Address by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon upon the Arrival of the Bodies of the Kidnapped Soldiers
(Translated from Hebrew)

January 29, 2004

Sawayid Family, Avitan Family, Avraham Family,
Ladies and Gentleman,

The reality of our lives enforces upon us at times, the dreadful mixing of sadness with sadness, of sadness with joy. This morning, vicious Palestinian terror struck again in the heart of Jerusalem – in the indiscriminate murder of innocent citizens.

Apparently, this is the price a society, which sanctifies the value of life, has to pay for living side-by-side with a society that does not lift a finger to root out the murder and evil from its midst.

I convey my condolences to the families of the victims, and my best wishes for a speedy recovery to all the injured.

Omar, Adi and Benny set out on their last mission. Together, they fell by the murderous fire. Together, they return today to be buried in the soil of our home that they were sent to defend.

We, the entire Israeli people, stand here with heavy hearts, in the presence of the three coffins draped with our national flag. This is not a time of celebration, but one of relief and gratification. Relief – because three dear families whose souls did not know tranquility for forty months, will now be able to express their deep mourning beside a modest grave. And gratification – for a promise which was fulfilled, for a commitment which was fully realized, for the moral and right decision which was taken in spite of its heavy price.

I fully understand the difficulties. The counter-arguments were also strong and just. However, one cannot escape difficult decisions. This is the task of leadership, and for this it is elected. We have taken all aspects into consideration, we have seriously considered and weighed all the information, and finally we placed on the scales a decisive weight: it is called, "Jewish sentiment."

I have no other word to describe the decision to bring the boys home, to the soil of our homeland, carrying a heavy price other than a "Jewish decision." It is anchored in the legacy of Israel, and applies to everyone whose life can be saved, or who can be brought to rest in Israel. This is an essential moral commitment to every person in Israel, whether they are Jewish or have chosen to bond themselves with Israel. I have shouldered this commitment from the day on which I was honored to command soldiers in battle. It has been valid and effective from that day on.

In this hour of sadness, our hearts, the hearts of the entire nation, is with our captives and missing sons, who have still not returned home. Without them, the circle has not been closed, and the vow has not expired. We have not forgotten them. We will not let go, we will not sit still, we will not rest, we will spare neither resources nor effort, until we find out what has happened to them, and bring them home. It is my personal commitment, and it is the Government’s commitment.

Our willingness to go a long way for the release of our captives and missing and kidnapped sons, must not be misunderstood. The State of Israel will not allow any enemy or any terrorist organization to turn abduction or holding for ransom, into a method. There are measures which we have not yet been taken, but, if, God forbid, the same circumstances re-occur, we will not hesitate to use them. This too, is a commitment and we better not be put to the test.

The State of Israel today thanks all those who helped bring our sons home: the Chancellor of Germany, Gerhard Schroeder, and Mr. Ernst Uhrlau. We appreciate their commitment to continue their efforts until Ron Arad is returned home, and we thank everyone who worked with them. We also want to thank those who worked for the return of the captives and missing – the team headed by Maj. Gen. (Res.) Ilan Biran, people from the IDF, the Mossad, and the General Security Services who worked relentlessly on behalf of the families – anonymous people, whose names the Israeli public does not know – we hold them all in high esteem, and we thank them all today.

A great debt is repaid today. A debt of respect to our soldiers and to their bereaved and anguished families, the Avitan, Avraham and Sawayid families. The hearts of the entire nation were beating with hope and shared fate. And also a debt of saving a life towards the Tennenbaum family, whose anxiety and hope touched every heart.

We now express our condolences to the families of our fallen who have returned to our land, and we will also support the families of our remaining sons, the captive and missing soldiers, with prayer and hope.

May the memories of our sons, Benny, Adi and Omar, be for a blessing.