Note: Mr. Olmert’s speech was made via live satellite link from Jerusalem.
Thank you very much. I’m very happy to have this opportunity to speak to you.
As you will certainly admit, I hardly decline any invitations to speak to ADL -- different groups coming from different parts of America and the world, when they are visiting with Israel. And I always enjoy doing it, because for me ADL is perhaps the most significant Jewish organization in the world.
It is a great organization which is entirely committed to the basic fundamental values that make the life of the Jewish people. And you are everywhere to protect the rights and the status of the Jewish people and the Jewish causes and the cause of the state of Israel and I'm very proud of you. …
As you will remember, I spelled it out before elections, that I am getting ready to move forward rapidly with a political plan. I prefer that we will be able to conduct negotiations with the Palestinians. The reason is very simple.
Peace that is based on negotiations and an agreement is always stronger and more significant than any other arrangement. Therefore, we will do every possible effort, using all our power of negotiation and the good services of our friends, particularly the United States of America, to influence the Palestinians to meet the basic requirements of the Road Map and the standard set forth by the Quartet to allow negotiations to take place.
But as I said, we will not wait forever. We will give the Palestinians a chance for a period of time and if they will not mature to these standards and conditions, then we’ll have to take our fate in our hands and do something to create a consensus within Israel, a broad understanding with the United States government and with the international community about the border lines which will, on one hand, protect the state of Israel and provide security for its citizens and, on the other hand, will allow the Palestinians to have a contiguous territory in which they will be able to establish their own independent state.
This is the goal and the mission of this government. We want to change realities. We want to separate from the Palestinians. We want to stop the cycle of violence which seems to be endless and which the time has come to hopefully be able to break it, so that we can provide a somewhat more relaxed life for ourselves and, hopefully, better opportunities for the Palestinians.
This is why I decided, at the risk of losing some votes even before the elections, to put on the agenda my plan, to use the most explicit terms possible, even if it irritated some potential supporters, because I wanted that the last elections would become a referendum on the political plan, so that no one in the future will be able to say that I didn't have the authority to go ahead with my plans. My political rivals were very friendly, and immediately upon my statement they said that this has changed the elections into a referendum.
The outcome of the elections means that we can move forward and that we have the mandate. And I'm going to use this mandate in the most effective manner in order to indeed implement this plan and to ultimately reach a new reality in the Middle East between us and the Palestinians. Preferably through an agreement but also, if necessary, on a unilateral basis after creating a dialogue, a process of a dialogue within Israel, and after conducting serious studies and negotiations with the American government and with the international community. I hope that within four years, things will look different and will be different for us.
And, needless to say, that in order to be able to face this challenge, I need the support, I need the participation, I need the good advice of all the friends of Israel and ADL members and the ADL organization has always been in the forefront of the support for the state of Israel.
And I definitely will seek your advice; I will seek your support in order to be able to move forward with these plans and with changing realities in the Middle East, in the best possible manner. So thank you for inviting me to meet with you.
Today is the Holocaust Day. We have just now finished the ceremonies of the Holocaust Day in the state of Israel. It is still on in the United States.
Every year for me, the ceremonies of Holocaust Day become more difficult emotionally.
As the time passes by and as we are more distant from the terrible events of the Holocaust, it doesn't become any easier for us, the Jews, particularly here in the state of Israel, to cope with the emotional pressure which accompanies the events of the day.
And it is, I think, natural. We hear more stories, we understand the circumstances in which the Jews were persecuted in Europe in the Second World War, and we understand better the significance of the state of Israel for the future of the Jewish people perhaps much better now than we could in the past.
I just now heard that the March of the Living that took place today from Birkenau to Auschwitz was a very significant, impressive, and emotional event for thousands of Jewish kids that came from across the world.
I feel that my mission as prime minister of the state of Israel and the leader of the Jewish people here is to see to it that under no circumstances in the future, we the Jewish people will ever be faced with similar dangers to the very existence of our people. That I have to do everything in my power and the power of our people, both here and across the world, so that we are able to face all the threats and all the dangers and to provide protection and safety and hope and future for our people.
On these very days, we hear threats. They come from some parts of the world, particularly from Iran, against the Jewish people. These are threats against the very existence of the state of Israel. And we don’t see enough reactions coming from all over the world to some of the most atrocious statements made by the president of Iran.
So it is very important that we remind ourselves and our friends, that we take very seriously those threats.
When we hear a dictator says that he is prepared to wipe out the Jewish people, we don’t take it lightly. And I promise you, that we’ll do everything in our power to make sure that no one, including those who are saying it in these days, will have the power ever to carry out these threats.
We are strong. We are powerful. We are capable of defending ourselves, and we will do it. This is perhaps, the most significant lesson of the Holocaust on the Holocaust Day, Yom HaShoah.
Thank you very much.
Q: Mr. Olmert, do you perceive the current strong position of the international community toward Hamas being sustainable?
A: I certainly hope so. If I have to rely on President Bush, we are in good shape. You know, I know that you have political controversies across America with different factions. But from the point of view of Israel, your president is formidable.
He is strong, he is determined, and he has set the tone for the international community as far as Hamas is concerned, and I trust entirely the United States to keep on this policy.
I am in close contact with leaders in Europe and for the time being, the position is firm, and I hope that it will continue to be so. In order to make sure that it will not change, we talk to them very often, and I think the recent statements made by the prime minister of the Palestinian government supporting the recent bombing in Tel Aviv, manifested again the real nature of this government. And, I think, help us in elaborating on some of the issues and strengthening the support of the European governments in the principles of the Quartet, which are now the basic policy. Those of Israel and the United States and Europe, and I hope it will continue in this way.
Q: Mr. Prime Minister, during the election campaign, the Labor party and the pensioners’ party focused on domestic issues. How do you see your government balancing the issues of poverty and education with those of security and foreign policy imperatives?
A: Well, that's precisely the reason why I decided that the ministry of finance, the treasury, will be held by a Kadima representative. The reason is that I myself think that the social needs of Israel must be addressed in the most effective manner.
I kept criticizing the former minister of finance who is now the leader of Likud, which I think dramatically lost the elections for not giving enough attention to the social needs in the state of Israel. We made dramatic economic progress in the last few years due to the achievements of the former minister of finance, Mr. Netanyahu.
But the lack of sensitivity for the social issues was a great mistake. And I was very, very aware of that even before I became prime minister, when I was just finance minister and even before I became finance minister, when I was minister of industry, trade, labor. And I decided I'll do everything in my power in order to provide better opportunities for the underprivileged, for the children at risk … for the people living in the periphery in the state of Israel, both north and south, so that they will be able to cross the line of poverty into a better quality of life.
And this is very much part of the agenda of my government. And I hope that Mr. Peretz, the leader of the Labor Party, will be a good and effective partner on these issues. In any event, as prime minister, I will do everything in my power to make sure that indeed, these issues are addressed by the government.
We will provide the necessary means and I believe that, alongside with the political issues, we will make a step forward in the direction of improving the quality of life of the underprivileged in the state of Israel.
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