Address by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at Ceremony awarding former U.S. President Bill Clinton an Honorary Doctor’s Degree

Tel Aviv, 20 Janaury 2002

The Honorable President Bill Clinton,
Professor Itamar Rabinovich, President of the Tel Aviv University,
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good Evening,

President Clinton, Dear Bill,

I am proud to have you here with us this evening on the occasion of your being awarded an Honorary Doctor’s Degree by the Tel Aviv University.

For me you are an honorable leader and a true friend of the State of Israel.

I value your unwavering commitment to the Jewish people and your steadfast partnership with the people of Israel. Through your tireless efforts and many visits here, you have captured the hearts of us all.

From Jerusalem, the heart of the Jewish people, our eternal, undivided capital, I bring you warm greetings.

Allow me to continue in Hebrew, the holy language of the Bible, which is so dear to you:

"Friendship is the masterpiece of nature," wrote 19th century American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, adding, "the only way to make a friend – is to be one." You, President Clinton, have indeed become a true friend, and have turned me, along with many others, into your friend.

I recall with much warmth and great interest the meetings we held during your term of office – long conversations into the night, fascinating talks in which you proved to be an attentive leader with a comprehensive vision and in-depth understanding of global issues, which you addressed clearly and precisely. As leader of the free world you proved to be a sensitive and warm human being who – with unwavering determination and understanding – was personally committed to the achievement of a real peace agreement in this tormented and torn region.

Since its inception, Israel has been known to the world mostly as a nation which is fighting for its very existence. This image of a nation at war has – to a large extent – obscured Israel’s numerous achievements: a tiny country, but blessed with talent, a true democracy which has absorbed millions of immigrants from 102 nations, speaking 82 languages – all of whom now speak one language – Hebrew, the language of the Bible.

In the 53 years of our existence, the State of Israel has developed a diverse industrial, cultural, agricultural, scientific and technological infrastructures, with impressive achievements in the field of medicine and bio-technology, and we have always been ready to lend a hand and share our knowledge and achievements with developing nations around the world. Through our remarkable education system, universities and research institutes, our younger generation is leading the people of Israel into the world of tomorrow – the 21st century.

The State of Israel has been fighting terrorism for many years. We are aware of the complexities of this cruel phenomenon, and are even more aware of its pains. In the arduous journey toward peace and security, we find ourselves – as does the United States since September 11th – engaged in a persistent battle against terrorism.

And as you, President Clinton, told the students of Georgetown University last November: "We – the American people and the members of the international community – should not find ourselves paralyzed by fear – and governed by terror."

Since world order changed on September 11th, America has significantly stepped up its war against terrorism. The government of Israel will do everything in its power to assist in this battle, out of deep friendship, affinity and support for the American people, and out of great respect for President George W. Bush, who is spearheading this battle with relentless determination.

Experience has made me a great believer in the power of alliances. As Prime Minister of Israel, I intend to maintain and reinforce the long-lasting alliance and friendship with the United States. This stems mainly from my belief that the State of Israel – as the only democracy in the Middle East – shares democratic values, beliefs and vision with the United States.

The biblical vision of the prophet Isaiah – "Peace, peace to him that is far, and to him that is near, saith the Lord" – is based on the historic continuity of Jewish life throughout 3500 years in Israel – the homeland of the Jewish people. This vision will never be forsaken.

We in Israel know that any agreement will have to be based on the uncompromising principle which lies at the root of our existence as a nation. That is that the State of Israel – the Jewish people’s ancestral homeland and its glorious legacy – is the only place in the world where we have the right, duty and today also the capability to defend ourselves by ourselves.

The sought-after peace – the peace which we aspire to – will only be achieved if we adhere to this principle. Israel is willing to make painful compromises for peace. However, there will be no compromise on the security of the citizens of Israel or the existence of the State of Israel. I am committed to this – as a person, as a Jew and as Prime Minister of the State of Israel.

This is the place to note the worthy initiative of Tel Aviv University, which, aside from its impressive academic achievements, is a leading institute in the field of social and community involvement (areas which are especially close to your heart, President Clinton). This initiative is of unique value and deserves special acknowledgement.

President Clinton,

"Great hopes create great people." These words by historian Thomas Foller emphasize everything which you embody – through your actions, leadership, power and above all – humane nature, which, probably by no accident, evolved in a town called Hope. Despite the difficulties and obstacles on the road to peace we have not given up hope to bring peace and security for generations to Israel and its neighbors. And even if this road is long, I believe that with unity and determined stand we will realize this common vision.

To this I am committed and this is the path I will follow.

Thank you, Doctor Clinton.