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Address by Prime Minister Rabin to the U.S. Congress

(July 26, 1994)

In an unprecedented gesture, the U.S. Congress held a joint House-Senate session to honor both Prime Minister Rabin and King Hussein. This was the first time two leaders were honored together and shared the same platform. Mr. Rabin 's address was highly personal as he spoke of the horrors of war and the blessings of peace. Mr. Rabin presented to the Congress twelve Israeli personalities invited by him to attend the Washington ceremonies. He addressed the American legislators, the Jordanian monarch, the people of Israel and Jordan and the people of the Middle East with a message of hope and trust for a better future. He did not minimize the difficulties that lay ahead, but noted that a major hurdle had been overcome. In his speech, King Hussein publicly declared that the state of war between Israel and Jordan was over. Text:

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President,

Distinguished Members of Congress, His Majesty, the King of Jordan,

I start with the Jewish word - Shalom,

Each year, on Memorial Day for the Fallen of Israel's Wars, I go to the cemetery on Mount Herz1 in Jerusalem. Facing me are the graves, the headstones, the colorful blooming flowers - and thousands of pairs of weeping eyes. I stand there, in front of that large silent crowd - and read in their eyes the words of the "Young Dead Soldiers" - as the famous American poet Archibald MacLeish entitled the poem from which I take these lines:

"They say:

Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope,

or for nothing,

we cannot say;

it is you who must say this."

Mr. Speaker,

We have come from Jerusalem to Washington because it is we who must say, - and we are here to say: Peace is our goal. It is peace we desire. With me here in this House today, are my partners in this great dream. And allow me to refer to some Israelis who are with me, here with you:

- Amirarn Kaplan, whose first brother was killed in an accident, whose second brother was killed in pursuit of terrorists, whose third brother was killed in war, and whose parents died of heartbreak. And today he is a seeker of peace.

- Moshe Sasson, who, together with his father, was an emissary to the talks with King Abdullah and to other missions of peace. Today he is also an emissary of peace.

- With me, a classmate of mine from elementary school, Chana Rivlin of Kibbutz Gesher, which faces Jordan, who endured bitter fighting and lost a son in war. Today she looks out of her window onto Jordan and wants the dream of peace to come true.

- Avraham Daskal, almost ninety years old, who worked for the Electric Company in Trans-Jordan and was privileged to attend the celebrations marking King Hussein's birth. He is hoping for peace in his lifetime.

- Dani Matt, who fought against Jordan in the War of Independence, was taken a prisoner-of-war, and devoted his life to the security of the State of Israel. He hopes that his grandchildren will never know war.

- And Mrs. Penina Herzog, whose husband wove the first threads of political ties with Jordan.

With us here in this hall are:

- The mayor of Eilat, Mr. Gabi Kadosh, [a city] which touches on the frontier with Jordan and will be a focus of common tourism.

- And Mr. Shimon Cahaner, who fought against the Jordanians, memorializes his fallen comrades, and hopes that they will have been the last to fall.

- And Mr. Talal al-Krienawi, the mayor of a Bedouin town in Israel, who looks forward to renewing the friendship with brothers in Jordan.

- And Mr. David Coren, member of a kibbutz which was captured by the Jordanians in 1948, who awaits the day when the borders will be open.

- And Dr. Asher Susser, a scholar who has done research on Jordan throughout his adult life.

- And Dr. Sharon Regev, whose father was killed while pursuing terrorists in the Jordan Valley, and who yearns for peace with all his heart.

Here they are before you, people who never rejoiced in the victories of war, but whose hearts are now filled with the joy in peace. I have come here today from Jerusalem on behalf of those thousands of bereaved families - though I haven't asked their permission. I stand here on behalf of the parents who have buried their children; of the children who have no fathers;

and of the sons and daughters who are gone, but return to us in our dreams. I stand here today on behalf of those youngsters who wanted to live, to love, to build a home.

I have come from Jerusalem in the name of our children, who began their lives with great hope - and are now names on graves and memorial stones; old pictures in albums; fading clothes in closets. Each year as I stand before the parents whose lips are chanting "Kaddish," the Jewish Memorial Prayer, ringing in my ears are the words of the same famous Archibald MacLeish who echoes the plea of the young dead soldiers:

"They say: We leave you our deaths,

Give them their meaning."

Let us give them meaning.

Let us make an end to the bloodshed.

Let us make true peace.

Let us today be victorious in ending war."

Mr. Speaker,

The debate goes on: Who shapes the face of history - leaders or circumstances?

My answer to you is: We all shape the face of history. We, the People. We the farmers behind our plows, the teachers in our classrooms, the doctors saving lives, the scientists at our computers, the workers on the assembly line, the builders on our scaffolds.

We, the mothers blinking back tears as our sons are drafted into the army; we, the fathers who stay awake at night worried and anxious for our children's safety. We, Jews and Arabs. We, Israelis and Jordanians. We, the people, we shape the face of history.

And we, the leaders, hear the voices, and sense the deepest emotions and feelings of thousands and millions, and translate them into reality.

If my people did not desire peace so strongly, I would not be standing here today. And I am sure that if the children of Amman, and the soldiers of Irbid, and the women of Salt and citizens of Aqaba did not seek peace, our partner in this great quest, the King of Jordan, would not be here now, shaking hands, calling for peace.

We bear the responsibility. We have the power to decide. And we dare not miss this great opportunity. For it is the duty of the leaders to bring peace and well-being to their peoples. We are graced with the privilege of fulfilling this duty for our peoples. This is our responsibility.

The complex relations between Israel and Jordan have continued for a generation. Today, so many years later, we carry with us good memories of the special ties between your country, Your Majesty, and mine, and we carry with us the grim reminders of the times we found ourselves at war.

We remember the days of your grandfather, King Abdullah, who sought avenues of peace with the heads of the Jewish people and the leaders of the young State of Israel.

There is much work before us. We face psychological barriers. We face genuine practical problems. Walls of hostility have been built on the River Jordan which runs between us. You in Amman, and we in Jerusalem, must bring down those barriers and walls, must solve those concrete problems. And I am sure that we will do it.

Yesterday we took a giant step towards a peace which will embrace it all: borders and water, security and economics, trade without boycotts, tourism, the environment, and diplomatic relations. We want a peace between countries, but above all between human beings.

Beyond the ceremonies, after the festivities, we will move on to the negotiations. They will not be easy. But when they are completed, a wonderful, common future awaits us. The Middle East, the cradle of the great monotheistic civilizations - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; the Middle East, which was a valley of the shadow of death, will be a place where it is a pleasure to live.

We live on the same stretch of land. The same rain nourishes our soil; the same hot wind parches our fields. We find shade under the same fig tree, and savor the fruit of the same green vine. We drink from the same well, and the laughter of a baby in Amman can wake the sleepy citizens of Jerusalem. Only a seventy minute journey separates these cities, Jerusalem and Amman - and forty-six years. And just as we have been great enemies, so can we be good and friendly neighbors.

Since it is unprecedented that in this joint meeting two speakers will be invited, allow me to turn to His Majesty.

Your Majesty,

We have both seen a lot in our lifetime. We have both seen too much suffering. What will you leave to your children? What will I leave to my grandchildren? I have only dreams: to build a better world - a world of understanding and harmony, a world in which it is joy to live. This is not asking for too much.

The State of Israel thanks you: for accepting our hand in peace; for your political wisdom and courage; for planting new hope in our hearts, and in the hearts of your subjects, and in the hearts of all peace-loving people. And I know that you enjoy the highest esteem of the United States - this great America which is helping the bold to make a peace of the brave.

From this hall, which represents freedom, liberty and democracy, I would like to thank,

President Clinton and the former Presidents of the United States,

Secretary of State Christopher, former secretaries of state,

and administration officials,

Mr. Speaker,

Mr. Vice President,

And we are more than thankful to you,

Distinguished Members of Congress, the representatives of the American people,

And to you, the wonderful people of America.

I do so, because no words can express our gratitude to you, for the years of your generous support, understanding, and cooperation which are all but beyond compare in modern history.

Thank you, America. God bless America.

Tomorrow I shall return to Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel and the heart of the Jewish people. Lining the road to Jerusalem are rusting hulks of metal - burnt-out, silent, cold. They are the remains of convoys which brought food and medicine to the war-torn and besieged city of Jerusalem forty-six years ago.

For many of Israel's citizens, their story is one of heroism, part of our national legend. For me and for my comrades-in-arms, every scrap of cold metal lying there by the wayside is a bitter memory. I remember, as though it were just yesterday.

I remember them. I was their commander in war. For them this ceremony has come too late. What endures are their children, their comrades, their legacy.

Allow me a personal note.

I, Military I.D. No. 30743, Retired General in the Israeli Defense Forces, consider myself to be a soldier in the army of peace today.

I, who served my country for 27 years as a soldier, I say to you, Your Majesty, the King of Jordan, and I say to you, our American friends:

Today we are embarking on a battle which has no dead and no wounded, no blood and no anguish. This is the only battle which is a pleasure to wage: the battle of peace.

Tomorrow, on the way up to Jerusalem, thousands of flowers will cover the remains of those rusting armored vehicles, the ones that never made it to the city. Tomorrow, from those silent metal heaps, thousands of flowers will smile to us with the word of peace - "Shalom."

In the Bible, our Book of Books, peace is mentioned in its various idioms, two hundred and thirty-seven times. In the Bible, from which we draw our values and our strength, in the Book of Jeremiah, we find a lamentation for Rachel the Matriarch. It reads:

"Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears:

for their work shall be rewarded, says the Lord."

I will not refrain from weeping for those who are gone. But on this summer day in Washington, far from home, we sense that our work will be rewarded, as the Prophet foretold.

The Jewish tradition calls for a blessing on every new tree, every new fruit, on every new season,

Let me conclude with the ancient Jewish blessing that has been with us in exile, and in Israel, for thousands of years; and allow me to do it in Hebrew:

"Blessed are You, O Lord, who has preserved us, and sustained us, and enabled us to reach this time."

God, Bless the Peace.

Thank you.

Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs