Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's "Unilateral Disengagement" Speech at the Herzliya Conference
December 18, 2003
I congratulate the organizers of this conference for the important and
interesting gathering which you have held here. During the past three days,
you have been discussing Israel's situation. I, as Prime Minister, am
responsible for the planning and implementation of the measures which will
shape Israel's character during the next few years.
We are all entrusted with the duty of shaping the face of the Jewish and
democratic State of Israel - a state where there is an equal distribution of
the burden, as well as the acceptance of rights and shouldering of duties by
all sectors, through different forms of national service. A state where
there is a good and efficient education system which educates a young
generation imbued with values and national pride, which is capable of
confronting the challenges of the modern world. A country whose economy is
adapted to the advanced global market of the 21st century, where the product
per capita crosses the $20,000 line and is equal to that of most developed
European countries. An immigrant-absorbing state which constitutes a
national and spiritual center for all Jews of the world and is a source of
attraction for thousands of immigrants each year. Aliyah is the central
goal of the State of Israel.
This is the country we wish to shape. This is the country where our
children will want to live.
I know that there is sometimes a tendency to narrow all of Israel's problems
down to the political sphere, believing that once a solution is found to
Israel's problems with its neighbors, particularly the Palestinians, the
other issues on the agenda will miraculously resolve themselves. I do not
believe so. We are facing additional challenges which must be addressed -
the economy, educating the young generation, immigrant absorption,
enhancement of social cohesion and the improvement of relations between
Arabs and Jews in Israel.
Like all Israeli citizens, I yearn for peace. I attach supreme importance
to taking all steps which will enable progress toward resolution of the
conflict with the Palestinians. However, in light of the other challenges
we are faced with, if the Palestinians do not make a similar effort toward a
solution of the conflict - I do not intend to wait for them indefinitely.
Seven months ago, my Government approved the "Roadmap" to peace, based on
President George Bush's June 2002 speech. This is a balanced program for
phased progress toward peace, to which both Israel and the Palestinians
committed themselves. A full and genuine implementation of the program is
the best way to achieve true peace. The Roadmap is the only political plan
accepted by Israel, the Palestinians, the Americans and a majority of the
international community. We are willing to proceed toward its
implementation: two states - Israel and a Palestinian State - living side by
side in tranquility, security and peace.
The Roadmap is a clear and reasonable plan, and it is therefore possible and
imperative to implement it. The concept behind this plan is that only
security will lead to peace. And in that sequence. Without the achievement
of full security - within the framework of which terror organizations will
be dismantled - it will not be possible to achieve genuine peace, a peace
for generations. This is the essence of the Roadmap. The opposite
perception, according to which the very signing of a peace agreement will
produce security out of thin air, has already been tried in the past and
failed miserably. And such will be the fate of any other plan which
promotes this concept. These plans deceive the public and create false
hope. There will be no peace before the eradication of terror.
The government under my leadership will not compromise on the realization of
all phases of the Roadmap. It is incumbent upon the Palestinians to uproot
the terrorist groups and to create a law-abiding society which fights
against violence and incitement. Peace and terror cannot coexist. The
world is currently united in its unequivocal demand from the Palestinians to
act toward the cessation of terrorism and the implementation of reforms.
Only a transformation of the Palestinian Authority into a different
authority will enable progress in the political process. The Palestinians
must fulfill their obligations. A full and complete implementation will -
at the end of the process - lead to peace and tranquility.
We began the implementation of the Roadmap at Aqaba, but the terrorist
organizations joined with Yasser Arafat and sabotaged the process with a
series of the most brutal terror attacks we have ever known.
Concurrent with the demand from the Palestinians to eliminate the terror
organizations, Israel is taking - and will continue to take - steps to
significantly improve the living conditions of the Palestinian population:
Israel will remove closures and curfews and reduce the number of roadblocks;
we will improve freedom of movement for the Palestinian population,
including the passage of people and goods; we will increase the hours of
operation at international border crossings; we will enable a large number
of Palestinian merchants to conduct regular and normal economic and trade
relations with their Israeli counterparts, etc. All these measures are
aimed at enabling better and freer movement for the Palestinian population
not involved in terror.
In addition, subject to security coordination, we will transfer Palestinian
towns to Palestinian security responsibility.
Israel will make every effort to assist the Palestinians and to advance the
Israel will fulfil the commitments taken upon itself. I have committed to
the President of the United States that Israel will dismantle unauthorized
outposts. It is my intention to implement this commitment. The State of
Israel is governed by law, and the issue of the outposts is no exception. I
understand the sensitivity; we will try to do this in the least painful way
possible, but the unauthorized outposts will be dismantled. Period.
Israel will meet all its obligations with regard to construction in the
settlements. There will be no construction beyond the existing construction
line, no expropriation of land for construction, no special economic
incentives and no construction of new settlements.
I take this opportunity to appeal to the Palestinians and repeat, as I said
at Aqaba: it is not in our interest to govern you. We would like you to
govern yourselves in your own country. A democratic Palestinian state with
territorial contiguity in Judea and Samaria and economic viability, which
would conduct normal relations of tranquility, security and peace with
Israel. Abandon the path of terror and let us together stop the bloodshed.
Let us move forward together towards peace.
We wish to speedily advance implementation of the Roadmap towards quiet and
a genuine peace. We hope that the Palestinian Authority will carry out its
part. However, if in a few months the Palestinians still continue to
disregard their part in implementing the Roadmap - then Israel will initiate
the unilateral security step of disengagement from the Palestinians.
The purpose of the "Disengagement Plan" is to reduce terror as much as
possible, and grant Israeli citizens the maximum level of security. The
process of disengagement will lead to an improvement in the quality of life,
and will help strengthen the Israeli economy. The unilateral steps which
Israel will take in the framework of the "Disengagement Plan" will be fully
coordinated with the United States. We must not harm our strategic
coordination with the United States. These steps will increase security for
the residents of Israel and relieve the pressure on the IDF and security
forces in fulfilling the difficult tasks they are faced with. The
"Disengagement Plan" is meant to grant maximum security and minimize
friction between Israelis and Palestinians.
We are interested in conducting direct negotiations, but do not intend to
hold Israeli society hostage in the hands of the Palestinians. I have
already said - we will not wait for them indefinitely.
The "Disengagement Plan" will include the redeployment of IDF forces along
new security lines and a change in the deployment of settlements, which will
reduce as much as possible the number of Israelis located in the heart of
the Palestinian population. We will draw provisional security lines and the
IDF will be deployed along them. Security will be provided by IDF
deployment, the security fence and other physical obstacles. The
"Disengagement Plan" will reduce friction between us and the Palestinians.
This reduction of friction will require the extremely difficult step of
changing the deployment of some of the settlements. I would like to repeat
what I have said in the past: In the framework of a future agreement, Israel
will not remain in all the places where it is today. The relocation of
settlements will be made, first and foremost, in order to draw the most
efficient security line possible, thereby creating this disengagement
between Israel and the Palestinians. This security line will not constitute
the permanent border of the State of Israel, however, as long as
implementation of the Roadmap is not resumed, the IDF will be deployed along
that line. Settlements which will be relocated are those which will not be
included in the territory of the State of Israel in the framework of any
possible future permanent agreement. At the same time, in the framework of
the "Disengagement Plan", Israel will strengthen its control over those same
areas in the Land of Israel which will constitute an inseparable part of the
State of Israel in any future agreement. I know you would like to hear
names, but we should leave something for later.
Israel will greatly accelerate the construction of the security fence.
Today we can already see it taking shape. The rapid completion of the
security fence will enable the IDF to remove roadblocks and ease the daily
lives of the Palestinian population not involved in terror.
In order to enable the Palestinians to develop their economic and trade
sectors, and to ensure that they will not be exclusively dependent on
Israel, we will consider, in the framework of the "Disengagement Plan",
enabling - in coordination with Jordan and Egypt - the freer passage of
people and goods through international border crossings, while taking the
necessary security precautions.
I would like to emphasize: the "Disengagement Plan" is a security measure
and not a political one. The steps which will be taken will not change the
political reality between Israel and the Palestinians, and will not prevent
the possibility of returning to the implementation of the Roadmap and
reaching an agreed settlement.
The "Disengagement Plan" does not prevent the implementation of the Roadmap.
Rather, it is a step Israel will take in the absence of any other option, in
order to improve its security. The "Disengagement Plan" will be realized
only in the event that the Palestinians continue to drag their feet and
postpone implementation of the Roadmap.
Obviously, through the "Disengagement Plan" the Palestinians will receive
much less than they would have received through direct negotiations as set
out in the Roadmap.
According to circumstances, it is possible that parts of the "Disengagement
Plan" that are supposed to provide maximum security to the citizens of
Israel will be undertaken while also attempting to implement the Roadmap.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My life experience has taught me that for peace, as well as for war, we must
have broad consensus. We must preserve our unity, even in the midst of a
difficult, internal debate.
In the past three years, the Palestinian terrorist organizations have put us
to a difficult test. Their plan to break the spirit of Israeli society has
not succeeded. The citizens of Israel have managed to step into the breach,
support each other, lend a helping hand, volunteer and contribute.
I believe that this path of unity must be continued today. Whether we will
be able to advance the Roadmap, or will have to implement the "Disengagement
Plan", experience has taught us that, together, through broad national
consensus, we can do great things.
Let us not be led astray. Any path will be complicated, strewn with
obstacles, and obligate us to act with discretion and responsibility. I am
confident that, just as we have managed to overcome the challenges of the
past, we will stand together and succeed today.
We will always be guided by the words of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion,
who said, on the day after the Declaration of Independence:
These days, our purpose is only to build the State of Israel with love and
faith, in Jewish brotherhood, and to defend it with all our spirit, and as
long as necessary. We are still in the midst of a difficult battle, one
that has two fronts: political and military. Let us not embellish our deeds
and, of course, our words, with grandiose names. We must remain humble. We
achieved what we have achieved by standing on the shoulders of previous
generations, and we accomplished what we have accomplished by preserving our
precious legacy, the legacy of a small nation which has endured suffering
and tribulations, but which is, nevertheless, great and eternal in spirit,
vision, faith and virtue.
I am also a great believer in the resilience of this small, brave nation
which has endured suffering and tribulations. I am confident that, united
in the power of our faith, we will be able to succeed in any path we choose.
Thank you very much, and happy Hannukah.