Address by President Moshe Katsav to the Diplomatic Corps on Independence Day

Beit Hanassi, Jerusalem, 7 May 2003

My distinguished friend Minister of Foreign Affairs, Silvan Shalom, Ambassadors and Members of the Diplomatic Corps in Israel, Heads of Churches and Communities in Israel, honored guests:

I am very glad at this special opportunity to receive the Ambassadors of our friends throughout the world and the Heads of Churches and Communities, on the occasion of the 55th anniversary of the State of Israel. I hope and look forward to improving the relations and cultivating the ties that exist between our countries and between our nations, for the welfare of all our citizens.

Our aim of peace and coexistence with our Arab neighbors has been a foundation stone in our policies since the establishment of the State 55 years ago.

The founding fathers and the leaders of the State of Israel have since then, on every occasion, called on the Arab countries to build good relations with Israel, to live in peace with it and to build a common future for the benefit of the peoples of the region, a life of building and development, instead of destruction and suffering, but we were rejected.

Israel’s commitment and determination to achieve peace are steadfast, despite the bloodshed, terror and wars that have occurred since then. The People of Israel, despite its great frustration and deep disappointment at the continual terror, brutality and incitement, continues to believe in the road of peace.

We believe that the only way to achieve a solution to the continued conflict in our region is by political negotiations. The history of the past generation in the Middle East proves that through political negotiations, peace can be achieved. Peace with the largest Arab country, Egypt, and with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was achieved only by political negotiations. As a result of the negotiations, Israel gave strategic assets.

The Oslo Agreements, 11 years ago, proved Israel’s determination to find a political solution and its wish for conciliation. Unfortunately, however, the Palestinians decided to start a system of brutal terrorism which made any negotiation impossible.

Terrorism in the Middle East is part of world terrorism.

The fight against terrorism must be the fight of the entire free world. Terror is a tragedy not only for the Israelis and the Palestinians, but it endangers the peace and stability of the world.

I call on all the leaders of the free and democratic world to unite in the fight against terror and to act together. There is a necessity for international cooperation in the fight against international terrorism in the military, legal, economic and political fields.

It is the basic right of human beings to live without fear of terror.

If terrorism succeeds in one place in the world, it will also succeed in other places in the world. Terrorism has no borders and it has unlimited resources. No country in the world is immune from terrorism.

I am continuing my efforts to turn to the Arab countries, to stop the dreadful incitement against us. There is no conflict between Judaism and Islam. I do not regard the Palestinians as enemies. The Palestinians and we have common interests, but it cannot be expected that we will not protect the lives of the citizens and inhabitants of the State of Israel.

Self-protection is a basic right and no one has the right to condemn us for it. It is not a question of punishment, reaction or revenge but only of prevention. The Government of Israel, like other governments in the world, must do everything to protect the lives of its citizens.

The Palestinians must understand that only by political means will it be possible to find a solution and that terrorism can never be used as a tool to attain political aims. There is no, and can be no, justification and understanding for terrorism.

Recently there have been positive voices among the Palestinian leadership. Palestinian leaders have stated that the continuation of terrorism is a disaster for the Palestinians and that it must be stopped. Terror has only brought economic suffering and political ruin to the Palestinians themselves.

They are quiet and low voices, but they are of important significance. I hope that these voices will get louder and that they will bring responsibility back to our region. The true test will not be by condemning the terror, not by declarations against the terror and not by the appointment of a Prime Minister. I believe in the Palestinian Prime Minister’s declarations against the terror. The true test will be by action and the taking of serious steps to stop the terror. The end of terror will be a turning point for the beginning of political negotiations and will reduce the Palestinian suffering.

The seven good years for the Palestinians between 1993 and 2000 resulted in development, the greatest in the Palestinian history, in all fields – economic, social, political, national and international. This would not have come to an end had the negotiations continued.

I believe that we are destined to live together in this part of the world in peaceful relations.

The war in Iraq is the writing on the wall for all totalitarian states, which assist international terrorism and endeavor to develop mass destruction weapons. We must give humans the possibility of living without fear of terror.

I hope that the international community will devote energy, power, time and resources to fighting poverty and difficult diseases, instead of wasting them on terror.