Victory Speech by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
after Elections to the 16th Knesset
January 28, 2003

First of all, I would like to say thank you. Thank you to everyone who helped me and stood beside me during this campaign. Thank you to the voters who believed in my path and the path of the Likud. Thank you to all the citizens of Israel who came out today to vote and to determine how the country will behave in the next few years. To all of you I say, "Thank you."

Today victory is ours. It is an historic victory, a great victory. We can take joy in the victory, but there is no room for celebration.

The fight against terrorist organizations is not over, and it claims victims daily. The Iraqi threat still looms over us. The socio-economic crisis still threatens the stability of the economy and the chances of every Israeli citizen for prosperity.

Today is not the time for celebration. There are no celebrations.

This is a time for soul-searching, for banding together and joining forces in order to achieve a real victory -a victory over terror and the beginning of a real political process, a victory over unemployment and a renewal of economic growth. Then, and only then, will we celebrate the victory of the Israeli people.

Exactly three months ago the National Unity Government was dissolved, and the country was dragged into unnecessary elections.

The Left presented its plan, and I presented my plan, which corresponds to the principles stated in President Bush’s speech. I introduced my plan during the primaries, when the members of the Likud chose me to lead the party. I presented my plan clearly throughout the election campaign which ended today.

The people have spoken. They chose my plan, a plan which is faithful to the historic path of the Likud, and which is appropriate for the current security and political reality.

Now it is the duty of the political powers to carry out the judgement of the voters. This is the meaning of democracy – the choice is made at the voting booth between different alternatives, and we must come together the day after the elections in order to fulfill the will of the people.

Narrow political considerations and statements made in the heat of the elections must not become obstacles to national unity.

During the elections, harsh things were said on all sides. Serious charges were made. This is typical during elections. I have already run in many elections. I am used to it.

But today, we must let all this go. We must leave behind the animosity of the struggle.

I forgive those who tried to hurt me, to slander and sully my name – I forgive because that which unites us is more important than that which separates us.

I say to all the parties: the differences between us are small in the face of the murderous hatred of terrorist organizations for everything that is Israeli and Jewish, the threat of war in the Gulf and injury to Israel, and the economic crisis that is tearing apart Israeli society.

We must not allow Israel to be divided from within, consumed by unfounded hatred. Not during war. Not during crisis. Not now.

Israel needs unity. Israel needs stability. Israel needs these things soon, before the crisis becomes even worse.

Ten years ago, in a ceremony at Binyanai Ha’oma in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin said the following:

"We never forget for one moment that despite the fact that there are those who support our course and those who oppose it, we are all brothers. We are all Jews and we have one fate. The conclusion: even if we do not all see eye-to-eye, even if we disagree, as long as the disagreements are not on things that are unacceptable under any circumstances, even if there are differences and nuances, it is beneficial and important to disagree – but we must gnash our teeth, bite our lips and continue on together in order to achieve our common goal, because the good of the country comes before any personal or party considerations."

Citizens of Israel,

The elections are over. The arguments are over. It is time to do things together.

I state here that after the President places the task of assembling the new government in my hands, I will appeal to all the Zionist parties to join the widest possible National Unity Government. This is the will of the people.

The basis for forming the new unity government will be the basic principles of the outgoing unity government that the majority of the parties represented in the new Knesset previously agreed to and the political plan I presented, a plan which can bring Israel victory over terror and open a door to real peace. Alongside this, the government which I lead will, immediately upon its assembly, direct funds from within the budget and from other sources to renew economic growth and employment, and will act to increase Aliyah to Israel from the Jewish Diaspora.

In the weekly Torah portion relating the giving of the Torah, it is written that when the Tribes of Israel reached the foot of Mount Sinai, it was said: "Israel encamped there." "Encamped" is in the singular rather than the plural. Chazal explained that the people of Israel was worthy of receiving the Torah only after it acted, for the first time in its history, "as one man, with one heart."

Like our ancestors, we must act together, as one man, with one heart, and without disqualifying anyone, out of our common national responsibility. The eyes of the nation are upon us. The eyes of the world are upon us. Everyone is waiting to see if Israel will act together, united, to achieve our goals:

Security, prosperity, quiet and peace.

It is possible. It only depends on us and, G-d willing, so it shall be.

Then, and only then, will it be time to celebrate.

Thank you.