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  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Inaugural Speech

Jerusalem, June 18, 1996

(Note:  this version of the speech has been edited for length.  Feel free to view the full document).

I am honored to present the new government today before the Knesset and the citizens of Israel, a government which will lead the State of Israel on a new course.  I was fortunate to be the first among Israel's prime ministers to be born after the establishment of the state.  The founding generation struggled to establish the state and build its foundation.  Our generation faces other challenges.  This is a turning point in our history.  During more than 2,000 years of exile, generations of Jews fought and struggled to get back the homeland we lost.  Now, after the founding of the state, our main task is to secure, re- establish, and develop the homeland we got back.  The torch has been passed on to us, by the generation born with the founding of the state in 1948 and in the 1950s, the generation which broke the siege of the Six Day War and repulsed the joint assault of the Yom Kippur War.  We have the responsibility to carry the age-old hope of generations into the next century.  We have the privilege to turn the dream into reality.  We promised this would be a government of renewal, of a new way.  We are not talking of cosmetic changes, of the same package in different wrapping, but of a fundamental change, deep and substantive, that will march Israel forward to its goals.  Indeed, the new government will be a government of a new way.  First in its approach to security and peace.  It is possible to reach a real peace with our neighbors.  This is not an easy task, but it is within reach.  We need patience, determination and persistence to achieve this goal.  We want a stable and lasting peace, not a temporary, fleeting agreement.  We want peace that will last for our children and our grandchildren, not just for tomorrow's newspapers.  Such a peace is based first of all on the security of Israel and its citizens.  The test of peace agreements is security, and on this we shall not compromise.  We will not compromise on the security of Israel's citizens, and we will not countenance attacks on our children--be it in Jerusalem or Hebron, Tel Aviv or Ariel, Kiryat Shmona or Kfar Darom.

The reality we are inheriting is not simple.  In the last years, the security situation has deteriorated throughout the country and its borders.  To stop this deterioration we will have to wage a continuous battle against terror.  The participants in terror should know that they will encounter a harsh response.  I refer not only to the terrorists themselves but to their patrons and those who sent them, to their operators and collaborators.  Security is essential if we are to make progress towards real peace arrangements with our neighbors.  Our interlocutors must know that if they wish to advance to this end, they must diligently fulfill all their obligations.  They must also know, that if necessary, the Israeli Defense Forces and security forces will have full freedom of action, whenever necessary, to fight against terror.  I want to call today to our neighbors in the Palestinian Authority and say to them:  on this basis of ensuring security, we are ready to start a real partnership with you for peace, cooperation and good, neighborly relations.  The government of Israel will negotiate with the Palestinian Authority on the condition that it will fulfill all its obligations.  The negotiations will deal with the implementation of the interim agreement and the issues of the permanent arrangement, which will allow both sides to live in peace and security.  I believe that the permanent status arrangement will be lasting if a balance is created between two basic needs:  minimal Israeli involvement in the lives of the Palestinians, and maximum security for Israel in the face of terror and threats of war.  We must build a new reality, which will grow from the shared lives of Israelis and Palestinians.  It is the lack of security which causes closures, paralysis and economic stagnation.  With security, we will be able to create freedom of movement, an open economy and prosperity for all. ... From this podium I address the leaders of all Arab countries with a call for peace.  Come, let us conduct direct negotiations for peace, negotiations without pre-conditions which will advance the Middle East to an era of stability and prosperity.  This is the key:  no pre-conditions.  Each side will be able to present its views and position without requiring that the other side agree to these positions in advance.  We will not dictate our views to you and you will not dictate your views to us.  We will sit and negotiate seriously, prudently and responsibly to reach an agreement. ...

The Jewish Bible has given the world the great ideal of human dignity.  "In the image of God, He created man."  The few who failed to learn this turned to extremism and violence, and finally to the horrible crime of the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, of blessed memory.  We will deepen our dialogue among all sectors of the nation; we will get to know one another and to learn to respect and understand each other.  Along with accepting the decision of the majority, we will honor the right of the minority to demonstrate without hesitation and without fear.  But most of all, we must remember that a people unites and coalesces around its culture, its heritage, and national values.  The new government will nurture the values of the Jewish heritage in education, culture and the media.  The values of the Jewish heritage must serve a powerful source of inspiration in all facets of our life.  The strengthening of our bond with the eternal values of the people of Israel, while emphasizing the values of democracy, freedom and human decency, will enable us to create a healthy society, able to confront formidable challenges and realize Zionist goals.  Zionism is not dead, even though in some circles it has been relegated to quotation marks.  We have a wonderful youth, willing to mobilize for national tasks.  We will encourage this spirit.  We will encourage pioneering settlement in the Land of Israel:  in the Negev, the Galilee, Judea and Samaria, and the Golan.  The settlers are the real pioneers of our day, and they deserve support and appreciation.  But above all, we will guard and strengthen Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people, undivided under the sovereignty of the State of Israel.  Members of Knesset, during the term of this Knesset, we will mark the 50th Independence Day of the State of Israel and the beginning of the 21st century.  Achieving the national goals which the people of Israel placed before themselves in the last generations--the ingathering of exiles and their absorption in the homeland, settling the land and building it, establishing economic independence and a healthy society, achieving peace with security--realizing these goals depends on our faith, our will, and our determination.  We, the generation born after the founding of the state, bear a great responsibility:  to continue the Zionist project and bring about its fulfillment.  Let us pray that we are worthy of the great responsibility we bear.  We have reached the days generations of Jews have hoped and prayed for.  The Jewish dream has been realized, the Jewish people has renewed its independence.  In us, the words of the prophet Amos have been fulfilled:  "And I shall establish for them David's fallen tabernacle."

And it will, with God's help, stand for ever and ever.

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