July/August 2000
Camp David II

Statement by Prime Minister Barak on his return from the Camp David Summit

July 26, 2000

(translated from Hebrew)

Fifteen days ago, I set out from Jerusalem, the heart of the Jewish people, on a mission of peace in Camp David.

In the name of millions of citizens raising their eyes in hope and in prayer, I embarked to try and complete the task begun by the late Menachem Begin, and for which the late Yitzhak Rabin gave his life. In your name, I set out to bring peace and hope to our children and to put an end to the 100 year-old conflict between us and our Palestinian neighbors.

I embarked to try and strengthen Jerusalem, our capital, to enlarge and buttress it for generations to come with a firm Jewish majoriy.

I embarked to try and ensure that a majority of the settlers in Judea and Samaria would for the first time live under Israeli sovereignty. I embarked in the knowledge that there cannot be peace at any price, but also that there cannot be peace without paying a price - a painful, difficult and heartbreaking price.

Today I return from Camp David, and can look into the millions of eyes and say with regret: We have not yet succeeded. We did not succeed because we did not find a partner prepared to make decisions on all issues. We did not succeed because our Palestinian neighbors have not yet internalized the fact that in order to achieve peace, each side has to give up some of their dreams; to give, not only to demand.

I look into the millions of eyes in whose name we embarked on this mission, and say: We did everything we could. We turned every stone, we exhausted every possibility to bring an end to the conflict and a secure future for Israel. And we continue to hope.

Today the entire world knows that Israel desires peace. Today the entire world knows that we conducted negotiations willingly and honestly.

I wish to thanks my colleagues, Ministers Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, Shlomo Ben-Ami and Dan Meridor, and all the members of the delegation, for the days and nights of difficult deliberations undertaken with a weighty sense of responsibilty for the future of Israel, for their joint efforts, for the friendship they displayed.

We conducted difficult negotiations; we were prepared to pay a heavy price. But we knew that on three things we could not compromise: the security of Israel, the sacred values of Israel, and the unity of the Israeli people. Let every Israeli and every neighbor know that there are things that are not negotiable. And if, God forbid, we will be faced with a choice of conceding or fighting for them, the choice will be clear to each and every one of us.

I, too, am disappointed today, as are many Israelis. I truly lament the loss of a tremendous opportunity which was so near, yet remains still far. In the name of the millions of eyes still gazing with hope and prayer, I promise not to despair, not to tire, not to cease to pursue peace.

To my brothers, the pioneering settlers in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, to our brothers in the Jordan Valley, to all of you I say today: My heart is with you in your pain. Your suffering is part of the path to the redemption of the land of Israel.

Throughout most of my life I fought alongside my brothers for the security of Israel. I will not let anyone harm it or weaken it.

To our neighbors, the Palestinians, I say today: We do not seek conflict. But if any of you should dare to put us to the test, we will stand together, strong and determined, convinced in the justness of our cause in the face of any challenge, and we shall triumph.

The road to peace is strewn with ups and downs, achievements and crises. We may still face difficult moments. But the hope of peace has not been extinguished - and it will come. Until then, we will stand united, in knowledge of our strength and the justness of our cause, ready to extend our hand in peace. Sure of our strength, we shall stride forward, with the prayer of generations in our hearts: "The Lord shall give strength to His people, the Lord shall bless His people with peace."

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