Jerusalem, February 21, 2002
(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)
Good evening citizens of Israel.
I extend my deepest condolences to the bereaved families of the victims of the murderous attacks, and to wish a speedy recovery to the wounded.
We are currently in the midst of a difficult campaign forced upon us – a brutal campaign of terrorism. These are not easy times and I express my gratitude to the Israel Defense Forces, the Israel Police, the Border Police, the security services and the Mossad for their courageous stand.
These are not easy times. A rasping cry is heard from some quarters in these days when we must – more than ever – remain calm, reasonable and restrained. When it comes to matters of war and peace, we must not act rashly. There is a time for everything – not too late and not too early. This is the only way to win a war and the only way to achieve sustainable peace.
We are a nation that has accumulated vast experience in confronting problems and we have an inexhaustible source of talent and the ability to pull ourselves out. If there is anything that concerns me it is not our ability to confront and solve problems, but the gap between our true capability on the one hand and this unfounded doubt that we have in our ability, on the other.
Just take a moment and ponder the past year and a half of struggle that has been forced upon us. I believe that we have endured this experience admirably. Soldiers and civilians, new immigrants and veterans, demonstrate resourcefulness and valor, willingness to reach out to others and a spirit of volunteering. All these are a testimony to a healthy society, full of vitality and willpower, a society whose sons and daughters are no less qualified than the generations which established the State, broke the siege imposed upon us in 1967 and pulled themselves out of the depth of the abyss in 1973.
The State of Israel is not collapsing and will not collapse. Everything is in our hands, and future developments depend on us – our conduct, our courage. It depends on the attainment of complete unity between us, on forgoing all disputes and personal ambitions, facing the dangers together and striding together toward hope. We are proud of our democracy, and we yearn for peace with our neighbors, even at the price of painful concessions. All we seek is to maintain our freedom and our way of life. We are an open society and we insist on remaining so, despite the tremendous threats which have been hovering over the State since its inception.
We want to live peacefully and nurture the prosperity of our society, our children’s education, the welfare of the weak, the dignity of the elderly – and equal opportunities for all. We want to study and work, trade, research and develop.
Unfortunately, our neighbors have misinterpreted both our yearning for peace and our way of life. They also fail to understand our domestic disagreements, which are not only the lifeblood of our democracy but also one of the sources of our strength. They are wrong in their estimate that our nation is faltering. Expressions of disobedience naturally encourage terrorist organizations and motivate them to intensify their actions.
But they are wrong. The people of Israel are much stronger and resilient than they imagine.
The "Merkava" Tank (developed by Maj. Gen. Tal – "Talik") is the winning tank – the best in the world. The IDF is one of the greatest offensive armies in the world. Our Air Force and Navy are also among the most outstanding in the world.
We will continue to fight terrorism and terrorists with all our might and will intensify our activities. We will not rest until terrorism is eradicated, until the terrorist organizations infrastructure is dismantled and their weapons are confiscated and destroyed. Simultaneously, we will continue to do everything in our power to promote a cease-fire – one which will lead, eventually, to a settlement, an agreement, peace.
I wish to emphasize that contrary to what is being published, the political echelon has placed no constraints on the security forces in taking whatever action is deemed necessary to fight terrorism. Israel’s security policy is determined by our needs. I strongly reject all the unfounded publicity suggesting that Israel is prevented from taking action because of international pressure. The United States, which is spearheading the international anti-terrorism campaign, knows and understands that it is our duty to protect the lives of our citizens.
I will do everything in my power to bring an end to violence and terrorism and achieve a cease-fire. I will continue to meet with Palestinian officials and take whatever security steps are necessary, in accordance with the government decisions. I will continue, on my part, to make every effort to avoid escalation and deterioration into an all-out war.
In order to enhance the security of the citizens of Israel, and for the purpose of achieving a security separation, we have decided to establish buffer zones. During a discussion by the "extended kitchenette" it was decided to immediately begin marking buffer zones and placing obstacles along them.
Citizens of Israel,
We all want peace, we are all committed to peace. My aim is to achieve a comprehensive peace with the Palestinians, to ensure a quiet and peaceful life for both our peoples. This agreement will be predicated on two stages:
The first stage: an armistice agreement that creates a situation of non-warfare. A complete demilitarization of the Palestinian zone is categorical.
The second stage: the permanent settlement which will determine the final borders for ourselves and the Palestinians. These will reflect the character of our relationship.
But one must remember that there are no magical solutions, and we must not be duped by false prescriptions proffered by "experts and commentators". Negotiations on a political settlement can only take place after a complete cease-fire. This is how it was when we signed the peace agreement with Egypt – an agreement preceded by all the stages leading to a complete cease-fire and interim agreements.
I have said before and I say today: for the sake of real peace, there will be painful compromises. But there will not be any compromise on the security of the State of Israel and its citizens. First the terrorism will stop, then calm will be restored and then we will talk peace.
I turn from here also to the Palestinian people to say what I have said in the past – I know that it is not easy being a Palestinian.
I turn to those Palestinians who do not want war and are not involved in terrorism. Those Palestinians whose sole purpose is to support their families and afford clothes for their children. You are observing us, Israelis, yearningly, and see Israel’s many achievements. In the last 53 years Israel has developed flourishing industries and agriculture, among the most advanced in the world; our hi-tech industry will prosper again with the recovery of the world economy; one of the most advanced food industries in the world; modern cities with hundreds of thousands of citizens and education and health systems which are envied across the world. All this has been achieved in 53 years.
Today I suggest that you think long and hard what you and your children would want to achieve in the coming years. Will you continue to follow those who lead you to ruin, destruction and despair? Will you continue to be misled by those who call upon your sons to commit suicide, or will you follow those who choose to progress and to thrive?
Today I promise you all, Jews and Arabs alike, when quiet prevails and you stop encouraging hatred, we will all prosper.
And I know that eventually this is how it will be.
Citizens of Israel,
As I am convinced that we will overcome terrorism, which will take time and require patience and determination, I am also convinced that we will overcome the international economic crisis which resulted in the local economic crisis. Finally, after many hardships, we succeeded in passing the national budget, and will start pursuing that goal. I will discuss this topic soon.
I know that today it is not easy to ask you to be patient. As I have stated in the past, restraint is strength. I am telling you today – determination is also strength. We have proven this to be true. We are having a difficult time – I am having a difficult time – but I am asking you to continue to live by those principles today. The economic and security situations are not easy, but together – only together – we can overcome them.
I know that the war of terrorism which was forced upon us 17 months ago raised serious questions. I hear the voices asking every day: Where are we headed? What should be done? From this platform, I turn to each and every one of you – we will overcome, we will prevail, not only because our cause is just, but because there is no other way.
I would also like to turn to those who are talking about a collapse, despair and loss of hope. This is not the time to utter words of disaster – it is the time to stand firm and united and assist wherever you can. This is the time for demonstrating the unity which is at the core of the character of the Jewish people. This is the time to demonstrate that we are proud to be Israelis and Jews in the Land of Israel. Yes, proud to be Israelis and Jews in the Land of Israel.
Citizens of Israel,
We will always continue to aspire for peace – and our war, against those who are trying to destroy our people, will continue to be painful and uncompromising. We have always stood united in our common goal, and when we reach a cease-fire which will bring quiet – then we will be able to talk peace.