Mr. President,
Mr. Speaker,
Members of Knesset,

Before beginning my address, I want to join in the Knesset Speaker’s praise for the two missions carried out by the IDF, in the name of the State of Israel: the mission of sharing in the fate of the Jewish community which was attacked in Argentina, through the excellent rescue unit established by the IDF; and the humanitarian mission to assist the Rwandan refugees in Zaire with the field hospital, whose doctors, medical team and soldiers all volunteered for this mission. This is an exceptional expression of the unique character of the State of Israel, its sharing in the fate of each Jew and each Jewish community everywhere. It is performing this humanitarian mission for the sake of people, refugees, in the midst of distress and illness. There is nothing that better expresses the character and uniqueness of the State of Israel. Thank you

to all those involved in these missions, and to all those party to this effort.

We have come today to inform the Members of Knesset, the citizens of the State of Israel and the entire Jewish people that the state of war between the State of Israel and the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan has come to an end.

We have come today to tell the Members of Knesset and the citizens of the State of Israel that, last week in Washington, we took a significant step toward peace.

Members of Knesset,

Today, the Government of Israel places on your table with satisfaction and great pride the Washington Declaration, signed in the capital of the United States on 17 Av 5754, July 25, 1994. The four pages of paper placed before the Knesset today are the essence of the dream of peace between Israel and Jordan which, we all believe and hope, will become a full-fledged peace treaty.

Members of Knesset,

Over the decades, all prime ministers of Israel have stood at this podium. From this podium, all prime ministers of Israel have addressed leaders of Arab states and called upon them to end the state of war, and to bring peace to the peoples of the Middle East. These calls by the prime ministers of Israel have been regularly sometimes even tirelessly and monotonously repeated; over the years, they became routine cliches to which nobody paid attention because Cairo was silent, Amman did not respond, Damascus remained deaf. Our hand outstretched for peace was forced to pull the trigger, in a war to preserve our lives here.

The first prime minister to stand on this podium, and to have the privilege of seeing his calls for peace answered, was Menachem Begin. Together with the late President of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, he weaved the first threads of peace between Israel and the largest Arab state: Egypt. The belief that other Arab states would follow in the footsteps of Egypt was proved false, and the voice of Israel remained alone in the wilderness. We have remained isolated two countries, one peace.

On the day that the current Government was presented before the Knesset, I again called on Arab states and the Palestinians to end the Arab-Israeli conflict and to inaugurate a new page in the history of our peoples. To the Palestinians who have not known even one day of freedom or happiness in their lives we then offered autonomy, with its advantages and limitations. We called on the King of Jordan, and on the Presidents of Syria and Lebanon, to come to this podium and to talk peace.

The Palestinians accepted this call and we have now completed implementation of the "Gaza-Jericho first" agreement, and we are continuing negotiations with them. Following the Palestinians, King Hussein is now extending a hand in peace and it would be accurate to conclude that the Washington Declaration would not have been achieved were it not for the accord with the Palestinians.

Members of Knesset,

The Jewish people and, later, the State of Israel have for generations

had a very special and very complex link with the Hashemite family and the Kingdom of Jordan, which was born out of the problem of the Land of Israel. Love and animosity have been intertwined in this relationship since we sought an understanding with the Hashemite house, after World War I, at the meeting between Chaim Weizmann and Emir Faisal.

Since then, much water has flowed in the Jordan River, and also much blood. Jordan participated in wars and hostile actions against us. The Jordanians have inflicted upon us painful physical and mental wounds: Jerusalem was divided and a wall was erected in the middle of the city; Jews were denied access to and prevented from praying at the Wailing Wall, the last remnant of the Temple; Gush Etzion was laid waste; classes were halted at the university on Mount Scopus, which we ascended in armored convoys; snipers fired through the windows of homes on the municipal border; infiltrators penetrated Israeli towns and settlements along the Jerusalem corridor; they stole and they murdered. In Jerusalem, and in Amman as well, families wept over the deaths of their loved ones. Only during the Six-Day War did IDF soldiers put an end to Israel’s agonies.

Members of Knesset,

It is an open secret that, alongside the hostile acts, we have maintained unique relations with the Hashemite family, for which King Abdallah the patriarch paid with his life. Despite the risks, despite the difficulties, we have maintained these special ties even during the most difficult hours for the State of Israel, and for Jordan. Very little has been disclosed about these ties, for which we owe a debt of thanks to those who first wove the thread of ties with the Hashemite house even before the creation of the State: from Haim Arlozorov, Moshe Sharett, Ezra Danin, Aharon Haim Hacohen, Golda Meir, Reuven Shiloah and Moshe Dayan to Ya’acov Herzog, Eliyahu Sasson, Levi Eshkol and Yigal Allon. And many others who live with us today, to whom we accord great credit.

Members of Knesset,

During the tenure of the previous Government, headed by Yitzhak Shamir, the Madrid process was begun in October 1991. Since then, we have known two important milestones in our relations with Jordan:

One the formal and public ratification of the agenda between Israel and Jordan in September 1993; and second the public and first-of-its-kind meeting between Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, Prince Hassan and President Clinton, at the White House in October 1993. During this meeting, it was decided to create the Trilateral Economic Committee between the three countries.

Over time, links were enhanced and joint discussions were held with King Hussein and members of his court and government, until we arrived at the occasion of the signing of the Washington Declaration in public in Washington last week.

Members of Knesset,

The full text of the Declaration has been placed before you. It contains no secret annexes; it has no supplements. You see the entire document.

What is in the Washington Declaration?

On the one hand, the Washington Declaration contains new components which will form the foundation of a full peace treaty when signed. On the other hand, it contains components from the documents that have been concluded with Jordan thus far, including the Common Agenda signed in Washington. Additional elements are derived from the agreements which resulted from the bilateral negotiations conducted in Washington and at the Dead Sea Hotel in Jordan on July 20, which included the joint declaration signed by Jordanian prime minister, the Israeli foreign minister and the US Secretary of State.

The Washington Declaration’s central theme is the termination of the state of belligerency. The termination of the state of belligerency is an interim stage on the road to the signing of a full peace treaty.

Mr. Speaker,
Members of Knesset,

The English expression which appears in the Washington Declaration is the "end of the state of belligerency." Since the term "end of the state of war" appears in the peace treaty with Egypt and is clear to all, we proposed to the Jordanians that we use this phrase. But they preferred to cautiously adhere to the language of ending the "state of belligerency". In an oral message from King Hussein, we were told that, for Jordan’s part, the meaning was identical, and this would be given public expression. Indeed, the King in his statements at the White House and before Congress said explicitly, and I am quoting from his July 25 speech at the White House: "The term used in international documents as they affected us so far is the state of belligerency and the end of the state of belligerency. I think, both in Arabic and in Hebrew, our people do not have such a term. But shat we have accomplished and what we are committed to is the end of the state of war between Jordan and Israel." Therefore, there is nothing equivocal here, but only the clearest possible message the state of war between Israel and Jordan has ended.

I ask to direct your attention to the fact that the issue of a peace treaty finds clear expression in the document. Indeed, the Jordanians have always spoken about a comprehensive peace, but in the Washington Declaration it says explicitly that the objective is the signing of a peace treaty between Jordan and Israel.

Mr. Speaker,
Members of Knesset,

It is natural that the paragraph relating to the places in Jerusalem which are holy to Muslims has aroused great interest.

With your permission, I would like to turn the wheel back a bit, and quote from statements I made to you on the day that I presented the Government:

"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 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. The Government is firm in its resolve that Jerusalem will not be open to negotiation. The coming years will also be marked by the extension of construction in Greater Jerusalem. All Jews, religious and secular, have vowed: ‘If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand wither.’ This vow unites us all."

Then, I also said: "The Government will safeguard freedom of worship for the followers of all religions and all communities in Jerusalem. It will rigorously maintain free access to the holy places for all sects and ensure the conduct of a normal and pleasant life for those who visit and reside in the city."

The Jerusalem paragraph in the Washington Declaration has, in our opinion, caused much ado about nothing. I suggest that this paragraph be read again. It says: "Israel" I emphasize, Israel "respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem. When negotiations on the permanent status will take place, Israel will give high priority to the Jordanian historic role in these shrines. In addition, the two sides have agreed to act together to promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic faiths."

What can be learned from these statements?

The purpose of this paragraph is to capture an existing situation in which the Jordanians, even during the 27 years since the Six-Day War under all Israeli governments have indeed played a role in the running of the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem. The paragraph promises that, when negotiations are conducted for the permanent arrangement, Israel will give

and it will be Israel that gives a high preference to this role of the Jordanians.

Once again, I would like to emphasize that these statements contain nothing that suggests any concessions relating to Jerusalem’s affairs, or regarding Israel’s status in the city or in the places holy to the Jews. When the time comes and all the holy places are discussed within the permanent solution the comprehensive one, if you will we will certainly consult with Jewish religious authorities, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Chief Rabbinate.

Mr. Speaker,
Members of Knesset,

Apart from the positive declarations and the commitments made vis-a-vis the continuation of negotiations on the various matters, until its culmination in a peace agreement, the Washington Declaration contains a number of agreements on how to implement practical steps for realizing the new situation.

Negotiations were held already yesterday in the Arava concerning telephone connections between us and Jordan. We are waiting for the moment when we will be able to dial directly from Tel-Aviv to Amman, and vice-versa. Border crossings will be opened from Jordan to Israel, and vice-versa. Discussions on the issue are at their height; at this point, passage for tourists and those with foreign passports is being discussed. We believe and hope that the day is not far off when Israelis and Jordanians will pass through as if it were always this way.

The Washington Declaration also addresses the following:

* the connection of electricity grids;
* the establishment of an air corridor between Israel and Jordan;
* police cooperation in the war on crime and drugs, and;
* economic issues, including a commitment for the future cancellation of boycotts.

This week, and over the next few weeks, we will continue negotiations regarding all of these issues in addition to many others including border security, water, environment, energy and various economic issues.

Knesset members,

Israel is experiencing great days.

Even if there are many hardships, even if the effort is tremendous, even if we must live through moments of disappointment and hours of frustration, we still have no doubt in our hearts Arab nations are joining us on the path to peace. The path is indeed long, and our work is not nearly done.

In the Washington Declaration, King Hussein joined us as a full partner, with his people as his partners and we have followed his courageous steps and difficult, but wise, decisions with great hope.

And our most esteemed partners, from outside, the American people headed by US President Bill Clinton and his administration, and members of both Houses of Congress without whose devotion, perseverance and contribution, we might not have succeeded in arriving at the moment when we signed the Washington Declaration. From Jerusalem, we send our heartfelt thanks to the President, the American people and its elected officials.

Members of Knesset,

There are many more who live among us and who are deserving of thanks, and there are many more abroad to whom we also owe a debt of gratitude.

As we stop at this station, on the way to peace, it is our duty and our great honor to recall in our hearts, the Israelis civilians and soldiers, from every period, who have fallen from 1947 to the present who are not witnesses to the great emotions which we feel these days, whose eyes cannot see the tears of happiness in our eyes. There are tears of pain in our eyes that they were not able to see the arrival of this day, on the road to peace. Our hearts today are with the members of the families who want to join us in our happiness but whose terrible pain prevents them from feeling it, from experiencing the pleasure, from smiling. Today, we are with the wounded and disabled of the IDF, with the civilians who for 46 years have borne the pain and scars which were caused by the acts of aggression from Jordan.

Members of Knesset,

A great honor has fallen to us today to witness and participate in these wonderful moments in the history of the State of Israel.

I will conclude with a passage from chapter 5 of First Kings, which expresses a wish appropriate for us all: "And he had peace on all sides around him." Let it be so.

On behalf of the Government, I ask that the Knesset endorse the Washington Declaration.