We see a positive change in Israel’s position in the international arena. There is increased understanding of Israel’s need to defend itself against various threats, ranging from terror to nuclear threats.

The time “after the holidays” has arrived and I am pleased to stand here again, perhaps against the wishes of some of the members of this house, to inform the Knesset about some of the expected government activities for the near future.

In the last few days we received a reminder of the reality in our region, which is saturated with a hatred of Israel. The President of Iran’s call to wipe Israel off the map, expresses what many in this region wish, but are afraid to explicitly utter. Their murderous intentions are expressed daily by heinous attacks, such as the ones directed at us during the past week.

The dispatchers of terror in Iran and Damascus, in Gaza and Jenin, in Tul Karem or Kabatia, in Hebron and Bethlehem, do not require reasons or excuses – they merely require opportunities.

In the face of such reality, Israel will continue to defend itself and strike those engaged in terror. We have no choice. The IDF, the Israel Police and the security forces are our bulwark against such murderous intentions.

We will also continue in full force to build the security fence, without any budgetary, implementation or political restrictions. The outline of the fence is determined by security considerations, under legal examination, with the purpose of providing maximum security on the one hand, and minimum harm to Palestinian civilians on the other.

We have no desire or intention to inflict unnecessary suffering on the Palestinians and have even taken steps to facilitate their daily lives as much as possible, as long as relative calm was preserved. However, the Palestinians must realize that only a determined struggle against terror, including the dismantling of its organizations, will ensure the tranquility we all long for.

We see a positive change in Israel’s position in the international arena. There is increased understanding of Israel’s need to defend itself against various threats, ranging from terror to nuclear threats. For the first time in many years, the international community, by means of the U.N. Security Council, is taking a stand against extremist countries such as Iran and Syria, which threaten peace and stability in the region.

Today, for the first time since the establishment of the state, the U.N. Security Council will discuss a motion presented by Israel.  The purpose of the motion is to commemorate the Holocaust around the world, by fixing a date for a memorial day and promoting educational plans. It is an important resolution for Israel and world Jewry and a significant step in the important effort of commemorating the Holocaust and learning its lessons.  

Approval of this motion would constitute an additional example for the normalization of Israel’s position in the U.N. and for the improvement of Israel’s position around the world. We must thank our Minister of Foreign Affairs and the ministry employees for their efforts in this regard.

The international community is also united in its demand of the Palestinian Authority to uphold all its commitments, primarily the dismantling of terrorist organizations and the prevention of terrorist attacks against Israel.  It is clear to all, that this is the only way to re-embark on the path of negotiation in order to reach a true settlement of the problems between the Palestinians and ourselves.

The government’s policy aims for implementation of the Roadmap, including the fourteen Israeli reservations, as approved by the government. The Roadmap is the only political plan for promoting peace and hope for both peoples, and there is no other plan.  We must stand united to ward off attempts to exempt the Palestinians from fulfilling their security and political commitments which have not yet been implemented. Our demand of the Palestinians for a genuine war against terror cannot be circumvented.

Israel has already proven its willingness to make painful compromises. Now we demand genuine action by the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people on the path to true peace.

Members of Knesset,

The government does not intend to remain aloof or to wait idly. In addition to the continuation of the security and political activity, which is intended to prevent terror and give hope to peace, we have many internal affairs to attend to.

In the coming weeks the government will present the state budget to the Knesset. This budget will express the national list of priorities determined by the Government.

The improvement in our economic situation enables us to allocate more resources to tackle some burning internal problems, which affect the quality of our lives more than anything.

We will present a national plan to fight violence and crime, to ensure the safety of all Israeli citizens in their homes, streets, schools and entertainment centers. We will fight crime from within with the same determination with which we fight terror from without.

We are working for the formation of a special plan for decreasing poverty and assisting the underprivileged population. It is not a secret that the economic crisis we underwent affected the weaker sectors to a greater extent than the affluent population. Now we have the necessity and the opportunity to amend some of the past budgetary constraints. Yesterday I instructed the budget planners to allocate the necessary resources for narrowing this intolerable gap and to present their conclusions to me during the coming weeks. Although, clearly, the difference will only be perceivable in the long term, I have given instructions to take steps which will yield results in the short term.

I also established a committee, consisting of Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Minister of Finance Ehud Olmert and myself, to follow-up on the implementation of the plan. I am confident that we will see the results of our efforts to deal with poverty in the not very distant future. [In response to an interruption:] I will reply to you in this regard: I will start in this term of office and continue in the next.  You can rest assured and not worry about it.

This year we will continue to implement reforms in education, which will play a central role in narrowing social gaps and ensuring excellence in Israeli society.

We congratulated Nobel Prize Laureate, Prof. Israel Aumann, just as we commended Prof. Hershko and Prof. Ciechanover on their achievement last year. Our task is to ensure that in the coming decades we will have more Nobel Prize Laureates.

And finally, in the coming weeks we will present for the government’s approval a plan which was formulated in my office, in the Vice Prime Minister’s Office and in the Ministry of Finance, to bolster and develop the Negev in the coming decade. This plan will constitute a prototype for the government’s changed order of priorities which gives preference to the Negev, the Galilee, and Greater Jerusalem.

I have not mentioned all the places, but I know the Knesset and am aware of the fact that there are always “traps”, so I would like to add that I certainly refer to the Jordan Valley, the settlement blocs, the security zones and the Golan Heights.

All the aforementioned will be implemented in addition to a massive and unprecedented investment in national infrastructures: the train program, a five-year-plan for the development of interurban roads, the energy and water infrastructures project – all of which ensure that Israel does not remain stagnant and will evolve into a competitive and developed country.

Members of Knesset,

We are entering an election year, and naturally disagreements among parties sharpen and personal conflicts increase. I call on all of us to act responsibly and remember that there is life after the elections.  We have proven in the past that we can work together to achieve national goals, even in times of bitter arguments. Our task is to act with decorum, wherever we are, in the government or in the Knesset, in the coalition or in the opposition, to ensure many years of tranquility, growth and prosperity for the citizens of Israel.

Thank you.