An essential step in ensuring the Jewish majority of the State of Israel is determining the borders of the state which will assure it an established Jewish majority, while also assuring the security of its citizens.

 Speech by PM Sharon to Jewish Agency Assembly

 

Photo: GPO

Welcome to Jerusalem, the eternal and united capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel forever.

I take this opportunity to thank Sallai Meridor at the end of his tenure. Sallai, over the past 6 years, you have made a significant contribution to the future of the Jewish people. I am certain that a great many more successful activities on behalf of the Jewish people and the State of Israel await you. I also congratulate Mr. Ze’ev Bielsky on his election as Chairman of the Zionist Federation. There is great importance in the fact that, at this time, the position is filled by a man of action, with vast experience, and one who is wholeheartedly dedicated to the subject. I look forward to working with you over the next few years. And I wish you success.

Sallai, as a graduate of the Revisionist Movement, you are certainly very familiar with the way its founder, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, defined the purpose of Zionism in his article “Majority”. And I quote, “The creation of a Jewish majority was, is and always will be the primary goal of Zionism; of all Zionism.” End of quote.

Since the publication of the article in 1923, we have succeeded in the mission to create a Jewish majority in the State of Israel. However, the existence of this majority is still not assured. Today, the goal of Zionism is to actively and determinedly ensure the Jewish majority in the State of Israel.

The first step to ensuring a Jewish majority is aliyah – widespread and broad aliyah from the entire Jewish Diaspora, and particularly from North America. Aliyah ensures not only the future of the State of Israel, but also the future of the Jewish people.  Israel is the Jewish community in which the number of Jews has grown at the highest rate, constantly and ceaselessly, since its establishment, while in the Diaspora there is an unfortunate constant decrease in the number of Jews. Therefore, aliyah is the central goal of my government.

Parallel with aliyah is a need to ensure the Jewish continuity of the Jewish communities in the Diaspora.  The central means to ensure this continuity is through Zionist-Jewish education, together with general, advanced education – Jewish schools, youth movements and community centers; imparting Jewish values to the young generation and strengthening their ties to the Jewish people and the State of Israel. This is the role of the Jewish communities overseas, however, in my opinion, it is also the responsibility of the State of Israel. We have mobilized for this important mission by choosing to lead and fund, with you, the Birthright/Taglit and Masa programs.

This year, we face an especially daunting challenge in the field of aliyah. The government of Israel has decided to bring thousands of Falash Mura from Ethiopia to Israel. We have been bringing 300 per month, and I presented a suggested resolution to the government to double the number to 600 per month. In the camps in Ethiopia, there are still approximately 17,000 Falash Mura, and we plan to bring them to Israel within three years. Then, the camps can be closed, and the activities of the Ethiopian Jews will be concentrated solely in Israel. How we absorb them is our greatest test, and demands tremendous efforts on our part. We must stand together before this challenge to the Jewish people, in order to assure our success.

Another essential step in ensuring the Jewish majority of the State of Israel is determining the borders of the state which will assure it an established Jewish majority, while also assuring the security of its citizens. I do not want to rehash the statistical argument between demographers as to the size of the national communities in the Land of Israel. It is obvious that we do not have the ability to ensure a Jewish majority in every area, and that we have no desire to rule over millions of Palestinians – to provide sanitation in Rafah, medical services in Gaza and veterinary services in Khan Yunis. We had the dream of a Jewish state in all the territories of the Land of Israel, but, unfortunately, we do not have the ability to realize the entire dream. 

What we do have is the ability to realize considerable and important parts of the dream, and we must concentrate our efforts on this.

Out of this rationale, I also initiated the Disengagement Plan, which was approved by the government and the Knesset. We are withdrawing from the Gaza Strip – an area in which there is no chance of establishing a Jewish majority, and which is clear to us all, will never be part of the State of Israel in any final agreement. At the same time, we are directing the majority of our efforts to the most important areas to ensure our existence – the Galilee, the Negev, greater Jerusalem, the settlement blocs and the security zones.

The immediate future will not be an easy period for us. Withdrawing from Gaza is a difficult and painful step for all of us. That is why it is especially important to get through this period united.  I am very wary of attempts by a small minority of law breakers, as we saw a few days ago on the seashore at Gush Katif, who wish to use force against the IDF and other security forces. This minority does not represent all the settlers. We must all remember that the call to disobedience and the attempts to disrupt the lives of Israelis endangers the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic nation. We must all, no matter our personal opinion, oppose this, and I am certain that the legal authorities will take all the necessary measures to stop this wild behavior.

Political disagreements exist and they are an inseparable part of Israeli democracy – however, we cannot allow these disagreements to allow us to forget what we have in common and what unites us.  Your contribution today to the unity of the Jewish people is more essential than ever.

At the end of the article, “Majority”, Ze’ev Jabotinsky wrote: “The term Jewish State is certainly clear: it means a Jewish majority. Zionism began in this and in this is the basis of its existence, in this it will continue to act until its realization or it will be lost.”

These words are as true today as they were the day they were written. We are obligated to continue striving for the establishment of a Jewish majority in the Land of Israel. If we do this together, united, if we can focus our efforts on the most important things, we can not only save Zionism from being lost, as Jabotinsky wrote, but we can also assure its prosperity and success.

I am certain that, with God’s help, we will succeed.

Thank you.