Address by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Ceremony for the Awarding of Honorary Resident of Haifa
The Honorable Mayor of Haifa,
First, I wish to thank you and all the residents of Haifa for this distinguished title which you have awarded me, and I am touched by this occasion.
I am well familiar with the city of Haifa. In 1949, I served as Commander of the Golani elite unit, here in this area, and we used to come here to see the beautiful women of Haifa.
Haifa is an intriguing combination of the beauty of Israel, representing a rare texture of Israeli society. People of labor and people of intellect, veterans belonging to the nation’s founding generation alongside a large immigrant population. But above all, Haifa is justifiably recognized as a city of good neighborly relations between Jews and Arabs.
I am a Jew and to me, being Jewish is the most important thing. Whenever I am asked what is our most important mission for the coming years, I reply – shaping the Jewish character of the State of Israel. This includes, of course, numerous aspects: encouraging Aliyah, our decision to set a clear immigration policy for the first time in the history of our state, and, of course, our pursuit of an agreement with our Palestinian neighbors – an agreement which will determine the permanent borders of the State of Israel.
Simultaneously with all these, there is another challenge, which is sometimes forgotten: shaping the Jewish character of the State of Israel means shaping the relationship between the Jewish majority and the Arab minority in this country. A true Jewish state is a state in which each Arab citizen feels that he/she is a partner to the rights and duties of the state. We still have a long way ahead of us, but I have taken this mission upon myself – and I am certain that we will succeed. Haifa serves as a model of good neighborly relations in this regard.
As part of this policy, I came here today from the ceremony for the awarding of scholarships for Druze and Circassian students. Unfortunately, there is one young man whom I did not have the privilege of seeing today at the ceremony. His name is Nidal Mansur, First Sergeant Nidal Mansur, a Golani fighter who was killed several months ago – not in combat, but rather at a queue to a nightclub, here in Haifa.
This situation where a soldier on holiday goes to a club and never returns is intolerable. We will do everything in our power to make sure that each and every one of us will know that he/she can send their children and grandchildren out without being afraid that they will not return.
Violence is a phenomenon which endangers the existence of Israeli society. Violence is internal terrorism, and dealing with it is sometimes more problematic than dealing with terrorism, because in this case the enemy is within ourselves. I know, Mr. Mayor, that you also attribute much importance to the battle against violence, and I am confident that through a joint effort of all the relevant forces, we can overcome it.
This will not be an easy battle, but we will fight violence, this internal terrorism, with the same determination with which we fight terrorism.
There are many great things that we are doing and plan to do here. Only three months ago we inaugurated the new wing at the Rambam hospital – a wing that I was involved in establishing. I must tell you that during one of my visits to the hospital we met with the team in the yard. There were doctors, directors, and many nurses. The head nurse turned to me and discussed the need for implementing the necessary reforms at the Rambam hospital. I was very impressed with her remarks, and resolved to do all I can to reform, improve and advance the hospital – a hospital which in so many cases provides help and saves lives, and I am happy that we succeeded in doing this too.
The transportation plan approved by the Government places emphasis on the area of Haifa and the north, and I am confident that this plan, together with the Carmel tunnels project – which we have finally succeeded in jumpstarting – will contribute greatly to the city of Haifa in the coming years.
And I have not mentioned here the essential system – the education system. A great effort must be made to advance this system. This is also one of the issues in which I intend to invest a special effort, so that we will truly be able to advance the education of the younger generation.
I wish for you that the city of Haifa will continue to be a leading city in Israel, and I do not mean only in football. I have done many things in this city, and I can promise you that as honorary resident of Haifa, I will continue to assist in every way I can.
I have resolved, as one who had the privilege of participating in all of Israel’s wars, to make an effort – a true effort – to try to lead to security and peace. It is not easy, it is trying, but I have decided to attempt to resolve this problem once and for all, and that is what I intend to do.
Again, thank you very much.
I am proud to be honorary resident of Haifa.