REMARKS BY PRIME MINISTER YITZHAK RABIN AT SIGNING CEREMONY OF THE GAZA-JERICHO ACCORD

CAIRO, MAY 4, 1994

We witnessed, you witnessed, the world witnessed, the tip of the iceberg of the problems that we shall have to overcome in the implementation of even the first phase of the Declaration of Principles to overcome 100 years of animosity, suspicion, bloodshed. It’s not so simple. There is an opposition on both sides to what we are doing today, and it will require a lot a lot on both sides to make sure that we will succeed and achieve peaceful coexistence, and in addition to the coexistence, to bring about a permanent solution.

Today we signed the ‘Gaza-Jericho first’ agreement, which is the first phase of implementation. It is a very daring project, and we are committed by my signature today to make sure that it will work, that we will achieve our goals. We will be able to overcome all these problems.

You have heard many beautiful speeches. Allow me, after saying what I have said by now, to turn in Hebrew to the people of Israel.

(Translated from Hebrew) On a winter’s day in 1889, 105 years ago, the blacksmith Avraham Yalovsky was murdered in his clay hut in Wadi Hadin. Avraham Yalovsky was the first victim in the history of the Jewish community in the land of Israel, in modern history, since we returned to the land of our forefathers, after 2,000 years of exile the first victim in a bloodstained conflict between us and the Palestinian people. Since Avraham Yalovsky was killed, our grandfathers, our fathers, we, our children and even our grandchildren have known virtually nothing except blood and bereavement, and for 100 years this blood has given us no rest.

What did we want? We wanted to return to the land of our forefathers, to the land of the Bible. We wanted a homeland, we wanted a home, we wanted a refuge, we wanted a place where we could place our heads, we wanted to live like every person, like every people we wanted to live. The war over the land of our forefathers deprived us of the best of our sons and daughters, it elicited from us great spiritual and physical resources, and channeled all our strength and efforts to directions we did not seek, to directions of pain, and we deeply regret this.

Even in our most difficult hours, our hearts contract at the sight of the destruction, at the hatred, at the sight of death. But even in our bitterest moments, we knew that the tears of our bereaved mothers were no different from the tears of other bereaved mothers, that they are salty and painful in every family, that the cries of anguish are the same, even when they are voiced in different languages.

We decided to try and put an end to this terrible cycle of pain. We decided to look ahead to a different future. On September 13, 1993, on the lawn of the White House in Washington, we decided to embark on a new course. Tomorrow, we will begin the implementation of the Declaration of Principles. The purpose of the agreement and its implementation, at this stage in Gaza and Jericho, is to achieve a dual goal: To allow the Palestinian authority to conduct the lives of the Palestinians and to maintain public law and order in their towns. Our goal is maintain security for Israelis wherever they may be, especially in the wake of the coming change in Gaza and Jericho.

Unless Israelis are guaranteed security and the Palestinians are given new hope, the goals of the agreement will not be achieved. Very much depends on the Palestinains. We are embarking on this new course with great hope, with great desire, and know that it contains wonderful opportunities, but also heavy fears. We are confident that both peoples can live on the same piece of land, each under his own vine and fig-tree, as our prophets foretold, and grant this land a land of stones, a land of gravestones the taste of milk and honey which it so deserves.

I appeal now to the Palestinian people and say: Our Palestinian neighbors. One hundred years of bloodshed implanted in us hostility towards one another. For one hundred years we lay in wait for you, and you lay in wait for us. We killed you, and you killed us. Thousands of our graves, thousands of your graves covering the hills and valleys are painful milestones in your history and ours.

Today, you and I stretch out our hands in peace. Today, we are beginning a different reckoning. The people of Israel expect you not to disappoint us. Give them new hope, that we may flourish. It is not easy to forget the past. But let us try to overcome the bad memories and the obstacles in order to light a new, unique, historic horizon an opportunity which may never come again for a different life, a life without fear, a life without hatred, a life without the frightened eyes of children, a life without pain, a life in which we shall build a home, plant a vineyard and live to a ripe old age, side by side as neighbors. We all hope that we shall wake up tomorrow morning to a new day, to a new future and a new opportunity for our children. For them, we had to fight. For them, we have to achieve peace.

I thank all those who lend a hand and helped us reach this day the heads of state, statesmen, the soldiers who fought and the soldiers we hope will not have to fight; and special thanks to our host, to the President of Egypt, President Mubarak, the leader of the great Arab country that set the precedent that peace can be achieved, peace can be maintained, peace can bring peoples together. Allow me to thank the Secretary of State of the United States, a true friend of Israel, and the Foreign Minister of Russia, the representatives of Norway and other that assisted so much.

On a spring day in 1994, two weeks ago, Second Lieutenant Shahar Simani, aged 21 of Ashkelon, was killed. His body was found by the roadside near Jerusalem. A thread of blood links the Jewish people from the murder of the blacksmith Avraham Yalovsky 105 years ago to Second Lieutenant Shahar Simani two weeks ago. I pray that Shahar Simani will be the last victim for us all, Israelis and Palestinians. The new hope which we take with us from here is boundless. There is no limit to our goodwill, to our desire to see a historic conciliation between two peoples who have until now lived by the sword in the alleyways of Khan Yunis and the streets of Ramat-Gan, in the houses of Gaza and the plazas of Hadera, in Rafiah and Afula.

A new reality is being born today. One hundred years of Palestinian- Israeli conflict and millions of people who want to live are watching us. May God be with us.