(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)
I extend a warm welcome to the Prime Minister of Belgium, Mr. Guy Verhofstadt, who is also the President of the European Council, and Mr. Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission. Welcome to Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish people for more than 3000 years, and the united, undivided capital of Israel forever.
Israel is a peace-seeking nation. Our hand has always been extended in friendship to our neighbors, and today we wish to pursue the path of peace.
We want peace with our Palestinian neighbors, real peace, peace for generations – Israeli generations and Palestinian generations. Israel wants peace, but we must not forget that during this last year the State of Israel has been facing a campaign of brutal terrorism that has been forced upon us by the Palestinian Authority. The source of this terror and incitement emanates from Chairman Arafat, who leads this coalition of terror in cooperation with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hizbullah, Fatah, Tanzim, and Force 17. Every time Arafat reports to the international community that he is arresting terrorists, we see those same terrorists freely roaming the streets, and preparing bombs and explosives. Fortunately for us, these bombs and explosives occasionally hit the ones who place them.
Our aim today is first of all to bring about a cease-fire, to bring quiet. The negotiating team that I established and which I head, in conjunction with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, will conduct negotiations to reach a cease-fire. When there is quiet, when the terror finally ceases, then we can talk peace.
I said in the past that in exchange for real peace, the State of Israel would be willing to make painful compromises. However, there will be no compromise on the security and safety of the citizens of Israel.
The bilateral relations between Europe and Israel are based on a long-standing tradition of shared values: democratic freedom and market economy. The scope of our mutual trade reaches almost $25 billion a year and there is cooperation in the field of research and development. It is important that these relations further develop for the benefit of all parties, regardless of political issues relating to the Middle East conflict.
The heads of the European Union have an important role to play in order to reach the peace for which we all yearn. I call upon you to assist the Palestinian people by building factories, establishing infrastructures and investing in the Palestinian industry. Do not transfer your funds to the Palestinian Authority as your money will then be used to purchase weapons and firearms – weapons which will be directed against the State of Israel. Your role today is to invest in people.
Again, I wish to thank the Prime Minister and the President of the European Commission for taking time out from your problems to assist us with ours. I am convinced that when this sought-after peace is finally achieved, we will be happy to reciprocate.