THE ISRAEL REPORTSeptember/October 2000
STATEMENT BY PRIME MINISTER EHUD BARAK
Jerusalem, October 7, 2000Citizens of Israel, good evening,
We are facing the beginning of a new situation in the State of Israel. We are witnessing an acute and violent escalation in our relations with the Palestinians. Responsibility for this rests with Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. If he so wished, he could with a simple command halt the violence.
I call upon the Palestinians to immediately cease the violence and to agree to the call issued last week by President Clinton to meet in the coming days to continue discussion of the implementation of the agreement.
Israel will not conduct negotiations parallel to violence of any kind. With the same determination that we struggled to seek peace, we will know how to fight against violence.
Until now I have issued instructions to exercise restraint - not to act, but to react. If we will not see a change in the patterns of violence in the next two days, we shall see this as the breaking off of the peace negotiations by Arafat - a cessation for which he bears responsibility and which he initiated. We shall direct the IDF and the security forces to use all means at their disposal to halt the violence.
A new situation is indeed taking shape. This is one of the most important struggles in the history of the State of Israel - a struggle for our very right to live here in this difficult and tormented region as free people.
Our stance in this situation will in large measure determine our future.
The struggle will not be an easy one. It may well be protracted. There will be ups and downs, and, like today, there will be difficult moments - perhaps even more difficult. But if we will stand united, we will prevail.
Since Madrid and Oslo, throughout a decade, three or four consecutive governments in Israel have strived to achieve a peace agreement with our Palestinian neighbors, on the premise that we have a partner for peace.
Today, the picture that is emerging, is that there is apparently no partner for peace.
This truth is a painful one, but it is the truth, and we must confront it with open eyes and draw the necessary conclusions.
We will not yield to violence. We are a small people, but strong and courageous. Anyone who challenges us with force, will be met with force, and immediately.
We will be united. We have no cause to blame ourselves. Our hands are clean. We have turned every stone and were prepared to discuss almost every possible idea in order to explore whether the other side is prepared to pursue the road of peace.
An agreement can be reached, but the other side, for whom the choice between agreement and violence is not an easy one either - has apparently chosen violence, and will bear the responsibility for the consequences of this choice.
Our peace efforts have not weakened us, but rather strengthened our internal unity. The time now is ripe in the framework of the overall political process, with the approaching end of the Clinton administration and the termination of the interim agreements signed between us and the Palestinians.
We must not lose hope. Peace will come. It will come if we will know how to insist on our vital rights and the vital interests of the people of Israel, on the security of Israel, on the unity of Israel, and on the holy values of Israel.
We will insist on what is most vital - and we will do so together.
I understand those within the peace camp today, who find themselves forced, together with us all, to watch the partner in whom we had hoped to see a greater readiness for peace than he apparently possesses.
I understand the pain of our fellow citizens of Israel on the right side of the political map, who are forced to come to grips with the painful recognition that achieving peace involves accepting that we will have less than we dreamed of.
But now is the time to prepare for confrontation, to join hands and to move together - together towards the challenges before us.
This afternoon, three IDF soldiers were kidnapped on Mount Dov during a routine security patrol along the border, near the gate leading to the Lebanese village of Shaba.
The three soldiers are now in the hands of the Hizbullah.
The Israeli government views Hizbullah, the government of Syria and the government of Lebanon as responsible for the well-being of the soldiers, for holding them safely in satisfactory conditions, and for sending them quickly home.
The kidnapping of soldiers is very painful, as we all know from experience. The incident is difficult for us and for the IDF. I ask that you understand that, for obvious reasons, I cannot go into detail about our actions or our intentions in this regard in the days to come.
I would like to say to all citizens of Israel: We are all going through difficult times. But I am filled with faith that, in the end, we will emerge from this confrontation and struggle stronger and more united, without relinquishing our values as a Jewish and democratic state, or our vital interests, while continuing to strive for security and peace in Israel.
To the Arab citizens of Israel, I wish to say: We have together built a democratic society which recognizes the coexistence of different communities and faiths. We have together built a life based, first and foremost, on the recognition that we are living together in a democratic state under the rule of law.
I appeal to you once again to continue the behavior pursued by the vast majority of the Israeli Arabs, who continue to act responsibly and maturely, and are not provoked into action by extremists and inciters.
I appeal to all of us to renew our efforts, to support the rule of law. No state can allow itself a repetition of the pictures of blocked roads, closed settlements, of vandalism, or of damage to property.
All of us, together, are charged with the ultimate duty to achieve peace and equality, and to fully integrate the Arab citizens in Israeli society - but to do so within the framework of an open, progressive and law-abiding society.
On the eve of Yom Kippur, I would like to wish all of us, every family in Israel, a good year. May you all be inscribed in the book of life.
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