Prime Minister's Office
November 27, 2006
Address by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
Memorial Ceremony for David and Paula Ben-Gurion
The Honorable President,
Madam Speaker of the Knesset, Ms. Dalia Itzik,
The Ben-Gurion Family,
Three years ago, in my capacity as Vice Prime Minister for Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon, I delivered a speech here, and quoted from
David Ben-Gurion's address at a 1949 Knesset debate on the
Armistice Agreements, in which he said:
"…when we were faced with the choice between the entire land of
Israel without a Jewish State, or a Jewish State without the
entire land of Israel – we chose a Jewish State without the
entire land of Israel".
This historic choice made by Ben-Gurion at the conclusion of the
War of Independence was painful, but courageous, heart-wrenching,
Cherished and beloved parts of our homeland – the cradle of our
history – remained beyond the border, but a solid Jewish majority
was guaranteed in the State of Israel.
Time passed, Arab animosity and terrorism resulted in more war,
and some 40 years ago, Israel was again faced with the difficult
choice: many good people advocated the vision of Greater Israel.
David Ben-Gurion, already a retired statesman, ruled that in
exchange for true peace, Israel must relinquish a vast majority
of the territories occupied in the Six Day War. Much has
happened since then, facts were established on the ground,
agreements were signed, the international and regional arena
changed beyond recognition.
The bloody conflict with the Palestinians has not ended.
Ben-Gurion's basic diagnosis remained valid and continues to
guide – with the necessary amendments – the position of Israeli
governments in our peace policy today.
Already at the time of Israel's birth, Ben-Gurion extended his
hand in peace to the Arab nations. His hand was rejected, but it
remains extended. I extend my hand in peace to our Palestinian
neighbors, hoping that it will not be rejected.
I wholeheartedly identify with the statements made by Ben-Gurion
regarding the duty of every government in Israel to strive for
peace: "I would consider it a great sin, not only towards our
generation but towards future generations as well, if we did not
do everything in our power to reach a mutual understanding with
our Arab neighbors, and if future generations had cause to blame
the Government of Israel of missing an opportunity for peace…".
These are not easy times for the State and people of Israel.
These days, more than ever, it is natural for us to come to this
place, the burial place of the Father of our revived nation, to
If I could seek Ben-Gurion's counsel today, I believe that he
would have advised me to make the statements which I intend to
make to our Palestinian neighbors today.
You, the Palestinian people, in the south and east, in the Gaza
Strip and Judea and Samaria, stand, these very days, on the
threshold of an historic crossroads.
The terror, violence, murders and incessant attacks against the
citizens of Israel are liable to lead us closer to a new and
painful wave of terrible violence. The uncompromising radicalism
of your terror organizations – the Hamas, Jihad, the El-Aksa
Martyrs' Brigade and other organizations – did not bring you
closer to attaining the goal which I am convinced many of you
share – the establishment of a Palestinian state, which will
guarantee you a future of prosperity and which will exist in good
neighborly relations side-by-side with the State of Israel.
On the verge of making decisions which could plunge us into an
increasingly escalating conflict, I come today, from here, near
the tomb of David Ben-Gurion, to suggest to you a different path
– a path which offers a chance for a different future, for you
and for us.
We started it the day before yesterday. We embarked on this path
– and I hope that it will lead us forward towards the goal we all
aspire to – peace, tranquility and mutual trust. We are ready
and willing to pursue this path, and persevere until we reach the
If a new Palestinian government is established – a government
which will be committed to the principles of the Quartet,
implement the Roadmap and bring about the release of Gilad
Shalit, I will invite Abu-Mazen to meet with me immediately, in
order to conduct a real, open, genuine and serious dialogue
In the framework of this dialogue, and in accordance with the
Roadmap, you will be able to establish an independent and viable
Palestinian State, with territorial contiguity in Judea and
Samaria – a State with full sovereignty and defined borders.
In this framework, the borders of the State of Israel will be
defined, in accordance with President Bush's April 14th, 2004
letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
These borders will be different from the territories currently
under Israel's control.
I understand the importance which the Palestinian society
attributes to the issue of prisoners.
I hereby declare that when Gilad Shalit is released and returned
to his family, safe and sound, the Government of Israel will be
willing to release numerous Palestinian prisoners – including
ones who were sentenced to lengthy prison terms – in order to
increase the trust between us and prove that our hand is truly
extended in genuine peace.
I said it before Gilad Shalit was abducted, and I have not
changed my position.
I know that many Palestinian families yearn for the day when
their loved ones will return home. This day could be very close.
I believe that many of you are weary of the dreadful price which
you pay as a result of the violent extremism of the terror
organizations prevailing in your streets.
I believe that many of you yearn for a new chapter which we can
open together in the bloody history of our relations.
The cessation of terrorism and violence will enable us to offer
you a series of steps, which will be taken in joint coordination,
in order to facilitate the improvement of the Palestinian
population's quality of living, which was severely affected as a
result of our need to take defensive measures against your
We will significantly diminish the number of roadblocks, increase
freedom of movement in the territories, facilitate movement of
people and goods in both directions, improve the operation of the
border crossings to the Gaza Strip, and release Palestinian funds
for the purpose of alleviating the humanitarian hardship which
many of you suffer.
We can assist you in formulating a plan for the economic
rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip and areas in Judea and Samaria.
We can assist you in the establishment of industrial zones – in
cooperation with the international community – to create places
of employment and the means of earning a decent living, and to
relieve you of your ongoing dependence on employment
infrastructures in Israel.
We will seek the assistance of those neighboring Arab States
which strive for a peaceful solution to the conflict between us,
including: the Kingdom of Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the
Gulf States, in order to benefit from their experience and
receive backing for direct negotiations between us.
The voices emanating from those States regarding the need for
recognition and normalization of relations with the State of
Israel – including, for example, some parts in the Saudi peace
initiative – are positive, and I intend to invest efforts in
order to advance the connection with those States and strengthen
their support of direct bilateral negotiations between us and the
I have been following with great appreciation the serious efforts
made by those States to bring about a cessation of violence in
the region, and I respect their sincere desire to create a new
atmosphere between us, so as to facilitate a solution to the
The international circumstances which were created, specifically
at this time, allow you and us to take a courageous step, which
involves the need to make painful compromises and forgo those
dreams which were part of our national ethos for so many years,
and to open a new chapter offering hope for a better life for all
We, the State of Israel, will agree to the evacuation of many
territories and communities which were established therein. This
is extremely difficult for us, akin to the Parting of the Red
Sea, but we will bear it, in exchange for true peace.
You must stop the terror, violence and efforts to harm Israeli
citizens in the south, center and north, recognize our right to
live in peace and security next to you, and relinquish your
demand for the realization of the right of return. It is a right
goal, a natural goal, an attainable goal.
If you demonstrate the necessary determination and discipline,
you will find in us a ready partner. The State of Israel is a
powerful State. Do not be fooled by our internal differences,
our political rivalries or the gloomy atmosphere which we
In a violent battle, we will prevail, even if it is lengthy and
even if it claims many victims; even if it involves compromises
on comfort or quality of living, the State of Israel has proven
its strength in the past and is prepared for it today.
Do not put us to another test, which will involve many casualties
and destruction, and which will lead to total hardship and despair.
The past cannot be changed, and the victims of the conflict, from
both sides of the border, cannot be returned.
Dictates are futile and mutual accusations are nothing but
useless word games. Historic scores cannot be settled and scars
cannot be obliterated.
All we can do today is prevent further tragedies and bequeath to
the younger generation a bright horizon and hope for a new life.
Let us convert animosity and the "honing of our swords" to
mutual recognition, respect and direct dialogue.
From here, from the edge of the cliff overlooking the ancient
landscape of the Tzin Creek – the site chosen by David Ben-Gurion
as a final resting place for him and his wife Paula – the State
of Israel's call for peace is heard clearly and decisively. May
it echo and be answered positively this time.
May the memory of David and Paula Ben-Gurion be blessed.
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