November 14, 2000

‘I AM FOR LASTING PEACE'

By ARIEL SHARON

I am for lasting peace. All of us, we are committed to peace, and all of us in Israel understand that peace is almost as painful as war, because very large-scale compromises must be done, and I would like with your permission to say something personal. Generally, generals are suspected to love wars, especially when it comes to me. And I have been described for many years as a general who was looking for wars. So I would like to say a few personal things. I had a bad experience participating in all the wars and the major battles of the state of Israel in the last 50 years. I commanded maybe the best units and formations of the Israeli army, and always in the hardest parts of the battles. And I saw the horrors and the fears of war. I saw my friend being killed. I was badly injured twice in battle, and I felt those terrible pains in hospitals. I had to take decisions of life and death, of others and of myself. And therefore I believe that I understand the importance of peace better than many of the politicians who speak about peace but never had that experience. For me, peace should provide security to the Jewish people and peace for generations.

We have to remember that the Jews have one tiny country where they have the right and the power to defend themselves by themselves, and we have to thank God every day that we have that. And we have to preserve it. I believe we need a new approach to reach the peace, a multi-stage plan. I strongly believe that the so-called "Camp David Plus" - the new thing that appears now, that says that the concessions that the Israeli government has made are not sufficient, that Israel now should make more concessions - is a dangerous approach. To those that have the view that we are facing a situation that dictates either a peace now, at any price, or war, let me assure you: This is not the case. It might serve some people's agenda to portray it in this light, but it's simply not so, because there is wide enough gray area between an immediate peace, at any price, and war. And many things can be done in this gray area. I would like to emphasize that we can deal effectively with the present security situation. We have done it in the past. We need the determination and the commitment. And I speak about steps that will contain escalation, because I don't think we need escalations, but there are many steps we have not taken yet. We need cessation of hostilities, not reduction of hostilities. And I am really very sorry that the Israeli government - and this thing happened Sunday again in Washington - is not demanding a full cessation of hostilities as a precondition for negotiation. What is a reduction? It's one man killed per day. That is reduction? Or 20 wounded, maybe? It should be stopped completely. And that is a natural demand. I expected that the government would demand it. I would like to emphasize that peace is very important for us, but it is not less important to the Palestinians. And that should be remembered.

We need peace, we want peace - but we are always asked this question: What are you ready to give for peace? The time has arrived that the Palestinians - or any other Arab country - should be asked this question: What, gentlemen, because peace is important for you not less than for us, what are you willing to do for peace? Ladies and gentleman, we still can control our destiny. United, I believe, we can win the battle for peace. But it must be a different peace, one with full recognition of the rights of the Jews in their one and only land: peace with security for generations and peace with a united Jerusalem as the eternal, undivided capital of the Jewish people in the state of Israel forever. You know, as Jews we have been praying for 2,000 years, "next year in Jerusalem." Thank God, we are in Jerusalem. Every year, every day, every night in Jerusalem. Forever in Jerusalem. Thank you.

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Adapted from remarks at yesterday's New York Post Forum by Gen. Ariel Sharon, the leader of Israel's Likud Party.



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