At the outset, I wish to send condolences, on my behalf and on behalf of the Government, the Knesset and the entire nation, to the families of the 158 killed –civilians and IDF soldiers.
Yes, we are a nation which counts its dead. We count the dead daily, pained by their passing, and grieving for each and every one of them, because each of them has a family, each of them is an entire world.
Each of them, as with each of us, wanted to live a normal life, like anyone. And for that desire, for that right, we have fought for dozens of years; we fought for the last month, and unfortunately, we will have to continue fighting for many years to come.
I wish a speedy recovery to the injured, IDF soldiers and civilians. We all pray to the Creator that they will heal and convalesce.
Madam Speaker, I also take this opportunity to express gratitude and appreciation, on behalf of the people of Israel, to the Chief of General Staff, IDF commanders, the soldiers in the regular army and in the reserves; to those tens of thousands, who even now are endangering themselves, displaying supreme courage, in the struggle against a cruel enemy, in a struggle which is the most just and moral.
I wish to thank the members of the security and rescue forces, the heads of local authorities and their staff, the tens of thousands of volunteers who acted in full coordination with government offices, to all those who mobilized – also from parties in this house, on all fronts. And above all, I salute the residents of the North – you, through your great devotion, patience and stamina, are the essential component in the strength of the State of Israel.
Members of Knesset,
Approximately one month ago, the Government approved the IDF operation against the Hizbollah terrorists – following an act of terror, during which volleys of Katyushas were fired on communities in the north, killing 8 IDF soldiers and kidnapping Ehud (Udi) Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.
The overall responsibility for this operation rested on me as Prime Minister. I have no intention of sharing, nor do I ask to share this responsibility with anyone. This responsibility derives from my position as Prime Minister of Israel.
The decision by the Government of Israel not to ignore the situation, echoed, and will continue to echo in world capitals both near and far. It clarified to all peoples and nations that the State of Israel would not absorb any more attacks on its sovereignty and would not restrain itself anymore when its citizens were harmed. Furthermore, it would respond with force to any act of terror, from the north or the south, from the east or from the sea. Anywhere.
Madam Speaker, Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of Knesset,
This morning, UN Resolution 1701 became valid. This resolution contains a list of responsibilities which are meant to fundamentally change the situation on our northern border.
In my speech to the Knesset on July 17, 2006, several days after the outbreak of the campaign, I said, and I quote:
“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 Southern Lebanon;
- Expulsion of Hizbollah from the area, and fulfillment of United Nations Resolution 1559.”
This resolution is a political accomplishment for Israel, however its significance is crucial to all nations of the free world, who struggle against global terror. The entire international community is partner to the perception that the terror state which established itself in Lebanon must be destroyed. The UN Security Council unanimously, and with the support of the 15 member states, accepted this historic resolution, which clarifies that there is only Israel and Lebanon. There is no longer a state within a state. There is no longer sponsorship for a terror organization by a state. And no longer is a terror organization allowed to operate within Lebanon, as the long arm of the axis of evil which reaches out from Teheran to Damascus, uses Lebanon’s weakness and transforms it, its citizens and its infrastructure into a tool for its war.
Finally, a single address for discussions regarding the northern border has been determined, and that is the sovereign government of Lebanon. It will bear full responsibility for all its territory, and the entire international system is committed to this.
We will continue to act to bring the kidnapped soldiers home. We will do so with perseverance and with all the means at our disposal, both overt and covert, as decreed in the Security Council Resolution.
I appointed Ofer Dekel, former Deputy Head of the Security Services, as my special representative to coordinate the efforts to bring Udi, Eldad and Gilad home. Yesterday morning, before the Cabinet meeting, I met with the families of the kidnapped soldiers and updated them regarding the agreement which was reached.
Goldwasser, Regev and Shalit families: I saw your pain. I read the frustration and expectation in the looks of Benny Regev and Eldad’s other brothers. I saw the eyes of Karnit Goldwasser, and the tormented gaze of Aviva Shalit. My heart goes out to you. And I know that all of us, the entire Knesset and the entire nation, are with you. I promised you, and I will personally lead all steps, and be involved in every detail regarding the return of Udi, Eldad and Gilad. And with G-d’s help, they will be home soon.
I believe that the realization of the UN Resolution creates good conditions for their return. The entire international community is committed to this.
Both in the matter of bringing the boys home and the matter of political accomplishments, we should wait a while and maintain a measure of healthy doubt, caution and vigilance.
The test of this resolution is in the precise implementation of each and every clause. We intend to follow its implementation carefully. We will not ignore violations and will reserve our right to respond as we see fit.
Madam Speaker, Members of Knesset,
The IDF operation over the last month, in the air, at sea and on land – brought about a change in the regional strategic balance, first and foremost vis-à-vis the Hizbollah terror organization.
IDF soldiers dealt a severe blow, the dimensions of which are not yet publicly known, to this murderous organization, its military and organizational infrastructure, its long-term ability, the huge weapons arsenal it has built and accumulated for many years, and also to the self-confidence of its people and leaders.
In every battle, in every encounter with Hizbollah terrorists, the fighters of the IDF had the upper hand – of this there is no doubt.
The leaders of this terrorist organization went underground, and from there they are busy spreading lies and hiding the truth of the cost to them and their people.
In this regard, I wish to clarify: these people will not be exonerated. They will not be exonerated. We will continue to chase them wherever they are and for however long it takes. It is our moral duty to ourselves, and we have no intention of apologizing or asking permission from anyone to do so.
We also suffered painful blows, both on the home front and on the front line. We did not mislead ourselves when we embarked, because of the inevitability of the circumstances, on this war. We did not mislead anyone. We said rockets would fall, missiles would fall, and that we would pay a heavy price – the most precious – in human lives.
We spoke out of a sense of profound responsibility towards every citizen on the front line and on the home front, and we knew – we all knew – that there was no choice but to embark on this campaign. Otherwise, we would have found ourselves facing even greater dangers in the future.
Members of Knesset,
I see and hear those voices which express discontent, even disappointment, as if their expectations have yet to be realized. And I say to them and to all of us: friends, patience. Patience.
The struggle of the Zionist movement against terror, as with the free world’s struggle with terror, did not begin today, and will not end in the foreseeable future. This is a long, difficult, complex struggle which demands restraint, determination, stamina and perseverance. We all saw how much power there is in the stamina and patience demonstrated by the Israeli home front, an ability which surprised even our enemies.
A nation which wishes to defeat dark and fanatical fundamentalist terror must have nerves of steel. We, the people who returned to its land after 2,000 years, have patience. And therefore, we will be victorious.
Members of Knesset,
There were also shortcomings. We will have to examine ourselves in all the systems. I say here, first and foremost, to the IDF soldiers and their commanders, G-d forbid, never give up. You are the heroes of the people of Israel, and you will receive my full backing and support.
We will not hesitate to examine everything which requires examination. We will hide nothing, nor will we cover up. This is the lifeblood of a democratic society. However, we will not do this because of screaming and the hurling of accusations. We cannot afford the luxury of wallowing in wild arguments and mutual recriminations. We cannot afford this luxury because we must ensure that the next time – and there may well be a next time – things will be done better. Even if we think we learned all the lessons, even next time there will be things which must be fixed. Because, ladies and gentlemen, this is war.
Madam Speaker, Members of Knesset,
I wish to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Government, and especially Minister of Defense Amir Peretz and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni for their measured and responsible actions. I wish to thank the members of Knesset, from all parties, the members of the opposition and members of the coalition, opponents and friends alike, who remained restrained during the storm of battle.
I again wish to tell those in the world who still criticize our actions, preach morals to us and level groundless criticism at us:
We will not apologize. The State of Israel is right!
Members of Knesset, Citizens of Israel,
Israel’s economy remains stable and strong, despite 30 days of fighting. I have complete trust in the Israeli economy, in its robustness and its stability. This war obligates us to accept a number of decisions regarding the State’s agenda for the coming years. My Government and I will focus our energies, resources and abilities towards taking care of the residents of the north, and that area.
We will allocate all necessary resources, in the framework of the multi-year national plan so that the north can return to being a blooming center of life, education and science, of industry and technological development, of tourism and culture. This Sunday, the Government will approve the operating principles which the Minister of Finance will present, which are based on many days of work by a special team established for this purpose, consisting of experts – and next Sunday, we will approve the detailed plans, so that we can lead the north and its citizens forward.
For the sake of this national mission, we will need all the strength, capability, creativity, mutual responsibility, volunteerism and unconditional mobilization that Israeli society – at all levels and in all sectors – demonstrated during the past month.
This spirit, which is vital to restoring the north to what it always was – a blossoming region full of creativity and industry, with a normal, tranquil way of life – is the best possible response to our enemies.
During the 3,000 years of our existence as a people, we encountered many enemies, who rose against us to destroy us. With G-d’s help, we withstood them all. We will withstand the hardships and pain of these days – and will continue to build the State of Israel with pride.
We will never surrender, falter or break.