Sharon's Words: 'Israel Stands at a Crossroads'
Following is a translation of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's televised address to the nation of Israel, March 31, 2002.
Citizens of Israel:
The state of Israel is in a war, a war against terrorism. This is a war that was imposed on us. It is not a war that we decided to embark upon. This is a war over our home.
The state of Israel, under my direction, made all the efforts to arrive at a cease-fire. All the time, since I was elected, in the midst of a wave of Palestinian terror, we placed before us the goal of doing everything to achieve calm and arrive at political accords.
We cooperated with the U.S. envoy, Anthony Zinni, and we received terrorism in return. We acted together with Vice President Dick Cheney, and we received terrorism in return. We decided to advance the prospects of a cease-fire and concede my demand for seven days of quiet, and we received terrorism in return. We withdrew military forces from the cities, and we received terrorism in return. Everything we received in return for our efforts was terrorism, terrorism and more terrorism.
We must fight against this terrorism, fight with no compromise, pull up these wild plants by the roots, smash their infrastructure, because there is no compromise with terrorism. It is impossible to compromise with one who is prepared, like the suicide on the streets of Israel's cities and in the twin towers in the United States, to die only to kill innocent civilians, children, women and infants - to die in order to cause fear and horror.
This terrorism is activated, directed and initiated by one man: the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Yasir Arafat. Arafat is at the head of a coalition of terrorism. He operates a strategy of terrorism. The chairman of the Palestinian Authority is an enemy of Israel. He is the enemy of the entire free world. Everyone who seeks freedom, everyone who was brought up on the values of freedom and democracy must know that Arafat is an obstacle to peace in the Mideast. Arafat is a danger to the whole region.
The Israeli government decided at its meeting on Thursday to begin a wide-ranging operation to root out the terrorist infrastructure in the Palestinian territories. We will clean out the terrorist infrastructure from the foundations, because in the end we know that the only way to reach a cease-fire, negotiations, an accord, an agreement and peace is if we succeed in wiping out the terrorism infrastructure.
The state of Israel seeks peace. Our hand is and always will be extended for peace with the Palestinian people and the people of the whole region. But no one should be deluded. Our extended hand does not mean that we will give in to terrorism or to terrorists.
Citizens of Israel: The state of Israel stands at a crossroads of its history. The situation is not easy, but we have known worse situations than this, and we overcame them all. This time, too, we will emerge victorious. This time, too, we will win, and when that happens, we will be able to live here together in peace.