Remarks by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
upon being invited by President Katsav to form a new government
(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Following are Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s remarks on Sunday, February 9, 2003, upon being invited by President Moshe Katsav to form a new government:

"Mr. President, it is out of a deep sense of responsibility that I accept upon myself the task of forming a new government for Israel.

Today, the State of Israel stands at a fateful crossroads. We face major challenges and great hope for the future.

We have faced challenges before – and we have overcome them. We have known difficulties before – and we have dealt with them. We gave faced more difficult times than these – and we have always known how to turn difficulties into chances, and risks into hopes.

The new government will have to deal with serious tasks.

We are amidst a war on terror. This is a harsh and brutal war that has continued for more than 110 years. In the last two years, this war has been organized, planned and financed by a coalition of terrorist organizations led by the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority. This is a war against over very existence, here in our land.

The new government will have to complete the war against terror – by ejecting the leadership of terror and creating conditions in which a new Palestinian leadership can arise, a leadership with which it will be possible to make a genuine peace. The new government will have to promote a diplomatic plan, with responsibility and sagacity, with the understanding that 100 years of conflict cannot be resolved overnight, and while preserving Israel’s vital security interests.

We are confronted with a harsh economic crisis. The war on terror’s destructive influence on entire sectors of the Israeli economy, the global economic recession, the collapse of the high-tech market and the absence of a diplomatic process have led us to this harsh economic crisis.

The new government will have to act immediately in order to get out of the economic crisis. There is no room for partial steps. We must maintain stability at all costs. We must enact sharp budget cuts. We must change the national list of priorities, enact reforms in the labor and capital markets, and privatize government companies. The special American assistance can be a lever for getting out of the crisis – but only if we know how to channel the budgetary and foreign resources towards growth and infrastructure, and not towards satisfying extortionate demands, towards job creation and not towards disbursing additional supports.

We are on the eve of a possible American war in Iraq; the US is taking steps against the tyrant who endangers both our security and that of the entire world. The results of this war are likely to indicate a great opportunity.

Victory over terror, making peace and lifting the Israeli economy out of recession – these are the tasks of the new government.

These tasks will require harsh and painful decisions on a national level. These decisions will require broad national agreement and concessions. I know – it is difficult for us to make concessions – but the future of the state, the future of our children, depends on it.

No one can be detached from the crisis as if it did not touch him. No one can shirk the obligation to concede on immediate petty, political interests – for the good of the national interest. In order to meet the dangers, in order to exhaust every chance, in order to realize the hopes – we must go forward together.

Whoever wants to move the Israeli economy forward – must be a partner. Whoever wants to be part of the blueprint of Israel’s diplomatic path and face the pressures that may come – must join. Whoever desires peace – must enter the government or bear the responsibility for refusing to do so.

Whoever says no to unity – rejects the will of the Israeli public.

Therefore, we must – together – formulate a genuine plan, based on broad national agreement, on a new set of national priorities, and on how to put a stop to terror and make peace. The moment has arrived – the time is now! No party must be ruled out. All Zionist parties will be invited to be partners in my government and take part in shaping the future of the State of Israel.

Let us go forward together, left and right, religious and secular – in order to ensure that the opportunity that we now face will not be missed, that we can finally dwell securely in our land, in tranquility and peace."