Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Address

Feast of Tabernacles
September 28, 1996

I have to tell you that it's good to be among true friends and dedicated Zionists. I don't always get that luxury, as you know. And when everything looks bleak, this is when true friends, and leaders, and governments, are tested. Friendship is tested. And I think that you are passing this test magnificently. No doctor can prescribe better medicine.

It's a delight to be here with you, at any time. It's a delight to see you in a hundred lands. But it is a special delight to see you tonight, here, in Jerusalem, the eternal capital, undivided, of the Jewish people. It has always been our capital. It will always be our capital. It was a divided city for a few decades, and on a miraculous day in June 1967 we tore down the walls. They shall never come up again; there shall never be walls in Jerusalem; we shall never wall up this city.

And in this open, united, undivided city, we believe deeply in the freedom of all three great faiths to come to their holy places, to practise their worship. It is a fact my friends, that it is only under Israeli sovereignty, only when the city was united under Israel, that such freedom - that you personally can attest to - has been made possible. This was, is, and will always remain our policy: freedom, and access to all three great faiths.

Now we have been told that we have impeded this freedom, that we acted against one of the world's great faiths, Islam, by digging a tunnel. This is what we've been told. I want to tell you something. This tunnel has been around for 2,000 years. It was dug by our ancestors the Hasmoneans in the time of the Maccabees. It went from what is now the Western Wall, north(wards for) 400 metres, in a magnificent construction that provides a view of history that is cherished by all who worship the great traditions of this holy land. This tunnel is 250 metres, a quarter of a kilometre, from the nearest mosque. It has nothing to do with the holy places. It has nothing to do with any mosque. It has nothing to do with digging under the Temple Mount. This is a complete, utter febrication. But my friends, why should I tell you? You can tell me, many of you have been there. How many of you have been in that tunnel, can I see? You can come here, right here, and attest to the truth of what I'm saying, and in fact thousands, tens of thousands, have walked throught it - Christians, Muslims, Jews, visitors. They went 400 metres from one side of the tunnel to the other, turned around because of a small wall, 20 cms wide. All we did was open that wall, so you don't have to walk back, so you can go through the market, and maybe buy something, a souvenir, from one of the Palestinian merchants there. Why not? It's good, it's proper. That is all.

Now I say this because we hear claims, for example I hear claims in the media - well the media, you know, is always fair towards Israel - that Palestinian claims are that the tunnel burrows under Ache Temple Mount. What do you mean, Palestinian claims? Walk through it, as you did, check. It's open. The entire world can see, it is open, it will stay open, it will always be open.

So the issue of the tunnel is only an excuse, its a fabrication. And it is shameful. It is shameful that anyone should give it credence. If we have a battle, I believe it is a battle for truth. If there are attacks against us, they are always preceded by terrible vilification. If there's been any wellspring in the history of anti-Semitism, it is to describe the Jewish people as the poisoners of the wells, as the enemies of mankind. It is that same repetition of libellous slander the precedes violent attacks, that has always sparked the worst attacks against our people. And if there's one task that we all share in order to obstruct this calumny, it is to fight the battle of truth. And I urge you all - as ambassadors, ambassadors of truth, as messengers of goodwill - I urge you to go see for yourselves, and help us tell the truth to the world. It needs to hear it.

I said that the tunnel is an excuse, but this is an understated way of saying that what has been done here is unpardonable. To try to whip up religious frenzy of the negative kind, to try to incite a religious war based on this completely groundless fabrication, is irresponsible. And indeed, this incitement is something that was meant to produce pressure on Israel in the negotiations. It meant to influence public opinion by creating a crisis. And by purposeful agitation, and by the dissemination of false information, such incitement brought on a wave of violence, and that violence too was something that is unpardonable. Because it was perpetrated with live ammunition, and with rifles that were given to the Palestinian Authority for the purpose of peace.

I believe that we have to define a principle, and that is when we pursue peace, we forsake violence, that if we seek a peaceful resolution, we must seek it purposefully, in a peaceful way. But what we have seen in recent months, since the change of government - and may I say before as well - that there is a different principle that is enunciated. And it stands in sharp contrast with the words uttered in this city by Anwar Sadat. When Anwar Sadat came to make peace between Egypt and Israel, when Menachem Begin, o blessed memory, when they both came here and stood in the Knesset a few hundred metres from here, Anwar Sadat said three simple words. He said, "No more war. No more war, mo more violence, no more war."

Now I want you to remember that when he said this, the negotiations had not yet begun at Camp David. When he said this, the negotiations on autonomy between Israel and the Palestinians had not yet begun. They were far ahead. But he said, "No more war; the path of violence is over." Now he knew fully well how difficult those negotiations would be. He knew there would be ups and downs. He knew there would be all sorts of crises in the negotiations. He knew there would be disagreements. He knew all that. And that is why he deliberately said: "No more violence; no more war."

Yet what we are being told now is that because the negotiations aren't proceeding to someone's liking - after all, only some 90 days have passed, and a Likud prime minister has met Yasser Arafat, the Defence Minister has met him, the Foreign Minister has met him, we have our senior steering committees meeting with each other, we have as you well know, an agenda for the outstanding issues to be resolved, all that in 90 days, not fast enough for some, not proceeding along the lines they would like. Israel doesn't make unilateral concessions any more, it actually demans a quid pro quo. What a revolutionary idea! Indeed, we introduced this amazing concept called "reciprocity" - you fulfill your end of the bargain, we fulfill our end; I know it's shocking to some. We also insist on security - another great shock. And we hear, we are being told: "If you don't proceed in the way we want, there will be violence, there'll be a breakdown that could lead to worse than violence." And you hear it from various quarters in the Arab world. I want to tell you there is nothing more destructive of peace than to threaten violence, because those threats have a way of materializing.

Those who want peace foster the climate of peace - not necessarily of agreement to anything that the other side says, that is not what I'm arguing here. We'll have many arguments, many debates, probably many disagreements before we have agreements which I believe can be achieved. But one thing we must agree on right from the start, and that is what Anwar Sadat said, and what Menachem Begin said: "We go on the path towards peace, in peace." We go on the path towards peace, in peace - not in violence.

And it does not speak well of the international community that it accepts this notion of violence, of deliberate violation of the commitments undertaking by the Palestinian Authority, that it accepts it as a legitimate means of negotiation, that it now says, well this violence must be rewarded, and thse illegitimate pressure tactices must be rewarded. I say differently: I say that we must put an end to the violence. I say that we must put an end to the hostilities. I say that we must end these violent confrontations. I say that we can get back to the negotiating table only when this principle is agreed upon. Because if we are asked to negotiate under continuous threats of new incitement, under continuous threats of live ammunition being fired at our soldiers every time we have a disagreement, this will cause a breakdown of the peace process.

What I'm seeking is not a breakdown, but in fact to get the peace process back on course. It was derailed by years of deadly terrorism that those Palestinian soldiers, or those Palestinian policemen with rifles, did pracically nothing to stop. It is now being derailed by these same Palestinian policemen, who are pointing those weapons not at the terrorists, but at Israelies. We seek real friendship and we seek real peace. We want to solve the problem with the Palestinian Arabs. We have our own conception of how to proceed to peace. I'm not asking them to accept it. I'm not asking them to accept any precondition that we have, nor should they ask me to accept theirs. But I am saying that we must agre to resume the negotiations in good faith, that we must shun violence as a means, as a tactic of deliberations or of negotiations.

And I have one basic belief: I believe that peace is achievable, I believe it's achiebable because we have confidence in our strength, in the reborn Jewish state here in the land of Israel. I believe that peace can be achieved only through such strength and firmness. And I believe we have that firmness and we have that purpose of direction and we can negotiate from a position of fairness and firmness, to achieve and equitable resolution to the conflict between us and the Palestinian Arabs.

But I believe too that our strength is grounded in the belief in the justice of our cause, in our great return to the land of israel, in our building up the land, in our rreturning to our great cities, in the restoration of Jewish renaissance, in the Jewish sovereignty here in our ancient homeland. These are the things that give us strength, these are the things that give us meaning. These are the things for which we are here and not, dear friends, in a hundred different lands. And you, in a hundred different lands, know wy we are here. And I know why you are here: you have come to help us, to be with us in this curcial time, you have come to help us realise our dream.

I need your help. I need your help right now because I believe that you can make a difference in your societies, in your governments, in your media. I come back to what I said inthe beginning, and I'll close with it: the most important battle is the battle of truth. If you can help us, as I believe you can, we can win the battle of truth. We can tell people what is really going on here, and when we do that, we will pave the road to a genuine peace that we all crave and desire.

And we will help in the great restoration, in the great return, with God's help, of all the Jewish people to our ancient homeland - with God's help, and with your help, dear friends.

Thank you.

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