Speech by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the Special Debate in the Knesset
(Translated from Hebrew)

January 12, 2004

Mr. Speaker, Members of Knesset,

I listened attentively to everything the speakers had to say. I would like to thank them for their statements.

As you know, about eight months ago, the Government of Israel accepted the political plan called the Roadmap to Peace, and added 14 reservations. The Roadmap is accepted by most of the international community, and is the only way to reach a settlement, and eventually peace, between Israel and the Palestinians. This is because it places achieving security and overcoming terror, violence and incitement before any political concessions, while at the same time outlining a clear political horizon for both sides.

Israel remains committed to the Roadmap as was decided in the Government Resolution. We commenced the implementation of the Roadmap during the period of Abu Mazen’s Government, and are currently taking steps to fulfill our part. If there will be a Palestinian counterpart who has the ability and courage to dismantle the terror organizations and lead his people in security and peace, we will be able to continue implementing the Roadmap, and move on to the next stages.

The security that will be achieved will allow us to act to improve the lives of the Palestinians: transfer more cities to their security responsibility; lift curfews and closures; remove roadblocks; and renew transportation, the economy and commerce, etc. As long as there is an increase in security, Israel will be better able to allow for an improvement in the lives of the Palestinians, which is currently precluded by the continued attempts to carry out terror attacks and the absence of Palestinian efforts to fight terror.

It seems to me that it is redundant to tell the members of this house that the efforts of the Palestinians to carry out acts of terror have not ceased for even one day. Only yesterday, we witnessed a suicide bomber who actually set off his bomb earlier than planned. However, this is not the only incident. Hardly a day goes by without attempted terrorist attacks.

I hope that the Palestinian Prime Minister, Ahmed Qurei, will turn out to be this leader – that he will stop the avoidance tactics that we see nearly every day, including avoiding meeting with me; that he will demand, receive and activate the Palestinian security mechanism, and together with us will begin an honest and genuine implementation of the Roadmap.

Only by doing so, by implementing the Roadmap – dismantling terrorist organizations; stopping violence, terror and incitement; and carrying out reforms in the Palestinian Authority – as the Palestinians committed to do, will they receive a place of honor in the family of nations.

I must point out that I am not one of those who mourn the Roadmap. I hope that the voice of reason in the Palestinian street will increase, and that the Palestinians will abandon the path of terror. I know that when it happens, they will find in us a generous partner, willing to take many rapid steps toward them in order to reach an agreement that will secure the lives of both our peoples here in peace.

Nevertheless, I do not ignore the fact that it is possible that in a few months we will reach the conclusion that this is not the case, and that the Palestinians are continuing to reject our hand extended in peace, and avoiding implementing their commitments as set out in the Roadmap. We must not ignore this scenario. It may be possible to do this when you are sitting on the opposition benches – but this is not the role of leadership, at least not responsible leadership. Therefore, we are preparing for this possibility today.

In the event that we reach such a decision, when we are convinced that, at this time, all the possibilities for implementing the Roadmap have run out, we will be forced to take a series of steps that will ensure maximum security for the citizens of Israel, with a minimum of friction with the Palestinian population. And this will be for a period of time that will hopefully be brief, until the Palestinians can find among them the necessary leadership to renew negotiations. These steps will be undertaken following exhaustive discussions between the coalition parties, and with the full cooperation of our international allies, headed by the United States.

I appointed a team, led by the designated head of the National Security Council, Brigadier General (Res.) Giora Eiland, to examine and formulate suggestions in this matter. I personally have a number of avenues of thought for steps that must be taken if necessary, and have spoken with the members of the Foreign Policy and Security Committee about some of them, even before my speech in Herzliya.

I would like to remind the members of Knesset that in my speech here, on June 16, 2003, I announced that agreements signed by us and the Palestinians as a result of the Roadmap would be brought before the Knesset for approval. If the moment arrives when it becomes clear that we, for now, have no partner to implement the Roadmap – I will, of course, present the steps that the Government decides to carry out, as a result, to the Knesset for approval, so that we can hold a serious and comprehensive discussion on the subject.

As of today, these steps have still not been formulated, and are certainly not yet on the agenda. At the conclusion of this discussion, a vote will be taken on my announcement. I ask the members of the Knesset to support it.

Mr. Chairman, in order to dispel any doubt, I again ask the members of Knesset to support this announcement.

Thank you.