Thursday, May 25, 2006

 
Address by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Joint Session of US Congress
May 24, 2006

Mr. Speaker,
Mr. Vice President,
Distinguished Members of the US Congress,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the people and the State of Israel,
I wish to express my
profound gratitude to you for the privilege of
addressing this Joint Meeting
of the US Congress. This building, this chamber,
and all of you stand as a
testament to the enduring principles of liberty
and democracy.

More than 30 years ago, I came to Washington as a
young legislator, thanks
to a program sponsored by the State Department.
I had a chance to tour this
building, and I saw then what I believe today -
that this institution, the
United States Congress, is the greatest
deliberative body in the world. I
did not imagine then, that a day would actually
come, when I would have the
honor of addressing this forum as the Prime
Minister of my nation, the State
of Israel. Thank you.

The United States is a superpower whose influence
reaches across oceans and
beyond borders. Your continued support, which, I
am happy to say,
transcends partisan affiliations, is of paramount
importance to us. We
revere the principles and values represented by
your great country, and are
grateful for the unwavering support and
friendship we have received from the
US Congress, from President George W. Bush and
from the American people.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "I am a success today
because I had a friend who
believed in me, and I didn't have the heart to
let him down."

Israel is grateful that America believes in us.
Let me assure you that we
will NOT let you down.

The similarities in our economic, social and
cultural identities are
obvious, but there’s something much deeper and
everlasting. The unbreakable
ties between our two nations extend far beyond
mutual interests. They are
based on our shared goals and values stemming
from the very essence of our
mutual foundations.

This coming Monday, the 29th of May, you
commemorate Memorial Day for
America's fallen. The graves of brave American
soldiers are scattered
throughout the world: in Asia and in the Pacific,
throughout Europe and
Africa, in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.
The pain of the families
never heals, and the void they leave is never
filled.

It is impossible to think of a world in which
America was not there, in the
honorable service of humanity. On Monday, when
the Stars and the Stripes are
lowered to half-mast, we, the people of Israel,
will bow our heads for you.

Our two great nations share a profound belief in
the importance of freedom
and a common pioneering spirit deeply rooted in
optimism. It was the
energetic spirit of our pioneers that enabled our
two countries to implement
the impossible. To build cities where swamps once
existed and to make the
desert bloom.

My parents Bella and Mordechai Olmert were lucky…
They escaped the
persecution in the Ukraine and Russia and found
sanctuary in Harbin, China.
They immigrated to Israel to fulfill their dream
of building a Jewish and
democratic state living in peace in the land of
our ancestors.

My parents came to the Holy Land following a
verse in the Old Testament in
the book of second Samuel "I will appoint a place
for my people Israel and I
will plant them in their land and they will dwell
in their own place and be
disturbed no more".

Distinguished members of Congress, I come here -
to this home of liberty and
democracy - to tell you that my parents' dream,
our dream, has only been
partly fulfilled. We have succeeded in building a
Jewish democratic
homeland. We have succeeded in creating an oasis
of hope and opportunity in
a troubled region. But there has not been one
year… one week… even one day…
of peace in our tortured land.

Our Israeli pioneers suffered, and their struggle
was long and hard. Yet
even today, almost 60 years after our
independence, that struggle still
endures. Since the birth of the state of Israel
and until this very moment,
we have been continually at war and amidst
confrontation. The confrontation
has become even more violent, the enemy turned
even more inhumane due to the
scourge of suicide terrorism. But we are not
alone. Today, Israel, America,
Europe, and democracies across the globe,
unfortunately, face this enemy.

Over the past six years more than 20,000
attempted terrorist attacks have
been initiated against the people of Israel.
Most, thankfully, have been
foiled by our security forces. But those which
have succeeded have resulted
in the deaths of hundreds of innocent civilians…
and the injury of
thousands - many of them children guilty ONLY of
being in what proved to be
the wrong place at the wrong time.

These are not statistics…. These are real people
with beautiful souls that
have left this earth far too soon.

In the decade I served as mayor of my beloved
City, Jerusalem, we faced the
lion's share of the seemingly endless wave of
terrorism.

I remember Galila, a twelve year old Ethiopian
immigrant, whose parents
worked in the King David Hotel. On one particular
morning, her parents,
overwhelmed by the fear of her riding a bus in
the city of Jerusalem, told
her: “Galila, pehaps this morning, just this
morning, we will take you in
the family car to your school?” And Galila said
to her parents: "Oh, come
on, don’t be silly! I know where to sit in the
bus. I will be safe in the
bus. Don’t worry for me". And it so happened
that on that same day a
suicide attacker ascended that same bus and chose
to sit just next to her.

When I visited her grieving parents, her mother
came to me sobbing and said:
"You are the mayor. You have so much influence
in this city. Will you do
us just one last favor: please try to find out
something, just one item of
remembrance that we will be able to take with us
for the rest of our lives,
maybe just a shoelace of Galila’s...” And I did
everything a mayor could
do, I summoned the police, I summoned the
security forces, I instructed the
municipal workers. I told them: “Go look out
everywhere you can”. And then
they came back, and they said to me: “Mr. Mayor,
nothing. Nothing. Not
even a shoelace.”

Among the victims of this brutal and unremitting
terror, I am sorry to tell
you, are also American citizens. Only last week,
Daniel Cantor Wultz, a 16
year old high school student from Weston,
Florida, who came to spend the
Passover holiday with his parents in Israel,
succumbed to his sever
injuries, incurred in Israel's most recent
suicide attack.

I asked Daniel's parents and sister, Yekutiel,
Sheryl and Amanda Wultz, who
only finished the traditional period of mourning
two days ago, to be with us
here today. Daniel was a relative of Congressman
Eric Cantor of Virginia, an
honorable member of this house. Our thoughts and
prayers are with you.

I bring Galila's memory, Daniel's memory, and the
loss of so many others,
with me to my new post as Prime Minister. I also
bring with me the horrific
scenes I saw with my own eyes when I visited New
York just a few days after
the devastating attacks on September 11th. A
tragedy that transcends any
other terrorist attack that has ever occurred.

As I told my good friend Rudy Giuliani, on that
dreadful day, our hearts
went out to you. Not only because of the
friendship between us, but because,
tragically and personally, we both know what it
is to confront the evil of
terrorism at home.

Our countries do not just share the experience
and pain of terrorism. We
share the commitment and resolve to confront the
brutal terrorists that took
these innocent people from us. We share the
commitment to extract from our
grief a renewed dedication to providing our
people with a better future.

Let me state this as clearly as I can: we will
NOT yield to terror… we will
NOT surrender to terror….. and we WILL WIN the
war on terror and restore
peace to our societies.

The Palestinian Authority is ruled by Hamas - an
organization committed to
vehement anti-Semitism, the glorification of
terror and the total
destruction of Israel. As long as these are
their guiding principles, they
can never be a partner.

Therefore, while Israel works to ensure that the
humanitarian needs of the
Palestinian population are met, we can never
capitulate to terrorists or
terrorism. I pay tribute to the firmness and the
clarity with which the
President and this Congress uphold this crucial
principle which we both
firmly share.

Israel commends this Congress for initiating the
Palestinian Anti-Terrorism
Act which sends a firm clear message that the
United States of America will
not tolerate terrorism in any form.

Like America, Israel seeks to rid itself of the
horrors of terrorism. Israel
yearns for peace and security. Israel is
determined to take responsibility
for its own future and take concrete steps to
turn its dreams into reality.
The painful but necessary process of
Disengagement from the Gaza Strip and
Northern Samaria was an essential step.

At this moment, my thoughts turn especially to
the great leader, who, in
normal circumstances, should have stood here.
Ariel Sharon, the legendary
statesman and visionary, my friend and colleague,
could not be here with us
but I am emboldened by the promise of continuing
his mission. I pray, as I
am sure you all do too, for his recovery.

Ariel Sharon is a man of few words and great
principles. His vision and
dream of peace and security transcended time,
philosophy and politics.
Israel must still meet the momentous challenge of
guaranteeing the future of
Israel as a democratic state with a Jewish
majority, within permanent and
defensible borders and a united Jerusalem as its
capital - that is open and
accessible for the worship of all religions.

This was the dream to which Ariel Sharon was
loyally committed. This was the
mission he began to fulfill. It is the goal and
the purpose of the Kadima
party that he founded and to which I was the
first to join. And it is this
legacy of liberty, identity and security that I
embrace. It is what I am
working towards. It is what I am so passionately
hoping for.

Although our government has changed, Israel's
goal remains the same. As
Prime Minister Sharon clearly stated: "The
Palestinians will forever be our
neighbors. They are an inseparable part of this
land, as are we. Israel has
no desire to rule over them, nor to oppress them.
They too have a right for
freedom and national aspirations."

With the vision of Ariel Sharon guiding my
actions, from this podium today,
I extend my hand in peace to Mahmoud Abbas,
elected President of the
Palestinian Authority. On behalf of the State of
Israel, we are willing to
negotiate with a Palestinian Authority. This
authority must renounce
terrorism, dismantle the terrorist
infrastructure, accept previous
agreements and commitments, and recognize the
right of Israel to exist.

Let us be clear: peace, without security, will
bring neither peace nor
security.

We will not, we cannot, compromise on these basic
tests of partnership.

With a genuine Palestinian partner for peace, I
believe we can reach an
agreement on all the issues that divide us. Our
past experience shows us it
is possible to bridge the differences between our
two peoples. I believe
this - I KNOW THIS - because we have done it
before, in our peace treaties
with Egypt and with Jordan. These treaties
involved painful and difficult
compromises. It required Israel to take real
risks.

But if there is to be a just, fair and lasting
peace, we need a partner who
rejects violence and who values life more than
death. We need a partner
that affirms in action, not just in words, the
rejection, prevention and
elimination of terror.

Peace with Egypt became possible only after
President Anwar Sadat came to
our Knesset and declared: "No more war, no more
bloodshed." And peace with
Jordan became possible only after the late King
Hussein, here in Washington,
declared the end of the state of belligerency,
signed a peace treaty with
us, and wholeheartedly acknowledged Israel's
right to exist.

The lesson for the Palestinian people is clear.
In a few years they could be
living in a Palestinian state, side by side in
peace and security with
Israel. A Palestinian State which Israel and the
international community
would help thrive.

But no one can make this happen for them if they
refuse to make it happen
for themselves.

For thousands of years, we Jews have been
nourished and sustained by a
yearning for our historic land. I, like many
others, was raised with a deep
conviction that the day would never come when we
would have to relinquish
parts of the land of our forefathers. I believed,
and to this day still
believe, in our people's eternal and historic
right to this entire land.

But I also believe that dreams alone will not
quiet the guns that have fired
unceasingly for nearly a hundred years. Dreams
alone will not enable us to
preserve a secure democratic Jewish state.

Jews all around the world read in this week's
Torah portion: "And you will
dwell in your land safely and I will give you
peace in the land, and there
shall be no cause for fear neither shall the
sword cross through the
Promised Land”.

Painfully, we the people of Israel have learned
to change our perspective.
We have to compromise in the name of peace, to
give up parts of our promised
land in which every hill and every valley is
saturated with Jewish history
and in which our heroes are buried. We have to
relinquish part of our dream
to leave room for the dream of others, so that
all of us can enjoy a better
future. For this painful but necessary task my
government was elected. And
to this I am fully committed.

We hope and pray that our Palestinian neighbors
will also awaken. We hope
they will make the crucial distinction between
implementing visions that can
inspire us to build a better reality, and mirages
that will only lead us
further into the darkness. We hope and pray for
this, because no peace is
more stable than one reached out of mutual
understanding not just for the
past but for the future.

We owe a quiet and normal life to ourselves, our
children and our
grandchildren. After defending ourselves for
almost 60 years against
attacks, all our children should be allowed to
live free of fear and terror.

And so I ask of the Palestinians: How can a child
growing up in a Culture of
Hate dream of the possibility of peace? It is so
important that all schools
and all educational institutions in the region
teach our children to be
hate-free.

The key to a true lasting peace in the Middle
East is in the education of
the next generation.

So let us today call out to all peoples of the
Middle East: replace the
Culture of Hate with an outlook of hope.

It is three years since the Road Map for Peace
was presented. The Road Map
was and remains the right plan. A Palestinian
leadership that fulfils its
commitments and obligations will find us a
willing partner in peace. But if
they refuse, we will not give a terrorist regime
a veto over progress, or
allow it to take hope hostage.

We cannot wait for the Palestinians forever. Our
deepest wish is to build a
better future for our region, hand in hand with a
Palestinian partner, but
if not, we will move forward, but not alone.

We could never have implemented the Disengagement
plan without your firm
support. The Disengagement could never have
happened without the commitments
set out by President Bush in his letter of April
14, 2004, endorsed by both
houses of Congress in unprecedented majorities.
In the name of the People of
Israel, I thank President Bush for his commitment
and for his support and
friendship.

The next step is even more vital to our future
and to the prospects of
finally bringing peace to the Middle East.
Success will only be possible
with America as an active participant, leading
the support of our friends in
Europe and across the world.

Should we realize that the bilateral track with
the Palestinians is of no
consequence, should the Palestinians ignore our
outstretched hand for peace,
Israel will seek other alternatives to promote
our future and the prospects
of hope in the Middle East. At that juncture, the
time for realignment will
occur.

Realignment would be a process to allow Israel to
build its future without
being held hostage to Palestinian terrorist
activities. Realignment would
significantly reduce the friction between
Israelis and Palestinians and
prevent much of the conflict between our two
battered nations.

The goal is to break the chains that have tangled
our two peoples in
unrelenting violence for far too many
generations. With our futures unbound
peace and stability might finally find its way to
the doorsteps of this
troubled region.

Mr. Speaker,
Mr. Vice President,

Allow me to turn to another dark and gathering
storm casting its shadow over
the world….

Every generation is confronted with a moment of
truth and trial. From the
savagery of slavery, to the horrors of World War
Two, to the gulags of the
Communist Bloc. That which is right and good in
this world has always been
at war with the horrific evil permitted by human
indifference.

Iran, the world's leading sponsor of terror, and
a notorious violator of
fundamental human rights, stands on the verge of
acquiring nuclear weapons.
With these weapons, the security of the entire
world is put in jeopardy.

We deeply appreciate America's leadership on this
issue and the strong
bipartisan conviction that a nuclear-armed Iran
is an intolerable threat to
the peace and security of the world. It cannot be
permitted to materialize.
This Congress has proven its conviction by
initiating the Iran Freedom and
Support Act. We applaud these efforts.

A nuclear Iran means a terrorist state could
achieve the primary mission for
which terrorists live and die: the mass
destruction of innocent human life.
This challenge, which I believe is The Test of
Our Time, is one the West
cannot afford to fail.

The radical Iranian regime has declared the
United States its enemy. Their
President believes it is his religious duty and
his destiny to lead his
country in a violent conflict against the
infidels. With pride he denies the
Jewish Holocaust and speaks brazenly, calling to
wipe Israel off the map.

For us, this is an existential threat. A threat
to which we cannot consent.
But it is not Israel's threat alone. It is a
threat to all those committed
to stability in the Middle East and the well
being of the world at large.

Mr. Speaker,
Mr. Vice President,

Our moment is NOW. History will judge our
generation by the actions we take
NOW…by our willingness to stand up for peace and
security and freedom, and
by our courage to do what is right.

The international community will be measured not
by its intentions but by
its results. The international community will be
judged by its ability to
convince nations and peoples to turn their backs
on hatred and zealotry.

If we don't take Iran's bellicose rhetoric
seriously now, we will be forced
to take its nuclear aggression seriously later.

Mr. Speaker,
Mr. Vice President,

The true Israel is not one you can understand
through the tragic experiences
of the complex geopolitical realities. Israel has
impressive credentials in
the realms of science, technology, high-tech and
the arts and many Israelis
are Nobel Prizes laureates in various fields.

A land with limited resources, eager to
facilitate cooperation with the
United States, Israel devotes its best and
brightest scientists to Research
and Development for new generations of safe,
reliable, efficient and
environmentally friendly sources of energy. Both
our countries share a
desire for energy security and prevention of
global warming. Therefore,
through the United States - Israel energy
cooperation act and other joint
frameworks, in collaboration with our US
counterparts, Israel will increase
its efforts to find advanced scientific and
technological solutions,
designed to develop new energy sources and
encourage conservation.

Just one example of Israel's remarkable
achievements is the recent 4 billion
dollar purchase by an American company of
Israel's industrial giant Iscar.
This is an important endorsement of the Israeli
economy, which has more
companies listed on NASDAQ than any country other
than the United States and
Canada. It is also a vote of confidence in
Israel's strategic initiative to
enhance the economic and social development of
our Negev and Galilee
regions.

But above all, it is recognition that what unites
us, Israel and America, is
a commitment to tap the greatest resource of all
- the human mind and the
human spirit.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We believe in the moral principles shared by our
two nations and they guide
our political decisions.

We believe that life is sacred and fanaticism is
not.

We believe that every democracy has the right and
the duty to defend its
citizens and its values against all enemies.

We believe that terrorism not only leads to war
but that terrorism is war. A
war that must be won every day. A war in which
all men and women of goodwill
must be allies.

We believe that peace amongst nations remains not
just the noblest ideal but
a genuine reality.
We believe that peace, based on mutual respect,
must be and is attainable in
the near future.

We, as Jews and citizens of Israel, believe that
our Palestinian neighbors
want to live in peace. We believe that they have
the desire, and hopefully
the courage, to reject violence and hatred as
means to attain national
independence.

The Bible tells us that as Joshua stood on the
verge of the Promised Land,
he was given one exhortation: 'Chazak Ve'ematz'
'Be strong and of good
courage”.

Strength, without courage, will lead only to
brutality. Courage, without
strength, will lead only to futility. Only
genuine courage and commitment to
our values, backed by the will and the power to
defend them, will lead us
forward in the service of humanity.

To the Congress of the United States and to the
great people of America, on
behalf of the people of Israel I want to say
'Chazak Ve'ematz' be strong and
of good courage, and we, and all peoples who
cherish freedom, will be with
you.

"השם עוז לעמו ייתן. השם יברך את עמו בשלום."
God bless you and God bless America
Thank you.

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