Remarks by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

March 20, 2003

(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Following are excerpts from remarks that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made earlier today (Thursday), March 20,2003:

"Good Afternoon.

Several hours ago, US and allied military forces began their attack against the Iraqi tyrant, Saddam Hussein.

The goal of this attack is the overthrow of a despot who possesses weapons of mass destruction and who has sown death, ruin and destruction among his people and among the entire world. This attack is part of the international struggle being led by US President George Bush against a global axis of terror.

I would like, at the outset, to send President Bush, the soldiers of the US and allied military forces, and the entire American people, my best wishes for success. Your war is the war of the free world, the world that seeks liberty and democracy, against the black forces of wickedness that act in only one way that of terror.

The State of Israel is not taking part in this war but we well understand the dangers of regimes such as that of Saddam Hussein. We well understand the dangers posed by tyrants who use terror and possess weapons of mass destruction. We recognize the threat posed by local, regional and global terror; however, we are not involved in this war. We ourselves are involved in a difficult campaign against Palestinian terror.

Even so, we know from past experience that when attacked, Saddam Hussein has taken advantage of the opportunity and launched missiles at Israel’s cities. Therefore, in recent weeks and months, we have utilized every means at our disposal and have taken all necessary measures in order to be prepared for every possible development.

We estimate, believe and hope that we will not be involved with the war. However, if Heaven forbid we are dragged into it, the State of Israel is prepared to deal with any possible threat, both from a defensive and an offensive perspective.

I have said in the past, and I say it again today, that if the State of Israel is attacked, we will know how to defend ourselves. No one, neither Palestinian terrorist organizations, nor Hizbullah, nor any other terrorist organization, should contemplate taking advantage of this situation.

The past two years have not been easy. The terror war that has been waged against us has placed difficult challenges before each and every one of us. Daily and hourly, Israeli citizens have shown their strength and their extraordinary endurance. The citizens of Israel have shown their determination and internal quietude. I know this people. I know that they will continue thus.

I call upon all Israeli citizens to continue in their daily routines. I urge you to follow and implement the instructions of the proper authorities, to send your children to kindergarten and school, and to go to work. Keep up your daily schedules as planned.

I am convinced that just as we knew in the past how to stand up to our enemies and face varied threats, we will know how to deal with what comes our way.

I hope and believe that the successful conclusion of the American campaign in Iraq and the uprooting of the evil terrorist regime of Saddam Hussein will mark the beginning of a new era, one that is better for our region and for the entire world!"