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Israeli Prime Minister-Elect Ariel Sharon Delivers Victory Speech

Aired February 6, 2001 - 5:58 p.m. ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: The celebration at Ariel Sharon's victory. The Israeli prime minister election is continuing, and it looks like Sharon -- General Sharon stepping up to the microphone.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): ... has fought many, many, many battles and campaigns, and he now reaches the moment that he himself never thought he'd reach. And during this speech, he intends to thank those who have stood by his side throughout his entire path, and he wants to thank his late wife, Lilly (ph) Sharon, who wasn't able to see this moment. And the last two minutes of his speech, he's going to devote to his late wife, Lilly.

ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER-ELECT: Good evening, and a wonderful evening to all of you. My friends, Sylvan Shalom (ph), chairman of my headquarters, and Robi Rivlin (ph), chairman of the Parliamentary Party -- the faction, all members of Knesset, from this large camp who are sitting here, people from the Likud and all the other parties: MK Eli Eshai (ph), and MK Netansharansky (ph), MK Yvette Lieberman (ph), MK Itzak Levy (ph), Rabbi Menachem Polsh (ph) and Rabbi Meir Polsh (ph), two generations. Michael Kleiner (ph), my friend for many years, David Levy (ph), and mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert. Together with you we have reached this wonderful point, and made this marvelous achievement.

I want to say that a few moments before I came into the hall, when I was already in the building, the president of the United States, President Bush, called me, and asked me to present his best wishes to you. He told me that they want to cooperate very closely with the government under my leadership.

And he reminded me of the trip I took with him through Samaria and the Jordan Valley. And at that time, he said to me, "No one believed then," he said, "that I would be president and you would be prime minister. But as things turned out, despite the fact that no one believed us," he said, "I have been elected president, and you have been elected prime minister."


SHARON (through translator): Citizens of Israel, my colleagues from various parties, today the state of Israel has embarked on a new path, a path of domestic unity and harmony, of striving for security and a real genuine peace.

I would like to thank every single one of you for your support, for your involvement, for your devotion, for your hard work. It's as a result of your work and this great confidence that you have shown in me and the thousands and thousands of individual activists throughout Israel that we have achieved this great victory. We have achieved this moment, and we thank you from the bottom of our heart.

This night is a very moving night. It's one of great significance for me.

From the very earliest days, I have entirely devote myself to the country to consolidating its security and building it up. In all of my possessions, in all moments, whether hard or happy, I was accompanied by my dear wife, Lilly, who supported me wholeheartedly. At this moment, when the Israeli people have expressed their confidence in me to lead the country in the next few years, Lilly is not with me anymore, and I miss her. She's not with me here.

I want, this evening, to thank every single one of Israel's citizens who have expressed their confidence in me. I shall do everything in order to succeed in this mission that you have consigned to me.

This is the state of all of us, and all of us have a joint future and a single destiny. In the course of the years, divisions, incisions in our people and society have proliferated. Baseless hatred and fury have multiplied. The time now has come to seek for as wide-based unity and agreement as possible. There is a deep-felt desire among the people to stand firmly together in dealing with the challenges of the future. I call now for the establishment of as wide a government of national unity as possible.

And I here turn to the Labor Party and call upon it to join us in a partnership in pursuing the difficult path towards security and peace.


SHARON (through translator): Citizens of Israel, today you have called upon me to lead you as prime minister of Israel, and to succeed in the mission you have conferred upon me. I shall, to do this, need the confidence of the Knesset, and the maximum support of its members. We live in a parliamentary system in which the government functions on the basis of a parliamentary majority. As prime minister...


SHARON (through translator): ... as prime minister, I will act responsibly and with respect to the parliament, to the Knesset, and with regard to all members of the house. The government, under my leadership, will act to implement the rule of law, and to maintain the independence of the judicial system, which is one of the pillars of maintaining a democratic system.

Citizens of Israel, the government, under my leadership, will act to restore security to the citizens of Israel, and to achieve a genuine peace and stability in the area.

I'm aware of the fact that peace requires painful compromises by both sides. Any and every political arrangement will be based on security for all peoples of the region. I call upon our Palestinian neighbors to cast off the path of violence and to return to the path of dialogue and solving the conflicts between us by peaceful means.

The government, under my leadership, will act to achieve genuine political settlements that will preserve the existential and historic needs of Israel, which will be based on mutual respect and mutual security.

We shall act to achieve more profound reciprocal relationships with our great friend and our ally the United States. And we shall strive to achieve closer ties between the state of Israel and the countries of the world.

In Israeli society, there are many areas of distress with which I am familiar. We will do everything we can to wipe these out. A people cannot exist if there is no social solidarity. We shall act to reduce the social gaps and to achieve equality of opportunity to everybody.

We will turn over a new leaf in our relationships with our Israeli Arab citizens in order to achieve a genuine partnership and a feeling of equality between all citizens of the country.

The government, under my leadership, will fly the social flag side-by-side with the flag of security and peace, and we will be greatly supporting the value of education.


SHARON (through translator): And above both flags, there will be the flag of Zionism, the flag of national honor, immigration and settlement. The government, which I shall set up will strive to strengthen and consolidate united Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, and the eternal capital of the Jewish people; to which we always turn, saying, "If I forget thee, oh Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its coming. May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not make Jerusalem the chief of my joys."


SHARON (through translator): The government, under my leadership...


SHARON (through translator): The government, under my leadership, will act to achieve constant economic growth, and in this way, we will create new employment possibilities and reduce unemployment. We will maintain price stability and prevent inflation.

We will ensure that we act responsibly in the economic area, without increasing any deficit. And at the same time, we will invest in infrastructure and education. We will reduce the tax burdens on Israeli citizens. We will maintain the principles of a modern, open economy, based on competition and integration in the world economy.

To achieve these goals, it is my intention to establish an economic cabinet, which I shall head.

Citizens of Israel, we have a small country which is blessed with talents and has achieved greatly. Let us join forces as one single body, with one single heart, setting out on a new path. Together, we will be ready to face all the challenges confronting us. Together, we will be able to realize all of our hopes and our dreams.

Thank you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ariel Sharon, says the commentator, completes his speech and is presented with a bouquet and maintenance of the rule of law is a very important message which he hasn't yet referred to.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That was the prime minister-elect, Ariel Sharon, Israel's new prime minister, giving his victory speech in Hebrew to a domestic audience. We understand that in about half an hour from now, he will give another speech in English for the benefit of the international community, and we hope to bring that you as well.

Here he spent quite a lot of time thanking his party supporters, thanking the people of Israel for bringing him to the position of prime minister. He spoke about his wife, Lilly, who is no longer here. He said she has stood by him throughout his entire career, and at this moment when he reached the pinnacle of power in Israel, she was not here and he said that he missed here.

He spoke quite a lot about the divisiveness, as he sees it, within Israeli society. He said that he wanted to have a national unity government, the widest possible. he called on the Palestinians to resume negotiations and follow a peace process through dialogue and not through violence, as he put it. And he talked and got his biggest line of applause about Jerusalem, vowing to keep it the united capital, eternally undivided as he put, it the capital of the Jewish state.

Joining me now here at our platform in Tel Aviv, Chemi Shalev. What did you get that from that speech? It wasn't a very flamboyant speech, if I could say. It seemed very low-key. He didn't look that happy, even?

CHEMI SHALEV, POLITICAL ANALYST: No, he didn't look that happy. Perhaps the weight of the responsibility which is now on him hit him in the moments before the speech. This was a carefully planned speech, aimed at the Israeli consensus. There is nothing that even Mr. Sharon's opponents could find objectionable in the things that he said. It was a sort of motherhood and apple pie, from an Israeli point of view, and it leaves room to wonder where Mr. Sharon is headed.

Obviously, at least until now, he wants to avoid inflammatory rhetoric. he wants to move towards the center. He will try to establish a national unity government, as he said. It's not likely that he'll find that easy because of the internal turmoil inside of the Labor Party and because, ultimately, they'll have to get down to the brass tacks of the peace process and there it might turn out that Labor and Likud don't have anything in common.

AMANPOUR: Chemi Shalev, we're going to go now to CNN's Jerrold Kessel at the Likud Party headquarters, where he has been all night.

Jerrold, what was the atmosphere as Ariel Sharon was giving his speech?

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think, Christiane, above all, as the national anthem goes on now, that what one got out of the speech was the dissonance between the way Mr. Sharon was projecting his opinions and the way he said he would put Israel on a new path in the future, that it had set out a new path this evening, and what the crowd here were applauding. In other words, what the majority of Israelis had voted for.

They applauded most loudly when he said he would bring them personal security. But his three watch words of unity, security, and a different kind of peace process, including as he rightly pointed out, a totally united Jerusalem under Israel, seems difficult to imagine how he can carry that out while at the same time not running into obstacles.

Tonight, I think you saw Ariel Sharon coming to grips with the fact that he may have to be a very pragmatic kind of prime minister if he's to succeed in achieving any of those the watch words of unity, security and a different peace process. They may be on collision course -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Jerrold, thank you. Let's go now to Mike Hanna who's at a very empty, very subdued Labor Party headquarters.

Mike, when we heard Prime Minister Barak, the defeated prime minister, give his concession speech, he gave a really feisty speech, and almost as an afterthought said, and by the way, I'm resigning as Labor Party leader.

MIKE HANNA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it does appear that that decision was made at the very last moment. The size of his defeat was a crushing blow to the supporters of the Labor Party. They had been hoping for at least a defeat with some honor, but an greater shock was the news of his resignation, announcing resignation as member of the Knesset, or parliament, and as leader of the Labor Party.

All the delegates here, the Labor Party members, were clearly caught off guard. They were clearly deeply surprised by the decision, and it does appear that this decision was made, as his critics have contended that so many decision were made while he was prime minister, with the minimum of consultation -- Christiane. AMANPOUR: Mike, thank you very much. As we heard Ariel Sharon start his victory speech, he said that as he was coming up to the platform, he had received a telephone call from the president of the United States, George W. Bush.

We go now to CNN's John King at the White House for reaction from there -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christiane, we are told that was a five-minute conversation, largely a congratulatory call from President Bush to the incoming prime minister, Ariel Sharon. The White House has released a brief statement. Let me read from it.

Quote: "The president told Prime Minister-elect Sharon he looked forward to working with him, especially with regard to advancing peace and stability in the region. The United States has worked with every leader of Israel since its creation in 1948. Our bilateral relationship is rock solid, as is the U.S. commitment to Israel's security."

The statement goes on as well to thank the outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Barak for his friendship with the United States, and his commitment to peace, and we're told by senior Bush administration officials to expect a call from the president to Mr. Barak, most likely tomorrow.

As for the U.S. policy from here on out, they say the United States obviously remains engaged with Israel in the region, looks forward to the resumption of the peace talks, but they believe the best posture for Washington to take right now is to step back, give Mr. Sharon a chance to build a government.

Many questions here in Washington, as well as in Israel and throughout the region, will he be successful in forming a unity government? What will the reaction of the Palestinians be?

Until those questions are answered, the United States saying its best position right now is simply to offer its support to the state of Israel, step back, and wait and see. We do know Secretary of State Colin Powell plans to visit Israel and other nations in the region, but before the end of the month -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: John, thank you. And clearly, the rest of the world and, indeed, the Israeli people are waiting to see which direction peace takes. Will there be security? Will Ariel Sharon be able to deliver on what he says and that is to demand and to get security on the streets and in the territories before he manages to make any further progress on the peace process.

We'll be watching. So will the rest of the world. So will the Palestinian, the Arab neighbors and the Israeli people. That concludes our coverage for the moment. We'll be here for the rest of the evening with all the developments as they come in.

As I say, we expect another speech from Ariel Sharon, this time directed at the international press and the international community. We'll bring that when he delivers it. I'm Christiane Amanpour from Tel Aviv.



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