Speech by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
December 18, 2003
congratulate the organizers of this conference for the
important and interesting gathering which you have held here.
During the past three days, you have been discussing Israels
situation. I, as Prime Minister, am responsible for the
planning and implementation of the measures which will shape
Israels character during the next few years.
all entrusted with the duty of shaping the face of the Jewish
and democratic State of Israel a state where there is an equal
distribution of the burden, as well as the acceptance of
rights and shouldering of duties by all sectors, through
different forms of national service. A state where there is a
good and efficient education system which educates a young
generation imbued with values and national pride, which is
capable of confronting the challenges of the modern world. A
country whose economy is adapted to the advanced global market
of the 21st century, where the product per capita crosses the
$20,000 line and is equal to that of most developed European
countries. An immigrant-absorbing state which constitutes a
national and spiritual center for all Jews of the world and is
a source of attraction for thousands of immigrants each year.
Aliyah is the central goal of the State of Israel.
This is the country we wish to shape. This is the
country where our children will want to live.
that there is sometimes a tendency to narrow all of Israels
problems down to the political sphere, believing that once a
solution is found to Israels problems with its neighbors,
particularly the Palestinians, the other issues on the agenda
will miraculously resolve themselves. I do not believe so. We
are facing additional challenges, which must be addressed the
economy, educating the young generation, immigrant absorption,
enhancement of social cohesion and the improvement of
relations between Arabs and Jews in Israel.
Israeli citizens, I yearn for peace. I attach supreme
importance to taking all steps, which will enable progress
toward resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians.
However, in light of the other challenges we are faced with,
if the Palestinians do not make a similar effort toward a
solution of the conflict I do not intend to wait for them
Seven months ago, my Government approved
the Roadmap to peace, based on President George Bushs June
2002 speech. This is a balanced program for phased progress
toward peace, to which both Israel and the Palestinians
committed themselves. A full and genuine implementation of the
program is the best way to achieve true peace. The Roadmap is
the only political plan accepted by Israel, the Palestinians,
the Americans and a majority of the international community.
We are willing to proceed toward its implementation: two
states Israel and a Palestinian State living side by side in
tranquility, security and peace.
The Roadmap is a
clear and reasonable plan, and it is therefore possible and
imperative to implement it. The concept behind this plan is
that only security will lead to peace. And in that sequence.
Without the achievement of full security within the framework
of which terror organizations will be dismantled it will not
be possible to achieve genuine peace, a peace for generations.
This is the essence of the Roadmap. The opposite perception,
according to which the very signing of a peace agreement will
produce security out of thin air, has already been tried in
the past and failed miserably. And such will be the fate of
any other plan which promotes this concept. These plans
deceive the public and create false hope. There will be no
peace before the eradication of terror.
under my leadership will not compromise on the realization of
all phases of the Roadmap. It is incumbent upon the
Palestinians to uproot the terrorist groups and to create a
law-abiding society, which fights against violence and
incitement. Peace and terror cannot coexist. The world is
currently united in its unequivocal demand from the
Palestinians to act toward the cessation of terrorism and the
implementation of reforms. Only a transformation of the
Palestinian Authority into a different authority will enable
progress in the political process. The Palestinians must
fulfill their obligations. A full and complete implementation
will at the end of the process lead to peace and tranquility.
We began the implementation of the Roadmap at Aqaba,
but the terrorist organizations joined with Yasser Arafat and
sabotaged the process with a series of the most brutal terror
attacks we have ever known.
Concurrent with the demand
from the Palestinians to eliminate the terror organizations,
Israel is taking and will continue to take steps to
significantly improve the living conditions of the Palestinian
population: Israel will remove closures and curfews and reduce
the number of roadblocks; we will improve freedom of movement
for the Palestinian population, including the passage of
people and goods; we will increase the hours of operation at
international border crossings; we will enable a large number
of Palestinian merchants to conduct regular and normal
economic and trade relations with their Israeli counterparts,
etc. All these measures are aimed at enabling better and freer
movement for the Palestinian population not involved in
In addition, subject to security coordination,
we will transfer Palestinian towns to Palestinian security
Israel will make every effort to
assist the Palestinians and to advance the process.
Israel will fulfil the commitments taken upon itself.
I have committed to the President of the United States that
Israel will dismantle unauthorized outposts. It is my
intention to implement this commitment. The State of Israel is
governed by law, and the issue of the outposts is no
exception. I understand the sensitivity; we will try to do
this in the least painful way possible, but the unauthorized
outposts will be dismantled. Period.
Israel will meet
all its obligations with regard to construction in the
settlements. There will be no construction beyond the existing
construction line, no expropriation of land for construction,
no special economic incentives and no construction of new
I take this opportunity to appeal to the
Palestinians and repeat, as I said at Aqaba: it is not in our
interest to govern you. We would like you to govern yourselves
in your own country. A democratic Palestinian state with
territorial contiguity in Judea and Samaria and economic
viability, which would conduct normal relations of
tranquility, security and peace with Israel. Abandon the path
of terror and let us together stop the bloodshed. Let us move
forward together towards peace.
We wish to speedily
advance implementation of the Roadmap towards quiet and a
genuine peace. We hope that the Palestinian Authority will
carry out its part. However, if in a few months the
Palestinians still continue to disregard their part in
implementing the Roadmap then Israel will initiate the
unilateral security step of disengagement from the
The purpose of the Disengagement Plan is
to reduce terror as much as possible, and grant Israeli
citizens the maximum level of security. The process of
disengagement will lead to an improvement in the quality of
life, and will help strengthen the Israeli economy. The
unilateral steps which Israel will take in the framework of
the Disengagement Plan will be fully coordinated with the
United States. We must not harm our strategic coordination
with the United States. These steps will increase security for
the residents of Israel and relieve the pressure on the IDF
and security forces in fulfilling the difficult tasks they are
faced with. The Disengagement Plan is meant to grant maximum
security and minimize friction between Israelis and
We are interested in conducting direct
negotiations, but do not intend to hold Israeli society
hostage in the hands of the Palestinians. I have already said
we will not wait for them indefinitely.
Disengagement Plan will include the redeployment of IDF forces
along new security lines and a change in the deployment of
settlements, which will reduce as much as possible the number
of Israelis located in the heart of the Palestinian
population. We will draw provisional security lines and the
IDF will be deployed along them. Security will be provided by
IDF deployment, the security fence and other physical
obstacles. The Disengagement Plan will reduce friction between
us and the Palestinians.
This reduction of friction
will require the extremely difficult step of changing the
deployment of some of the settlements. I would like to repeat
what I have said in the past: In the framework of a future
agreement, Israel will not remain in all the places where it
is today. The relocation of settlements will be made, first
and foremost, in order to draw the most efficient security
line possible, thereby creating this disengagement between
Israel and the Palestinians. This security line will not
constitute the permanent border of the State of Israel,
however, as long as implementation of the Roadmap is not
resumed, the IDF will be deployed along that line. Settlements
which will be relocated are those, which will not be included
in the territory of the State of Israel in the framework of
any possible future permanent agreement. At the same time, in
the framework of the Disengagement Plan, Israel will
strengthen its control over those same areas in the Land of
Israel which will constitute an inseparable part of the State
of Israel in any future agreement. I know you would like to
hear names, but we should leave something for later.
Israel will greatly accelerate the construction of the
security fence. Today we can already see it taking shape. The
rapid completion of the security fence will enable the IDF to
remove roadblocks and ease the daily lives of the Palestinian
population not involved in terror.
In order to enable
the Palestinians to develop their economic and trade sectors,
and to ensure that they will not be exclusively dependent on
Israel, we will consider, in the framework of the
Disengagement Plan, enabling in coordination with Jordan and
Egypt the freer passage of people and goods through
international border crossings, while taking the necessary
I would like to emphasize: the
Disengagement Plan is a security measure and not a political
one. The steps which will be taken will not change the
political reality between Israel and the Palestinians, and
will not prevent the possibility of returning to the
implementation of the Roadmap and reaching an agreed
The Disengagement Plan does not prevent
the implementation of the Roadmap. Rather, it is a step Israel
will take in the absence of any other option, in order to
improve its security.
The Disengagement Plan will be
realized only in the event that the Palestinians continue to
drag their feet and postpone implementation of the Roadmap.
Obviously, through the Disengagement Plan the
Palestinians will receive much less than they would have
received through direct negotiations as set out in the
According to circumstances, it is possible
that parts of the Disengagement Plan that are supposed to
provide maximum security to the citizens of Israel will be
undertaken while also attempting to implement the Roadmap.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My life experience has
taught me that for peace, as well as for war, we must have
broad consensus. We must preserve our unity, even in the midst
of a difficult, internal debate.
In the past three
years, the Palestinian terrorist organizations have put us to
a difficult test. Their plan to break the spirit of Israeli
society has not succeeded. The citizens of Israel have managed
to step into the breach, support each other, lend a helping
hand, volunteer and contribute.
I believe that this
path of unity must be continued today. Whether we will be able
to advance the Roadmap, or will have to implement the
Disengagement Plan, experience has taught us that, together,
through broad national consensus, we can do great things.
Let us not be led astray. Any path will be
complicated, strewn with obstacles, and obligate us to act
with discretion and responsibility. I am confident that, just
as we have managed to overcome the challenges of the past, we
will stand together and succeed today.
We will always
be guided by the words of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, who
said, on the day after the Declaration of Independence:
These days, our purpose is only to build the State of
Israel with love and faith, in Jewish brotherhood, and to
defend it with all our spirit, and as long as necessary. We
are still in the midst of a difficult battle, one that has two
fronts: political and military. Let us not embellish our deeds
and, of course, our words, with grandiose names. We must
remain humble. We achieved what we have achieved by standing
on the shoulders of previous generations, and we accomplished
what we have accomplished by preserving our precious legacy,
the legacy of a small nation which has endured suffering and
tribulations, but which is, nevertheless, great and eternal in
spirit, vision, faith and virtue.
I am also a great
believer in the resilience of this small, brave nation, which
has endured suffering and tribulations. I am confident that,
united in the power of our faith, we will be able to succeed
in any path we choose.
Thank you very much, and happy