Statement by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at Ben-Gurion Airport

Sunday, March 18, 2001

(translated from Hebrew)

I was invited by President Bush to conduct an official working visit in Washington. I am going on this visit with the purpose of strengthening the special relationship between Israel and the United States, and to present to the President and his Administration the assessments and positions of the Government I head regarding the situation in the Middle East, our relationships with our neighbors, and the future of the peace process.

A deep friendship existe between Israel and the US – between our peoples and countries. This friendship is based on common values of a commitment to democratic values, freedom, peace, and on common interests, including the drive towards regional stability and preventing terrorism and violence.

The discussions I will engage in will focus on both regional and bilateral issues. During the visit I will meet with the leaders of Congress and Jewish organizations, with an eye to bolstering our relationship and the joint cooperation between us.

Citizens of Israel: All of Israel is united in our efforts for security and peace. The National Unity Government we established expresses this unity. The Jewish nation is a peace-loving nation. We believe and are committed to the principle of resolving conflicts and disputes peacefully through negotiations, a principle that is the foundation of the entire peace process, and one that will allow the sides to advance on the road towards attaining the peace we long for.

I embark on this special mission with a feeling of responsibility – the responsibility that the citizens of Israel, who want to live in peace and security here in their ancient homeland, have placed upon me.

It is my deep recognition that Israel and its citizens retain the basic right – the right of every people – to live in security and peace. This recognition will be with me throughout my visit.

Thank you and so long.