new era.
Let us resolve to leave this hall with a united determination that from now on, any differences we may have will be solved only by negotiations, goodwill and mutual tolerance. Let us declare, here and now, an end to war, to belligerency and to hostility. Let us march forward together, to reconciliation and peace.
Prime Minister: 1974-77, 1992-95
Address at the signing ceremony of the Declaration of Principles, September 13, 1993
"President Clinton, the president of the United States, your
excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
This signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles here today is not so easy, neither for myself as a soldier in Israels wars, nor for the people of Israel nor for the Jewish people in the Diaspora who are watching us now with great hope mixed with apprehension. It is certainly not easy for the families of the victims of the wars, violence, terror, whose pain will never heal, for the many thousands who defended our lives with their own and have even sacrificed their lives for our own. For them, this ceremony has come too late.
Today, on the eve of an opportunity for peace, and perhaps an end to violence and wars, we remember each and every one of them with everlasting love. We have come from Jerusalem, the ancient and eternal capital of the Jewish People. We have come from an anguished and grieving land. We have come from a people, a home, a family that has not known a single year, not a single month, in which mothers have not wept for their sons. We have come to try and put an end to the hostilities so that our children, and our childrens children, will no longer experience the painful cost of war, violence and terror. We have come to secure their lives and to ease the sorrow and the painful memories of the past, to hope and pray for peace.
Let me say to you, the Palestinians, we are destined to live together on the same soil in the same land. We, the soldiers who have returned from battles stained with blood; we who have seen our relatives and friends killed before our eyes; we who have attended their funerals and cannot look into the eyes of their parents; we who have come from a land where parents bury their children; we who have fought against you, the Palestinians, we say to you in a loud and clear voice, "Enough of blood and tears. Enough!
We have no desire for revenge. We harbor no hatred towards you. We, like you, are people people who want to build a home, to plant a tree, to love, live side by side with you in dignity, in affinity, as human beings, as free men. We are today giving peace a chance and saying again to you, "Enough. Let us pray that a day will come when we will all say farewell to arms. We wish to open a new chapter in the sad book of our lives together a chapter of mutual recognition, of good neighborliness, of understanding. We hope to embark on a new era in the history of the Middle East.
Today here in Washington at the White House, we will begin a new reckoning in the relations between peoples, between parents tired of war, between children who will not know war. Mr. President of the United States, ladies and gentlemen, our inner strength, our higher moral values have been derived for thousands of years from the Book of Books, in one of which, Koheleth (Ecclesiastes), we read, "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die, …a time to kill and a time to heal. …A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to love, and a time to hate, a time of war and a time of peace. Ladies and gentlemen, the time of peace has come.
Prime Minister: 1984-86, 1995-96
Address at ceremony marking the Awarding of the Gabriel Peace Prize, January 10, 1996
"Here, at Beit Gabriel, on November 10, 1994, in the presence of His Majesty King Hussein and the late Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, whose leadership we miss badly, here the Treaty of Peace between Jordan and Israel was ratified.
In order to raise our children properly, we have to bring peace to their youth. No hurdle could stand in the way of this call. No obstacle could overcome it. It was not a leap into a fiery past, but into the light of the future. Not backward to hatred, but forward to understanding. The deed was done and the seeds were planted. A dormant soil has been awakened.
We are living in a time when there is an unprecedented opportunity to make our region a good place for our people to live in. It is the Genesis. Try we must. Try we do.
Israel and Jordan enjoy a model peace a warm peace, a potential full of creation and building. Where there was enmity, there is amity. Where there was suspicion, there is cooperation. And as those morning lights get ever brighter, we, our children and our grandchildren, shall see the brown of the desert being pushed back and emerging as a fertile green. We shall see the barren rift valley we share, becoming a valley of shared happiness.
Prime Minister: 1996
Address upon the Presentation of the Government to the Knesset, January 10, 1996
"I am honored to present the new government today before the Knesset and the citizens of Israel, a government which will lead the State of Israel on a new course.
I was fortunate to be the first among Israel’s prime ministers to be born after the establishment of the state. The founding generation struggled to establish the state and build its foundation. Our generation faces other challenges.
This is a turning point in our history. During more than 2,000 years of exile, generations of Jews fought and struggled to get back the homeland we lost. Now, after the founding of the state, our main task is to secure, reestablish, and develop the homeland we got back.
The torch has been passed on to us, by the generation born with the founding of the state in 1948 and in the 1950s, the generation which broke the siege of the Six-Day War and repulsed the joint assault of the Yom Kippur War. We have the responsibility to carry the age-old hope of generations into the next century. We have the privilege to turn the dream into reality.
From this podium I address the leaders of all Arab countries with a call for peace. I call especially on our immediate neighbors, Syrian President Hafez Assad, Lebanese President Elias Hrawi, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, and all other Arab leaders.
Come, let us conduct direct negotiations for peace, negotiations without pre-conditions which will advance the Middle East to an era of stability and prosperity.