Honorable Speaker of the Knesset, Mr. Reuven Rivlin,
Outgoing and Incoming Government Ministers,
Today we bid farewell to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Ehud, you are one of the most experienced and talented people in our society. You proved that in your various positions – as member of Knesset, as mayor, as minister and of course as prime minister.
I believe that when we met for the first time, I was serving as a diplomat in the United States, and you were a young and energetic public figure. In fact, at that time, we were both younger. However, I think we proved that age and experience are not such a bad thing. Several years later, when I assumed the position of prime minister and you began your tenure as mayor of Jerusalem, we cooperated to strengthen our capital. We had, and we have, differences of opinion, but we always treated each other with respect, out of genuine appreciation for each other.
This appreciation grew stronger over the past several years during which we conducted many discussions – you as prime minister and I as head of the opposition – on the most sensitive topics related to national security. I remember our first meeting as prime minister and head of the opposition. It was very formal and correct and different from the meetings that took place afterwards, which became more and more personal – when trust between us was built. I found you to be an open and attentive man, one who consults and not only reports. You asked to hear my opinion on important matters, and that I contribute what I could from my own experience.
I would be the last person to say that former prime ministers do not have anything to contribute. At this gathering, there are four people who served as prime minister. I say the opposite. Honorable President, my friend Shimon Peres: you know how much I appreciate your assistance, your wisdom and your experience. I will need them a great deal in the coming years – in the search for peace, as well as in the innovative and creative development of our country, concepts which you are so good at. You have not lost your energy.
Ehud Barak: I know that beside me sits an seasoned man, with sharp intelligence and a wealth of experience and deeds. I have also known you for many years, when we were both even younger. I very much appreciate your brave decision to cooperate with me and join the unity government.
To you as well, outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, although you will not have an official position, I will allow myself to approach you occasionally for advice, so that we can put our heads together, in order to hear your opinions about the challenges facing us.
These challenges are many. We must deal with urgent problems in every field central to our lives – including in education, crime and social; however, first and foremost – in the economy and in our security. We face everyday challenges and we face national challenges. We will have to roll up our sleeves and start to work immediately upon leaving here.
I thank all the members of the unity government: the ministers, the heads of parties, Avigdor Lieberman and Eli Yishai, Danny Hershkovitz, everyone. We have undertaken an enormous challenge, and I am certain we will succeed.
I congratulate Ehud Olmert and his wife Aliza, and thank them for their contribution to the State, and wish them all the best.
I thank my children who always connect me with the young generation and keep me grounded in reality.
I would like to express my gratitude to my beloved wife, Sara. You are a pillar of support, a woman of valor, the mother of my children and the backbone of this family. You helped me so much with your wisdom, you warm and wise heart and your good advice. You stood beside me in difficult times and in moments of crisis, just as I tried to strengthen and comfort you in the face of the things said about you by those who do not know you. You are the one who always reminds me of the need to help the weaker members of society – the elderly, the neglected, Holocaust survivors, people with disabilities whom you treat with such dedication in your professional capacity. You are always the person who tells me that the strength of society is measured by the way it treats its weakest members.
On the eve of Passover, let us all remember this commitment and our commitment to each and every citizen of Israel.
The Jewish people are an ancient people, one of the most ancient on the face of the Earth. Most peoples that existed in the ancient times are no more. They sprouted, blossomed, withered and disappeared. The people of Israel refused to accept the iron-clad laws of history. With remarkable forces, we were afforded another opportunity. However, we have no other country. We will defend it and, G-d willing, it will defend us.