Statement by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon following the publication of the results of the Likud referendum

Today, murderous Palestinian terror again struck against Jews.  The terrorists murdered a mother and her four daughters in cold blood.  I send my profound and sincere condolences to the Hatuel family, and send my wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured.

Whoever attacks Jews and Israelis, either directly or indirectly, must know that he will not escape justice.  Israel will continue to pursue the murderers and their dispatchers everywhere.  Not a single one of them will be exonerated.

About one month ago, I approached members of the Likud and asked them to express their opinion regarding the Disengagement Plan, which I initiated and promoted with the cooperation of our great friend, the United States.  Israel has never received such strong, significant and historic support as that given by the United States.  I wish to thank the U.S. President, on my behalf and on behalf of all the citizens of Israel, for the deep friendship and leadership he has demonstrated.

This evening, I received the results of the Likud referendum with great sadness, and I respect the results.  I would like to thank everyone who volunteered, assisted and acted with me.  I would also like to thank the tens of thousands of Likud members who supported me, and my plan.  I know the great majority of the Israeli public supports my plan.  I know they feel as I do, disappointment at the results of the referendum.

The days ahead will not be easy.  We will have to make difficult decisions.  In the next few days, I will consult with the ministers, the Likud faction and the factions of the coalition, and will thoroughly examine the implications and steps we intend to take.

One thing is clear to me – the people of Israel did not elect me to sit idly by for 4 years.  I was elected to find the path that will lead this people to the tranquility, security and peace they so deserve.

I intend to continue leading the State of Israel to the best of my understanding, conscience and public duty.  This is not an easy task, however I intend to carry it through.