Jerusalem, 21 September 1993


Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Honored Knesset,

The Government has today placed before the Knesset the Declaration of Principles on interim self-government arrangements for the Palestinians in the territories, the letters exchanged between Israel and the PLO, and the agenda for negotiations between Israel and Jordan. All the relevant documents have been placed before the members of the House, and there are no other secret agreements. Everything is open and on the table. The Government seeks the approval of the Knesset, and will view the Knesset decision as an expression of confidence in the Government and its decisions.

Honored Knesset,

In three days, every Jew, in every place, will wrap himself in the sanctity of Yom Kippur, the day of national and personal soul-searching. (…)

On the eve of Yom Kippur 5754, the Government of Israel is offering the Jewish people a chance for peace and perhaps for an end to wars, violence and terrorism. (…)

Honored Knesset,

The 1973 Yom Kippur War taught us, and also in a different way our enemies, the limits of military force, as well as the possibilities embodied in a political solution.

Since signing the separation of forces agreements with Egypt and Syria, since signing of interim arrangement with Egypt, since evacuating IDF forces from Egyptian territory and from the heart of Syria, we have known and still know today long years of peace, quiet and harmony on these two fronts of fire and war.

Thanks to the determination and initiative of the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin, in which President Weizman who is here today was a full partner, the Israeli Government signed a first peace treaty of unparalleled importance with Egypt; and, for almost 20 years, the people of the Golan Heights have enjoyed the quiet and security that prevails on the common border between Israel and Syria.

Mr. Speaker, Honored Knesset,

For over 100 years, we have sought to build ourselves a home on earth, in the only place that was, is, and will be our home, here in the Land of Israel. For over 100 years, we have sought to live here in peace and tranquility, to plant a tree, to pave a way. For over 100 years, we have sought to live as good neighbors with those around us without fear . For over 100 years, we have dreamt and fought.

In 100 years of settlement, this land has known great suffering and bloodshed. We, who returned home after 2,000 years of exile, after the Holocaust that sent the best of the Jewish people to the ovens; we who searched for calm after the storm, a place to rest our heads we extended a hand to our neighbors, and it was rejected time after time. Yet our souls did not tire of seeking peace.

Our lives in this tormented land have been accompanied by rocket fire, mines, and hand grenades. We planted, and they uprooted; we built, and they destroyed; we defended, and they attacked. Almost daily, we buried our dead. 100 years of war and terror hurt us but did not impair our dream. For 100 years, we have dreamed of peace.

Honored Knesset,

This Government, which entered into office over one year ago, has decided to try and put an end to the cycle of wars and terrorism, to try to build a new world for the country, the home and the family which have not known a single year or a single month when mothers have not wept for their sons. This Government has decided to try to put an end to hatred, in order that our children and grandchildren will not experience the painful price of wars, terrorism and violence. This Government has decided to safeguard their lives and security, to ease the sorrow and the painful memories, to pray and hope for peace.

Over one year ago, on the day the Government was presented to the Knesset, we said: ‘This Government is determined to expend all the energy, to take any path, to do everything necessary, possible, and more, for the sake of national and personal security, to achieve peace and prevent war.’

We said then: ‘We know very well that obstacles will stand in our path. Crises will erupt. There will be disappointments, tears, and pain. But after it all, once we will have traveled this road, we shall have a strong state, a good state, a state in which we will be proud to be citizens and partners in the great effort.’

We said then: ‘The new Government is united in the sense permeating the people of Israel that this is a propitious hour, a time of great possibilities and opportunities that we shall do our utmost not to lose or squander.’

We said then: ‘It is our duty, to ourselves and to our children, to see the new world as it is now to discern its dangers, to explore its prospects, and to do everything so that the State of Israel will fit into this world whose face is changing. We must overcome the sense of isolation that has held us in its thrall for almost half a century. We must join the international movement toward peace, reconciliation, and cooperation that is sweeping the entire globe lest we be the last ones to remain, all alone, in the station.’

We said then: ‘The new Government has made it a prime goal to promote the making of peace and take vigorous steps that will lead to the conclusion of the Arab-Israeli conflict. We shall do so based on the recognition by the Arab countries, and the Palestinians, that Israel is a sovereign state with a right to live in peace and security. We believe wholeheartedly that peace is possible, that it is imperative, and that it will come.’

We then said the following: ‘The Government will propose to the Arab states and the Palestinians to continue the peace talks based upon the framework forged at the Madrid Conference. As a first step toward to a permanent solution, we shall discuss the institution of autonomy in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza District. We do not intend to lose precious time. Within a short time we shall renew the talks, in order to diminish the flame of enmity between the Palestinians and the State of Israel.’

Upon the presentation of the Government, we also said: ‘It is only natural that the holding of talks on this subject arouses concern among those who have chosen to settle in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza District. I hereby inform you that the Government, by means of the IDF and the other security forces, will be responsible for the security and welfare of the residents of Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza District.’

On Jerusalem, we said: ‘This Government, like all of its predecessors, believes there is no disagreement in this House concerning Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel. United Jerusalem will not be open to negotiation. It has been and will forever be the capital of the Jewish people, under Israeli sovereignty, a focus of the dreams and longings of every Jew.’

Members of the Knesset,

Fourteen months ago, we submitted a promissory note to the Members of Knesset, to the electorate and to the Jewish people: We promised to try and bring peace to Israel. In the time that has passed since then, we have not closed any door, we have not missed any opportunity, we have sought every crack and hint. We have not lost any chance to achieve peace or interim arrangements that will allow both peoples in this country to live normal lives.

We conducted negotiations with Syrian, Lebanese, Jordanian and Palestinian delegations. During the course of the negotiations [with the Palestinians] in fact from the very outset it became clear that the one and only address for the delegation’s decisions was PLO headquarters in Tunis. We could have buried our heads in the sand, we could have lied to ourselves, we could have deceived ourselves and said that Faisal Husseini, Hanan Ashrawi and the others represent the residents of the territories, and that we did not know or want to know who stands behind them.

We decided not to do so. We are well aware of who stands behind them, as do the Israel people. We have no interest or desire to deny it: This is a terrorist organization that has known no mercy; an organization that sent those who murdered the children in Avivim and in Ma’alot; those who shot the guests at the Savoy Hotel in Tel Aviv; those who killed innocent people in the bus attack on the coastal road; those responsible for hundreds of acts of terror, sabotage and murder. The hands of this organization have shed the blood of hundreds who are dear to us: the blood of Smadar Haran’s family in Nahariya; the blood of Ofra and Tal, members of Abie Moses’s family in Alfei-Menashe; the blood of innocent people whose only crime was that they were Jews.

Members of the Knesset,

We cannot choose our neighbors, or our enemies, not even the cruelest among them. We only have what there is. The PLO fought against us, and we fought against them with them, we are today seeking a path to peace.

We can lock every door, thwart every attempt at peace. We have the moral right not to sit at the negotiation table with the PLO, not to shake the hands of those who held knives, not to shake the hand that pulled the trigger. We had the power to reject, with revulsion, the PLO proposals and to then be unwilling partners to the continuing cycle with which we have been forced to live until now: war, terrorism and violence.

However, we have chosen another course, one which offers a chance, which offers hope. We have decided to recognize the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people for negotiations within the framework of the peace talks.

We knew, and we know today, about the heavy weight of the past. We did this only after the PLO, in letters to the Prime Minister, undertook the following commitments:

* To recognize Israel’s right to exist and to live in peace and security.

* To settle all future disputes by peaceful means and through negotiation.

* To condemn and halt terrorism and violence in Israel, the territories and all other places. I want to report that, since the signing of the agreement, the PLO has not executed a single terrorist attack.

* To enforce the cessation of terrorism and violence among its members, and to prosecute those who violate this commitment.

* To view those articles of the Palestinian Covenant which deny Israel’s right of Israel and are inconsistent with the peace process as no longer valid, and to bring about their formal invalidation by the appropriate institution.

In Washington, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres signed in the name of the Government of Israel the Declaration of Principles agreement for the interim period only. In this agreement, under which the Palestinians will be able to run their own lives, Israel secured the following points:

* United Jerusalem remains under Israeli rule, and the body that will manage the lives of the Palestinians in the territories will have no authority in this regard.

* The Israeli settlements in Judea, Samaria and Gaza will remain under Israeli rule without any change in their status.

* The jurisdiction of the Palestinian council will not extend to any Israeli in the territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

* The IDF will continue to bear overall responsibility for the security of the settlements, the Israelis in the territories, the security of every Israeli while he is in the territories, and for external security that is, the defense of the current confrontation lines along the Jordan River and the Egyptian border.

* The IDF will be deployed in accordance with these missions throughout the territories of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.

* All matters related to the permanent solution will be left for negotiation to begin two years after the date set in the agreement, with the Israeli Government remaining free to determine its positions as to the nature of the permanent solution. Namely, the Declaration of Principles leaves all the options open in this respect.

There will be early implementation of the interim period agreement in Gaza and Jericho, and the establishment of an elected Palestinian council which will conduct the lives of the Palestinians in the territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The creation of the council will be effected only after we and the Palestinians agree upon its structure, composition and functions. The target date for the holding of elections is nine months from the entry into effect of the Declaration of Principles. Israel will view the ‘Gaza and Jericho first’ phase as a kind of test of the ability of the Palestinians to implement the Declaration of Principles agreement.

In Washington last week, I said and I want to repeat these words here:

‘We are destined to live together, on the same soil in the same land. We, the soldiers who have returned from battle 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 today 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 who want to build a home, to plant a tree, to love, live side by side with you in dignity, in empathy, as human beings, as free men. We are today giving peace a chance and again saying to you in a clear voice: Enough.’

Mr. Speaker, Honored Knesset,

We have no intention or desire to conceal the truth from the Members of Knesset or the people of Israel. Alongside the great advantages, the anticipated peace great risks also lie hidden. Our eyes are not so blurred that we do not see the risks, and we will do everything necessary in order to reduce these to a minimum.

At the same time, we believe that the risks are calculated and that they will not pose a threat to the security or existence of the State of Israel. In any event, the strength of the IDF the best army in the world stands at our disposal, if and when we should be tested, God forbid.

Our gaze is today turned toward the good opportunities; toward days without fear and nights without trepidation; toward a growing economy and a society that wants for nothing. If and when the peace which we so desire will arrive, our lives will be completely transformed. We will no longer live by the sword alone.

On the threshold of a new year, after 100 years of violence and terror, wars and suffering, there is today a great opportunity to open a new chapter in the history of the State of Israel; there is hope for an end to tears. New horizons are opening before us in the areas of economy and society. But, above all, I would like to say to you: This is the victory of Zionism, which has also won the recognition of its most sworn and bitter enemies. There is a chance that we will enjoy good neighborly relations, an end to the bereavement which has visited our homes, an end to war.

I call upon all members of the House to give us an opportunity to seize upon this great chance.

Members of the Knesset,

Let the sun rise. A Happy New Year to you and to the entire House of Israel.