February 7, 2001
Good evening, and a wonderful evening to all of you. My friends, Silvan Shalom, chairman of my headquarters, and Reuven Rivlin, chairman of the parliamentary faction, all members of Knesset, from this large camp who are sitting here, people from the Likud and all the other parties: MK Eli Yishai, MK Natan Sharansky, MK Avigdor Lieberman, MK Yitzak Levy, Rabbi Menachem Porush and Rabbi Meir Porush – two generations; Michael Kleiner, my friend for many years, David Levy, and mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert. Together with you we have reached this wonderful point, and made this marvelous achievement.
I want to say that a few moments before I came into the hall, when I was already in the building, the President of the United States, President Bush, called me, and asked me to present his best wishes to you. He told me that they want to cooperate very closely with the government under my leadership.
He reminded me of the trip I took with him through Samaria and the Jordan Valley. And he said to me, "No one believed then," he said, "that I would be president and you would be prime minister. But as things turned out, despite the fact that no one believed us, I have been elected president, and you have been elected prime minister."
Citizens of Israel, my colleagues from various parties, today the State of Israel has embarked on a new path, a path of domestic unity and harmony, of striving for security and genuine peace.
I would like to thank each and every one of you for your support, for your involvement, for your devotion, for your hard work. As a result of this work and this great conviction that you and the thousands and tens of thousands of individual activists throughout Israel have demonstrated, we have achieved this great victory. We have arrived at this moment, and to you goes my heartfelt thanks.
Tonight is a very moving and significant night for me. Since my youth, I have devoted myself entirely to the country, to consolidating and building its security. In all of my positions, at all times, whether difficult or joyful, I was accompanied by my dear late wife, Lily, who supported me wholeheartedly. At this moment, when the Israeli people have expressed their confidence in me to lead the country in the coming years, I miss her, and she is not standing here by my side.
I would also like this evening to thank every single one of Israel’s citizens who have expressed their confidence in me. I shall do everything in order to succeed in this mission that you have entrusted to me. This country belongs to all of us, and all of us have a joint future and a single destiny.
In the course of the years, divisions and rifts have deepened in our people and society. We have had our fill of anger and baseless hatred. Now is the time to find common ground, and to seek out as broad a consensus as possible. There is a deepfelt desire among the people to stand firmly together to meet the challenges of the future.
Therefore, I call now for the establishment of as wide a government of national unity as possible. I appeal to the Labor Party and call upon it to join us on the basis of a true partnership in pursuing the difficult path towards security and peace.
Citizens of Israel, today you have called upon me to lead you as prime minister of Israel, and to succeed in the mission you have conferred upon me. In order to do this, I shall need the confidence of the Knesset, and the maximum support of its members. We live in a parliamentary system in which the government functions on the basis of a parliamentary majority. As prime minister, I will accord full respect to the Knesset and its members, and my decisions will be clear to all members of the house.
The government, under my leadership, will act to strengthen the rule of law, and to protect the independence of the judicial system, which is one of the guarantees of maintaining a democratic system.
Citizens of Israel, the government, under my leadership, will act to restore security to the citizens of Israel, and to achieve genuine peace and stability in the area. I know that peace requires painful compromise on the part of both sides. Any diplomatic accord will be founded upon security for all peoples of the region.
I call upon our Palestinian neighbors to cast off the path of violence and to return to the path of dialogue and to resolve the conflicts between us by peaceful means.
The government, under my leadership, will act to achieve realistic political accords that will preserve the existential and historic interests of Israel, and will be based on mutual respect and the reciprocal fulfillment of obligations.
We shall act to deepen the special relationships with our great friend and ally, the United States, and we shall strive to achieve closer ties between the State of Israel and the countries of the world.
Israeli society is plagued by many forms of distress, with which I am familiar. We will do everything we can to eliminate these. A people cannot exist if there is no social solidarity. We shall act to reduce the social gaps and to achieve equal opportunity for everyone.
We will turn over a new leaf in our relationships with our Israeli Arab citizens in order to achieve a genuine partnership and a feeling of equality among all the country’s citizens.
The government, under my leadership, will, alongside the banner of peace and security, also raise the banner of social advancement – first and foremost in the realm of education.
And above both banners, the flag of Zionism will be raised, the flag of national honor, immigration and settlement.
The government which I shall establish will strive to strengthen and consolidate united Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, and the eternal capital of the Jewish people, to which we always proclaim our loyalty, stating, "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand lose her cunning. May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I remember thee not, if I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy."
The government under my leadership will act to achieve on-going economic growth, and in this way, we will create new employment opportunities and reduce unemployment. We will maintain price stability and prevent the renewal of inflation.
We will implement a responsible national budget without any increase in the deficit, while at the same time investing in infrastructure and education. We will reduce the tax burden on Israeli citizens. We will maintain the principles of a modern, open economy, based on competition and integration in the world economy. To achieve these goals, it is my intention to establish an economic cabinet, which I shall head.
Citizens of Israel, we have a small country which is blessed with talent and rich with achievement. Let us set out tonight, joining forces as a single body, with a single heart, on a new path. Together, we will be able to overcome all the challenges confronting us. Together, we will be able to realize here all our hopes and our dreams.
Thank you all.