Speech by Prime Minister Sharon to the Knesset
on his visit to the United States and the Disengagement Plan
(April 22, 2004)
Members of Knesset,
I wish to report on my and the great accomplishments
achieved during that visit.
with U.S. President George
W. Bush was the summation of ongoing contacts between us and the
U.S. Administration on this issue, which commenced during my visit to
Rome, when I communicated to a White House representative my intention
to initiate the Disengagement
The U.S. President is a friend to Israel and leads
the international campaign against terror. He admires the State of Israel
and the Israeli people for our resolved and determined stand in the
face of terror. I gave
the President a letter which details the chain of events which led
me to the conclusion that we must initiate the Disengagement Plan. I
also attached a document
outlining the basic principles of the Disengagement Plan, prepared by
the National Security Council headed by Maj. Gen. (Res.) Giora Eiland.
The plan is based on principles I have already presented
in the past:
- the establishing of a security line, in critical areas, along which
will be deployed to protect Israel;
- a determined and sustained war against terrorist organizations and
- the erection of a physical obstacle - the Security
Fence - which contributes to the defense of Israel’s citizens
and makes it difficult for terrorists to penetrate large population
- relocation of communities in areas which will clearly not be under
Israeli control in any future permanent arrangement - the communities
in the Gaza Strip and
four communities in Northern Samaria;
- Reducing friction between Israelis and Palestinians;
- and ensuring political support for the plan from our friends around
the world, first and foremost the United States. You certainly heard
the President of the United States’ statements
- Regarding the Security Fence, it is important to clarify that the
fence will be constructed along the complete route approved by the
Government. In the decision which will be brought for the approval
of the Government and the Knesset regarding the Disengagement Plan
it will be determined that the Government will work to ensure that
the Fence is completed before commencing the relocation of communities.
I will head a team which will act to accelerate construction of the
Fence, and the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Finance will
During my meeting with him, the President told me
that he fully supports the Disengagement Plan. I received a letter
of commitment from him, in which his support for the plan is expressed
in unequivocal terms. All the letters and commitments between us and
the United States were published in full and are accessible to anyone
who wishes to review them.
Members of Knesset,
The political support we received during my visit
to the United States is an unprecedented accomplishment for Israel.
Since the establishment of the State, we have not received such vast
and staunch political support, as was expressed in the President’s letter.
I was pleased to discover that, in my estimation, this view is shared
not only by our friends around the world, but unfortunately, also by
the Palestinians, who view in the President’s letter the heaviest blow
inflicted on them since the War of Independence.
The letter contains American commitment to maintaining
the Government’s basic principle of no negotiation under fire. The United
States has committed not to adopt any political plan other than the
Roadmap. In the letter, clear
conditions are set out for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
First and foremost, the Palestinian Authority carrying out its commitments
as laid out in the Roadmap: cessation of violence, terror and incitement,
dismantling terrorist organizations and implementing comprehensive reforms
in the Palestinian Authority.
The letter includes:
- unequivocal American recognition of Israel’s right to secure and
protective borders, and as it appears: “defensible borders”.
- American recognition of Israel’s right to defend itself by itself
anywhere and to preserve its strength of deterrence against any threat,
and American recognition of Israel’s right to defend itself against
active terror and terrorist organizations anywhere, including in areas
from which Israel will withdraw.
The United States also expressed its position on the
most crucial topics for Israel, in discussions regarding a final status
agreement: on the subject of the refugees,
a clear and historic stand was expressed according to which there will
be no return of refugees to Israel.
Likewise, there is American acknowledgement that in
any final status agreement there will be no Israeli withdrawal to the
’67 lines. This acknowledgement
appears in two ways: understanding the facts determined by the large
Israeli settlement blocs such as making it impossible to return to the
’67 lines, and implementation of the concept of “defensible borders”.
The United States believes that the large settlement
blocs will remain under Israeli control in every arrangement. Negotiations
regarding the final status agreement will take place between Israel
and the Palestinians. However, if, during the negotiations disagreement
on these subjects should arise, the United States will support Israel’s
stance and this will allow Israel to be in a better stand. This is an
The Palestinians are beginning to understand that
the rules of the game have changed. If they do not uphold their commitments,
Israel will continue to act alone. Their current policy will only lead
to further loss of their assets, they will continue to lose the cards
they hold in negotiations for the final status agreement. They will
thus continue to see their national claims have not been realized.
The American letter is an inseparable part of the
Disengagement Plan. The U.S. President has expressed his sweeping support
of the plan. He views it as an historic step. And implementation of
the plan ensures the continuation of all the components of defense and
political insurance we have received from the Americans for many years.
It is important to understand that:
- whoever wishes to enable the great advantages I detailed must support
the plan; whoever wants to prevent Israel from being flooded with
- whoever wishes to preserve the large Israeli settlement
blocs under our control forever;
- whoever wants to ensure that as long as the Palestinians do not
fight against terror there will be no political pressure on Israel;
- whoever wishes wide American support for Israel’s right to defend
- whoever wishes to see American support for our war against terror;
- whoever wants Israel to initiate - and not be dragged into initiatives,
will lead and not be led;
- whoever wants all of the aforementioned - must support the Disengagement
- All of these achievements are an inseparable part of my plan. Without
them - Israel will lose these achievements.
I would like to add here to the members of Knesset
that the agreement reached between the U.S. President and me is a comprehensive
agreement. Whoever thinks that he can pick and choose whatever is comfortable
for him and not fulfill other things, let me clarify - then this agreement
will not go into effect. Therefore, whoever is against the agreement
also forfeits these accomplishments we have achieved, and thus whoever
continues to express his opposition to this step, which is, I believe,
the best and most appropriate for Israel, must know that he takes upon
himself the responsibility for the annulment of all the American commitments
I explained here, and which also appear in all the documents which have
been published. This is an inclusive comprehensive agreement.
Members of Knesset,
Next Sunday, a Likud party referendum will be held
among the members of the Likud party on the Disengagement Plan. I am
aware of the criticism surrounding the decision to bring the plan to
the members of my party. I feel that this criticism stems from a lack
of understanding of the significance of the Likud party referendum and
the reasons for its existence.
It is no secret that I considered holding a general
advisory national referendum before presenting the plan for approval.
Upon examination of the processes involved in such a national referendum,
it appeared that it would be too time-consuming in the case of such
a complex political step.
In any event, I would like to clarify, the authority
to confirm the steps that I initiated is in the hands of the Government
of Israel. In addition, I announced that following the Government’s
approval of the Disengagement Plan, we will present it to the Knesset
for its approval. These are the two institutions which will approve
the plan and its implementation. I also clarified that in my letter
to President Bush.
Nevertheless, I could not ignore the fact that among
my party, which constitutes one third of the members of this House,
there is genuine internal conflict regarding the plan. I would say,
there is a genuine internal conflict, but there is also an exaggeration
of many reports, including some reports which are utterly baseless,
but which may certainly bring about indecision. This internal conflict
must be resolved by the largest body of the party, and in the Likud,
we’re talking about the largest body in the political arena in Israel
– approximately 200,000 voters. The Likud vote is meant to approve the
plan within the Likud itself, as any other party could do.
The commitment we took upon ourselves, I and members
of the Likud party, to act according to the results of the Likud party
referendum, is a public and ethical commitment, rather than a legal
one or one by agreement. There is nothing in the Likud party referendum
to obligate the representatives of other parties. In fact, if the rest
of the members of this House decide to oppose the Likud position, clearly,
it will not pass.
I believe we should appreciate the fact that a party
is presenting such a difficult and unusual decision for its members’
consideration. I am certain that the members of Likud understand the
importance of the vote and will come out in huge numbers to vote. Because
the Disengagement plan is good for Israel, better than any other plan,
and the only one which, in my opinion is possible today, and I am certain
that the majority will vote in its favor.
Members of Knesset,
My last speech here, in the plenum, took place the
day after the horrible attack at the Ashdod Port. I promised then, from
this rostrum, that Israel will continue to fight Palestinian terror
with all its might. I think that the weeks which have passed since the
attack have proven the seriousness of our intentions to the terrorist
organizations and their leaders.
Thus we intend to continue acting, in the framework
of the Disengagement Plan, until the Palestinians abandon their strategy
of terror and vigorous political activity can be implemented which yields
irreversible accomplishments and a determined war on terrorists, their
dispatchers and those who fund them – to the last terrorist.
I believe that in the near future I will bring my
Disengagement Plan to the Knesset for its approval. In the absence of
a serious partner on the Palestinian side, this plan provides the best
answer to the situation Israel is embroiled in.
This is a fateful decision for the future of the State
of Israel, a move which involves very difficult decisions. This decision
is difficult for me personally, one of the most difficult decisions
presented to the Knesset in its 56 years of existence. However, considering
the challenges and threats that Israel faces, the Disengagement Plan
is the best possible answer, and G-d willing, it will also ensure the
future and prosperity of the State of Israel.
I would like to conclude by wishing the members of
Knesset, its employees and the citizens of Israel a happy Independence
I suggest that we transfer the motions for the agenda
to discussion by the Committee for Foreign Policy and Security.
of Foreign Affairs