Jerusalem, June 17, 2002
(Communicated by the President’s Spokeswoman)
President Moshe Katsav spoke tonight (Monday), June 17, 2002, at the opening of the 34th Zionist Congress. Following are excerpts from his speech:
I am pleased and honored to open the 34th Zionist Congress. I welcome the thousands of delegates from Israel and around the world.
The past year has been difficult for the citizens of Israel and world Jewry. It is the duty of every state to act under all conditions to defend its citizens. To our chagrin, our actions against terrorism have been received with criticism by the free world. We are acting to foil and prevent terror. There are countries, also in the western world, who have a double standard, and do not differentiate between Palestinian perpetrators of terrorism and our effort to foil the terrorism.
Unfortunately suicide attacks find legitimacy in the Arab world, and Arab regimes show indulgence for anti-Semitic and anti-Israel expressions. Not a single Muslim religious leader has arisen and declared in a clear and firm voice that the acts of suicide terrorists stand in contradiction to the Koran and Islam.
Our strength to face our enemies is based on our recognition that we are fighting for values worthy of being defended. Even in the midst of bloodshed we take care to maintain morals, law and order and humanitarian feelings. The IDF is a moral army and many soldiers were injured in the battle against terror – in order to avoid hurting Palestinian civilians.
Organizations that do not attach any value to the sanctity of life, institutions and leaders that encourage suicide terror and bloodshed, a leader who calls for a million martyrs – these cannot be a party to dialogue or a partner.
Israel has three great and mighty fortresses, among the most developed in the democratic world: the Knesset, the justice system, and the press. The structure of government and society in Israel guarantees the maintenance, without deviation, of the highest norms and values.
Life in the diaspora is a legitimate right, however the historical and national duty obliges all Jews around the world to put the issue of aliya on his personal agenda. No person in the Jewish world is exempt from this.
Despite the wars and terrorism that have been forced upon us, and despite the blood and tears that have been our legacy since the creation of the state, the State of Israel has achieved great scientific and technological accomplishments. We have built a developed, advanced, modern and democratic state.
We have multiplied the population of Israel by 10 since the creation of the state. We have absorbed millions of immigrants, including Jewish refugees from Europe, one million immigrants from Muslim countries who left all their property behind and arrived here as refugees in the first decade of the state’s existence, and in the last decade, a million immigrants from the Communist bloc, immigrants from Ethiopia and from 70 other countries – and all were absorbed into Israeli society.
We and the Palestinians share common national interests, and I therefore believe that peace will come. We continue to believe that there will be found among the Palestinians a wise, responsible and determined leadership to serve the Palestinian interest, and lead to peace with Israel.
The Palestinian Authority bears responsibility for the suffering of the Palestinians and for the bloodshed, and endangers the region’s stability.
I say from here to the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority: Uf you love Palestinian children, do not educate them to hate Jews. If you are sensitive to the suffering of the Palestinians, act to stop the terror. If you want peace, stop the bloodshed and the incitement.
However, even in these difficult times we must continue the Zionist enterprise together, the development and prosperity of the State of Israel as a Jewish, democratic state.