Israel's Prime Minister Speaks
An address by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
The Knesset, July 17, 2006
Ladies and gentlemen,
Members of Knesset,
At the outset, I offer condolences, on my behalf and on
behalf of the government, the Knesset and the entire nation,
to the families of the victims -- both civilian and IDF. I
also send best wishes for recovery to the wounded, and a
huge embrace for the families of those kidnapped and the
Over the past few weeks, our enemies have challenged the
sovereignty of the State of Israel and the safety of its
residents - first in the southern sector, then on the
northern border, and deeper into the home front.
Israel did not seek these confrontations. On the contrary.
We have done a lot to prevent them. We returned to the
borders of the State of Israel, recognized by the entire
international community. There were those who misconstrued
our desire for peace - for us and our neighbors - as a sign
of frailty. Our enemies misinterpreted our willingness to
exercise restraint as a sign of weakness.
They were wrong!
Madam Speaker, Members of Knesset,
The State of Israel has no territorial conflict, neither on
our southern border nor on our northern one.
In these two areas, we are sitting on the recognized
international border - both vis-a-vis the Palestinian
Authority in the Gaza Strip, and in Lebanon.
We have no intention of interfering in their internal
affairs. On the contrary, stability and tranquility in
Lebanon, free of the rule of foreign powers, and in the
Palestinian Authority, are in Israel's interest.
We yearn for the day when peace will prevail between us, for
the mutual benefit of our peoples from both sides of our
The campaign we are engaged in these days is against the
terror organizations operating from Lebanon and Gaza. These
organizations are nothing but "sub-contractors" operating
under the inspiration, permission, instigation and financing
of the terror-sponsoring and peace-rejecting regimes, on the
Axis of Evil which stretches from Tehran to Damascus.
Lebanon has suffered heavily in the past, when it allowed
foreign powers to gamble on its fate.
Iran and Syria still continue to meddle, from afar, in the
affairs of Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority, through
Hizballah and the Hamas.
Even if last Wednesday's criminal attack against an IDF
patrol was carried out without the consent of the Lebanese
government and without the assistance of its military, this
does not absolve it of full responsibility for the attack
which emanated from its sovereign territory. Just as the
fact that the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority opposes
terrorism against Israel does not relieve him and the
Palestinian Authority of their responsibility for the attack
carried out from their territory against our soldiers in
Kerem Shalom. They are both fully responsible for the
safety of our soldiers who were taken hostage.
Radical, terrorist and violent elements are sabotaging the
life of the entire region and placing its stability at risk.
The region in which we live is threatened by these murderous
It is a regional - as well as global - interest to take
control and terminate their activity.
We can all see how the majority of the international
community supports our battle against the terror
organizations and our efforts to remove this threat of the
We intend to do this. We will continue to operate in full
force until we achieve this. On the Palestinian front, we
will conduct a tireless battle until terror ceases, Gilad
Shalit is returned home safely and the shooting of Qassam
And in Lebanon, we will insist on compliance with the terms
stipulated long ago by the international community, as
unequivocally expressed only yesterday in the resolution of
the 8 leading countries of the world:
- The return of the hostages, Ehud (Udi) Goldwasser
and Eldad Regev.
- A complete cease fire.
- Deployment of the Lebanese army in all of
- Expulsion of Hizballah from the area, and
fulfillment of United Nations Resolution 1559.
We will not suspend our actions.
On both fronts we are exercising self-defense in the most
basic and essential sense. In both cases, it is a matter
whose importance and significance go far beyond the size of
the military units involved.
We are at a national moment of truth. Will we consent to
living under the threat of this Axis of Evil or will we
mobilize our inner strength and show determination and
Our answer is clear to every Israeli, and it echoes today
throughout the entire region.
We will search every compound, target every terrorist who
assists in attacking the citizens of Israel, and destroy
every terrorist infrastructure, everywhere. We will persist
until Hizballah and Hamas comply with those basic and decent
things required of them by every civilized person. Israel
will not agree to live in the shadow of missiles or rockets
against its residents.
Citizens of Israel,
There are moments in the life of a nation, when it is
compelled to look directly into the face of reality and say:
And I say to everyone: no more!
Israel will not be held hostage -- not by terror gangs or by
a terrorist authority or by any sovereign state.
In the life of a nation there are moments of transcendence,
of purification, when political and sectarian disputes which
separate us are replaced by a sense of mutual
responsibility. I highly value and appreciate the way the
Opposition has been conducting itself in the Knesset these
days. The human competition and personal rivalries are
dissolved and instead our feeling of mutual responsibility
arises, our sense of partnership, and primarily, our eternal
love for our people and our land.
This is such a moment!
All of us -- Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze and Circassians
-- now stand as one person, as one nation, subject together
to the same hatred and malice, and fighting against it in consensus and partnership. When missiles are launched at our residents and cities, our answer will be war with all the strength, determination, valor, sacrifice and
dedication which characterize this nation.
There is nothing we want more than peace and good neighborly
relations -- in the east, north and south. We seek peace, we
pursue peace and we yearn for peace. At the same time,
there is nothing we reject more than an attempt to harm us
and make us give up our right to live here, in our land, in
security and peace.
On behalf of the people of Israel, on behalf of all the
residents of the country, I came here today, Madam Speaker,
to announce to the world: we seek neither war nor direct
confrontation, but we will not be deterred from them when
the need arises. Only a nation that can defend its freedom
truly deserves it. We are entitled to our freedom, and when
necessary, we know how to fight for it and defend it.
My fellow Members of Knesset,
The strength of the State of Israel relies on the strength
and capability of the IDF. This strength is the main
guarantee to preserving and defending our lives on this
land. The best economic and human resources of Israeli
society were invested in building this strength.
I want to extend from here my heartfelt gratitude - and that
of the Government and the people of Israel - to the IDF
soldiers and commanders, the security services, the Israel
Police, the rescue forces, the firefighters and the other
I wish to read from the "Prayer for the Welfare of Soldiers
in the Israel Defense Forces". Millions of Jews -- in Israel
and the world -- pray for the safety and success of those who
defend our nation, from the Lebanese border to the desert,
and from the Great Sea unto the approach of the Arava, on
the land, in the air and on the sea.
"May the Almighty cause the enemies who rise up against us
to be struck down before them.
May the Holy One, blessed be He, preserve and rescue our
fighters from every trouble and distress and from every
plague and illness, and may He send blessing and success in
their every endeavor.
May He lead our enemies under our soldiers' sway and may He
grant them salvation and crown them with victory".
The strength of a nation is measured not only by its
The strength of a nation is measured by its welfare and
morality, its strong and solid economy, its modern and
developing market, its export of technologies and products
for the most advanced world markets and its ground-breaking
academic research. In all these, each and every one of us
has good reason to be proud.
But above all, the strength of a nation is measured in times
of trial, when the home front becomes the front, when the
citizens of the country show admirable fortitude, patience
and stamina and allow it to operate against its enemies.
I had the privilege of witnessing these inner strengths in
the years when I was Mayor of Jerusalem. For years, our
capital was subject to the most murderous terror attacks.
The resilience, patience and restraint of the residents of
Jerusalem and the entire citizens of Israel are exemplary.
I recall a conversation with Rudy Giuliani, who was Mayor of
New York during the terror attacks of September 2001. I
called to offer encouragement to him and the residents of
New York following the collapse of the Twin Towers, and he
replied: "Ehud, if the New Yorkers can withstand it like the
Jerusalemites do, then we will defeat terrorism".
Ladies and gentlemen Members of Knesset, Citizens of Israel,
Even in these days, hundreds of thousands of Israelis stand
at the front line of fire, like soldiers in the battlefield,
fighting for our life and honor.
It is clear to us that the circumstances imposed upon the
residents compel us to address their special needs, in all
aspects. The government will lend immediate assistance,
The government of Israel, under my leadership, derives
strength from the stamina of the Israeli public. We are a
brave and determined nation. I am proud today -- perhaps
more than ever before -- to be an Israeli citizen.
Thanks to you, our enemies come up against a united nation,
which fights together, shoulder to shoulder. We do not
surrender and we do not panic.
We believe in the justice of our cause, because there is no
battle more just or moral than ours -- a battle for the right
to a peaceful and normal life, like any other human being,
any other nation and any other state.
We fight for the right of children like Omer Pisachov, may
his memory be blessed, a 7 year old from Nahariya, who
wanted to visit his grandmother Yehudit Itzkovich, may her
memory be blessed, and enjoy the Sabbath dinner she
We fight for the right of citizens like Shmuel Ben-Shimon,
may his memory be blessed, a 41 year old from Yokne'am who
left every morning for work in the railway garage in Haifa
to support his wife Natalie and their small children;
We fight for the right of citizens like Monica Lerer, may
her memory be blessed, a 50 year old from Nahariya, to drink
coffee on the terrace in the country to which she immigrated
We fight for the right of girls like Ella Abukasis, may her
memory be blessed, a 13 year old from Sderot, to play the
flute and read books, as Ella enjoyed doing.
We fight for everything that everyone in the enlightened
world takes for granted and never imagined that they would
have to fight for - the right to a normal life.
It is a difficult battle! It may become even more difficult.
It is a painful test, and we may have to bear more
suffering. Such a battle is never easy. It is strewn with
pain and suffering, sacrifice, and casualties.
But, we have no intention of giving up our desire to live a
normal life. We will not apologize for this desire, and we
do not need anyone's approval to defend ourselves.
Citizens of Israel,
This is a difficult time of trial for all of us.
The State of Israel has withstood much more complex trials -
We have always known how to mobilize our inner strength,
equanimity, wisdom and patience, in order to overcome our
Finally, I wish to speak on a more personal note to the
families of Shalit, Goldwasser and Regev, the families of
the soldiers who are held hostage by the Hamas and
You, and mainly your children - our children - are always on
Last Wednesday, only five days ago, at 10:00 am, Aviva and
Noam Shalit sat in my office. They, and I, want Gilad home
more than anything. While we were discussing the situation,
I - and Aviva and Noam - received the painful news that Ehud
(Udi) Goldwasser and Eldad Regev had been kidnapped.
On their departure, Noam and Aviva left a picture of Gilad,
taken close to the date of his kidnapping.
Unfortunately, pictures of three boys now stand in my room.
Many times during the day I look in their faces, into their
eyes, and embrace them in my heart. I do not forget them
for one minute. They were there on our behalf and for our
sake. We will do everything and make every effort to bring
them home. We will do this, but not in a pattern that will
encourage more kidnappings.
There is almost no one who can understand the place you are
in. Even when we do not talk directly, I feel and hear what
you want to say to me, and I embrace you with love,
understanding and agreement.
The place I am in compels me, ultimately, to make fateful
decisions, for life, and sometimes even for death.
I have no strength other than that which you have bestowed
I have no courage other than that which God, my faith in the
justice of our cause and my sense of supreme responsibility,
have instilled in me and have prepared me for these fateful
I see before me the kidnapped boys, those standing in the
front line and in the line of fire, those brave and
determined ones who are fighting today and who could -- God
forbid -- be the target of tomorrow's kidnapping.
We will defend all of them, on behalf of all of them we will
fight, and with all of them before our eyes -- the civilians
in the line of fire, the kidnapped fighters and their
families -- we will continue, without hesitating, without
capitulating and without fretting, until our goals are
I wish to conclude by reading an extract from Prophet
"Thus said Hashem: a voice is heard on high, wailing, bitter
weeping, Rachel weeps for her children; she refuses to be
consoled for her children, for they are gone.
Thus said Hashem: restrain your voice from weeping and your
eyes from tears; for there is reward for your accomplishment
-- the word of Hashem -- and they will return from the enemy's
There is hope for your future -- the word of Hashem;
And your children will return to their land."
We will triumph!