Jewish National Fund - We Only Have ONE ISRAEL




Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Address to the Knesset - The Vote on the Disengagement Plan

25 Oct 2004

Mr. Speaker, Members of Knesset,

This is a fateful hour for Israel. We are on threshold of a difficult decision, the likes of which we have seldom faced, the significance of which for the future of our country in this region is consistent with the difficulty, pain and dispute it arouses within us. You know that I do not say these things with a light heart to the representatives of the nation and to the entire nation watching and listening to every word uttered here in the Knesset today. This is a people who has courageously faced, and still faces the burden and terror of the ongoing war, which has continued from generation to generation; in which, as in a relay race, fathers pass the guns to their sons; in which the boundary between the frontline and the home front has long been erased; in which schools and hotels, restaurants and marketplaces, cafes and buses have also become targets for cruel terror and premeditated murder.

I have never faced so difficult a decision.

Today, this nation wants to know what decision this house will make at the end of this stormy discussion. What will we say to them, and what message will we convey to them? For me, this decision is unbearably difficult. During my years as a fighter and commander, as a politician, Member of Knesset, as a minister in Israels governments and as Prime Minister, I have never faced so difficult a decision. I know the implications and impact of the Knessets decision on the lives of thousands of Israelis who have lived in the Gaza Strip for many years, who were sent there on behalf of the Governments of Israel, and who built homes there, planted trees and grew flowers, and who gave birth to sons and daughters, who have not known any other home. I am well aware of the fact that I sent them and took part in this enterprise, and many of these people are my personal friends. I am well aware of their pain, rage and despair. However, as much as I understand everything they are going through during these days and everything they will face as a result of the necessary decision to be made in the Knesset today, I also believe in the necessity of taking the step of disengagement in these areas, with all the pain it entails, and I am determined to complete this mission. I am firmly convinced and truly believe that this disengagement will strengthen Israels hold over territory which is essential to our existence, and will be welcomed and appreciated by those near and far, reduce animosity, break through boycotts and sieges and advance us along the path of peace with the Palestinians and our other neighbors.

I am accused of deceiving the people and the voters because I am taking steps which are in total opposition to past things I have said and deeds I have done. This is a false accusation. Both during the elections and as Prime Minister, I have repeatedly and publicly said that I support the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel. I have repeatedly and openly said that I am willing to make painful compromises in order to put an end to this ongoing and malignant conflict between those who struggle over this land, and that I would do my utmost in order to bring peace. And I wish, Mr. Chairman, to say that many years before, in 1988, in a meeting with Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir and with the Ministers of the Likud, I said there that I believe that if we do not want to be pushed back to the 1967 lines, the territory should be divided. As one who fought in all of Israels wars, and learned from personal experience that without proper force, we do not have a chance of surviving in this region, which does not show mercy towards the weak, I have also have learned from experience that the sword alone cannot decide this bitter dispute in this land.

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