Ariel Sharon's speech at the Israeli-Palestinian summit at Sharm el-Sheikh

Published: 20 February 2005
Briefing Number 133

Click to Printclick here to print page

On 8 February 2005, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met with newly-elected Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas for the highest level summit between Israel and the Palestinians for 4 years. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah of Jordan also took part in the summit, which took place in the Egyptian town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Here is the text (translated from Hebrew) of the speech made by Ariel Sharon at this historic meeting. (We at Beyond Images have added the section headings in the text of the speech, to make it easier for readers to use).

After thanking his host, and congratulating the Jordanian King on the recent arrival of a son, Ariel Sharon continued as follows:

Congratulations to the new Palestinian leader

“Congratulations are due to you, the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mr Mahmoud Abbas, on your impressive victory in the Palestinian Authority elections. Your victory and the path on which you wish to lead your people can signify real change for your people, which will affect the entire region. I hope that you will be able to lead your people on the path of democracy and maintenance of law and order, until the establishment of an independent and democratic Palestinian state.”

A year of opportunities, a year to end the violence….

“2005 began as a year of great opportunity for all the peoples of the region, first and foremost for Israelis and Palestinians. We must all ensure that this opportunity is not missed.

We have an opportunity to break off from the path of blood which has been forced on us over the past four years. We have an opportunity to start on a new path. For the first time in a long time, there exists in our region hope for a better future for our children and our grandchildren.

We must move forward cautiously. This is a very fragile opportunity, that the extremists will want to exploit. They want to close the window of opportunity for us and allow our two peoples to drown in their blood.

If we do not act now – they may be successful in their scheme. There is only one answer to them: we must announce here today that violence will not win, that violence will not be allowed to murder hope. We must all make a commitment not to agree to a temporary solution, not to allow violence to raise its head, but to act together, with determination, to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, to disarm and subdue it once and for all. Only by crushing terror and violence will we build peace.

I have no intention of missing this opportunity – because we must not let the new spirit, which grants our peoples hope, pass us by and leave us empty-handed.”

Israeli confidence-building measures

“That is why we have acted quickly and with determination, with an understanding of the needs of the Palestinian side. Over the past few days, we reached a number of understandings with our Palestinian colleagues, which will enable us to grant both peoples tranquility and security in the near future. Today, in my meeting with Chairman Abbas, we agreed that all Palestinians will stop all acts of violence against all Israelis everywhere. In parallel, Israel will cease all its military activity against all Palestinians anywhere. We hope that today we are starting a new period of tranquillity and hope. Further we agreed on a process of transferring security responsibility for Palestinian areas. I informed Chairman Abbas of our intention to take a series of confidence-building measures: soon we will release hundreds of Palestiinan prisoners, and also establish a joint committee to explore future releases of prisoners.

We wish to conduct an honest and genuine dialogue in order to transform these first steps into a sound basis for the foundation of our relations.”

Israel’s commitment to Disengagement, and the Road Map

“I am determined to carry out the Disengagement Plan which I initiated. The Disengagement Plan was initiated by a unilateral decision. Now, if new change does emerge on the Palestinian side, the disengagement can bring hope and become the new starting point for a coordinated, successful process.

The Disengagement plan can pave the way to implementation of the Road Map, to which we are committed and which we want to implement. We are prepared actively to fulfil all our obligations, and expect the other side to carry out all its obligations.

Only actions and not words – this is the only way to attain the vision of two states living side-by-side in peace and tranquillity.”

A message to the Palestinian people: “abandon unrealistic dreams”

“To our Palestinian neighbours, I assure you that we have a genuine intention to respect your right to live independently and in dignity. I have already said that Israel has no desire to continue to govern over you and control your fate. We in Israel have had to painfully wake up from our dreams, and we are determined to overcome all the obstacles which might stand in our path in order to realise the new chance which has been created.

You too must prove that you have the strength and the courage to compromise, to abandon unrealistic dreams, subdue the forces which oppose peace and live in peace and mutual respect side-by-side with us.”

A message to the Israelis: “we must take difficult and controversial steps”

“To the citizens of Israel I say: we have passed difficult times, faced the most painful experiences and overcome them. The future lies before us. We are required to take difficult and controversial steps, but we must not miss the opportunity to try to achieve what we have wished for, for so many years: security, tranquillity and peace.”

A message to the Arab world

“And one final call to our hosts and to the Arab leaders of the region. Come let us join hands and create a new atmostphere of openness and tolerance in our region. Together we can build a dam against the radical forces of yesterday whicih threaten to cry us all into a whirlpool of blood and hatred. Together we can promote relations between us and ignite the first ray of hope for all the people of the Middle East. Together we can ensure our people lives of freedom and stability, prosperity and peace.

May we all be found deserving of this great opportunity which we have been granted.”

Our comments

At the summit, Mahmoud Abbas pledged to end all Palestinian acts of violence. The summit has contributed to a sense of optimism that Israel and the Palestinians can achieve meaningful dialogue in the post-Arafat era.

To many observers, Mr Sharon’s speech contained “nothing new”. Experts warned against premature euphoria. To many Israelis, Mr Sharon is conceding much more than they would wish, when violence and rejection of Israel are still embedded in Palestinian culture, and Mr Abbas does not have the authority to root it out.

Whatever assessment one makes of the Sharm el-Sheikh summit, one thing is clear: Mr Sharon has undergone a transformation in his thinking. It is for the Palestinians and the international community to respond.

See also:

Beyond Images Briefing 107: Ariel Sharon, the disengagement plan and the Palestinians