Victory Speech by
Prime Minister Elect Ehud Barak

Tel-Aviv, May 18, 1999, 2:30 AM

Citizens of the State of Israel, my dear brothers and sisters, good evening.

First, I want to express my support for the residents of the north who are now in the bomb shelters while we are here celebrating. I pray that we will be able to bring the conflict in Lebanon to an end within a year.

One of the prayers recited by the cantor on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, begins with the words, "Here I am, impoverished in deeds." I have chosen tonight to open my address with these words, and I say to you, "Here I am, impoverished in deeds."

I stand before you tonight filled with emotion, to say to you all: thank you from the depth of my heart.

I spoke an hour ago with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and I thanked him for his service to the State of Israel. I ask you to join me in wishing him success for the future.

I also respect the hundreds of thousands of people who exercised their civil and democratic right and chose not to vote for me, but from now on, we are all together. We are one people. I want to be the Prime Minister of each and every one of you. We may have differences of opinion, but we are brothers, and as the Meimad motto declares, "brothers work together". All Jews are mutually responsible for each other. Tonight, we wish to extend a warm and firm hand to the secular, religious, ultra-orthodox, settlers, Sepharadim and Ashkenazim, Ethiopian and Russian immigrants, Arabs, Druze, Circassians and the Bedouin. All are part of the Israeli people.

I want to express my enormous appreciation for the some two million citizens who voted for me as prime minister. I do not know how to thank you. I am proud of you, I love you, thank you very much.

I want to thank our tens of thousands of activists and volunteers who have worked on our behalf all over the country over the past few months. They have worked tirelessly, not stopping for a moment. Were it not for you, we would not be standing here now. Thank you so much.

I want to thank the members and leaders of the Labor Party, the members of the Gesher party led by MK David Levy, and our partners from the Meimad movement led by Rabbi Amital and Rabbi Melchior.

There is one unique person who is absent and he must receive special credit for the fact that we are standing before you now. He was my commander, my mentor and the person who brought me into politics – our guide, Yitzhak Rabin. I know that if Yitzhak is looking down on us from heaven, he must be proud of us in the same way that we are proud of him, and he knows that we will together fulfill his legacy. There are a number of people standing on this platform tonight: Leah who accompanied him all along the way, and Shimon who was an architect of the peace agreements along with Yitzhak.

I want to share something personal with you. Over the last thirty years, during the most difficult periods of tension and anxiety, and during the most wonderful times, during sleepless nights and during testing times, I have been accompanied by a faithful and devoted partner whom I constantly admire, and by whom I never cease to be amazed: Nava, my wife. I want to thank you Nava. I wish to thank my daughters, my parents and all my extended family, as it would have been difficult to achieve all the things that I have done over the years without your support and warmth. Thank you all very much.

In one of his great speeches during the Second World War, Churchill promised his people "blood, toil, tears and sweat." We are here to try and spare the blood and the tears, but it will undoubtedly mean paying a high price in sweat, much hard work and a joint effort by us all.

In order to bring peace and security to the State of Israel, we first need to bring about peace among ourselves, and I intend to achieve this. I have worn uniform for many years, my comrades in arms and I have been through the most difficult experiences, we have lost many friends over the years. We know that it is imperative for our generation that has fought Israel’s wars to do everything to strengthen the security of the State, by progressing towards peace agreements which will be achieved through commitment to security, clear-sightedness and political judgement.

In the months ahead and, certainly, in the next few years, we will be facing some of the most difficult and fateful decisions that we have ever encountered in the history of the State of Israel, and, with a joint effort by all of us, I can say to you that we will not flinch from tough decisions. We will lead Israel to security and to peace.

I trust that our deeds will be filled with the spirit of the Jewish prayer recited over the generations: "The Almighty will grant His people strength, the Almighty will bless His people with peace, may it be His will".

Finally, I want to thank you all once again from the depth of my heart, I salute you, I am proud of you, I love you. Thank you very much."