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Special Event

Israeli Prime Minister-Elect Ariel Sharon Presents New Government to Knesset

Aired March 7, 2001 - 12:31 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: There is news breaking in Israel, in Jerusalem, where the new prime minister, the newly elected prime minister, is about to present his new government to the Israeli parliament, known as the Knesset, and then be sworn in as Israel's next prime minister.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER-ELECT (through translator): Members of the House; special greetings to former members of the Knesset, I'm very happy that you're here; president of the Supreme Court, Justice Barak, and justices of the Supreme Court; Mrs. Herzog; Judge Goldberg; state controller -- former state controller Mrs. Miriam Porat; Driana (ph) of the diplomatic corps; distinguished audience; and if I might break with tradition, I'd like to say all the many friends who are here:

At the outset of my address, I would like, once again, to thank the many, many people of the Israeli electorate who expressed their confidence in me a month ago. I will do everything in my power to justify this confidence and to successfully, with my fellow government members, tackle the enormous challenges facing us.

I also wish to thank the members of the outgoing government, and particularly Prime Minister Ehud Barak, a fighter and courageous commander.

And, really, I'm sorry. On one hand, I feel happy because I'm here, but I really feel sorry that it's me and not him. But, really, your contribution to Israel's security, defense will always be with us.

We have very greatly attacked the line followed by the formal government, but we never disputed its desire to achieve a better future for all of us. During the election campaign and after it, I promised, and I promised time and time again, that I would establish a unity government that would last until November 2003. This is what we're doing today. I also promised that we would pass the -- an amendment to the direct elections law. And I'm happy that we managed to do this today.

The difficult security situation, the position on the international level, the baseless hatred, all of this requires us to adopt national unity; not just unity in words, not just a grouping of different political factions with different opinions, but what we need is real unity, unity of heart, national conciliation. We all have a single fate. Our children have a joint, a common future. We've established a Jewish democratic state here after 2000 years of exile and persecution.

This is the only place in the world where the Jews can defend themselves with their own forces. We have one of the most advanced countries in the world in terms of science, technology, law, education, culture. If we cannot manage to bring together all the wonderful things that we have established here, then all of this will be endangered. We have to unite. What is dear to us is far greater than what divides us.

In recent years, we have become bogged down in superfluous internal conflicts. This is the time for a change of direction. This is the time to show maturity, national unity and responsibility. Such a spirit of responsibility was shown by Shimon Peres, a very distinguished and experienced leader. And, in fact, when we were all younger, we had great privilege of working together under Ben-Gurion when he was a young minister and I was in the army.

But together with Shimon Peres, I want to thank the Labor Party, who agreed, given the challenges, to rise above differences of opinion and join hands in the national struggle for security and peace. Unity that we've achieved is a national asset, and we have to make a major effort to preserve this.

The government I'm going to present here this evening will enjoy broad-base support by members of the House and of the public. The security situation is what has led to the establishment of this government, and I intend to continue to try to attract other factions into the coalition. And I think it's of paramount importance that we establish as broad-based a government as possible so that we can muster the greatest possible potential force for tackling future risks.

During our coalition talks, I didn't agree to rule any individual or faction out. Anyone who's prepared to contribute to the challenges, to dealing with the challenges facing us, to narrowing social gaps and so on, is welcome to join us. And I intend to make sure that we have constantly open channels of communication; also with factions who are not in our government, and also with the head of the opposition, Mr. Yosi Sarid, as stipulated in the law.

I believe in constant dialogue between publics in an effort to achieve consent and assent when this is possible, instead of trying to have each individual having a row on their own, as it were. You have no know how to row with people also. You have to reduce the level of vociferousness. You have to know how to deal with people.

And I call upon the members of the House to prove to the people it's possible to act differently, in a civilized fashion, mutual respect, civility. And I think we would then be able to provide an example to the public because then this would be an example of fraternity and reconciliation. Members of the House, the principles of my government and of our coalition agreement are before you. The principles have been based on national unity despite differences of opinion that exist between the different components of the coalition.

The paramount task of the coalition is to consolidate society in Israel, combating violence and terrorism, and striving to achieve stability.

From here I wish to call upon our Palestinian neighbors. The ongoing conflict between us has brought about a great deal of awful suffering for both sides. In the future, things must be different. Both peoples are fated or destined to live side by side in this small part of the world. This is a reality that cannot be changed. But I do believe that there is an ability for both sides, if both sides are prepared to do this, to turn aside from the sad part, the tragic part, the bloodshed.

Our hand is extended in peace. We know that peace involves painful compromises for both sides. Very regretfully, despite major concessions on the way to the peace that we've made -- that has been made by all Israeli governments in recent years, we haven't yet discerned any willingness for reconciliation and then genuine peace on the part of our neighbors, our Palestinian neighbors.

The principle of solving disputes through peace is what we will approach. But we have to be prepared to use force as appropriate. This is an approach we will not drop. But we call upon our Palestinian neighbors to give up violence, to combat the violence that is directed against Israel and its citizens and soldiers. We shall conduct negotiations with the Palestinians in order to achieve political settlements, but not under the pressure of terrorism and violence.

I am familiar with the suffering of the Palestinian people. I am convinced that we can achieve peace gradually if we achieve mutual trust between us. We are prepared to examine different ideas for advancing dialogue, and to ease the suffering of the Palestinians. But we cannot do this under the pressure of terrorism and violence.

If our Palestinian neighbors choose the path of peace, of reconciliation and good neighborly relations, then they will find in me and the government that I head an honest and genuine partner. We have suffered from wars that have been imposed upon us. And everyone appreciates the value of peace. The new government, across the board, intends to aspire to peace and to go beyond this through genuine political settlements.

But peace and good neighborliness have already been based on peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan. We would like to extend this to include Syria and Lebanon, too. The government, under my leadership, will be committed to doing everything possible in order to restore security and stability. But we must not delude ourselves or the public insofar as, doubtless, we will have to go through very difficult days ahead. We will need the ability to stand fast. We know that we are in a form of national Marism (ph). It has been my privilege to serve in the government of Menachem Begin, whose leadership was an outstanding combination of national dignity, steadfastness and striving for peace.

The day after the state of Israel was declared, Mr. Begin said, as its foes attacked: It was difficult to establish our state. But I'm sure it will be far harder to keep it in existence. What we need, every single one of us, is mental and spiritual arms and weapons, so that we do not flinch. We will stand fast. We will not turn aside, despite slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. We must not give into temptation.

These are words pronounced more than 50 years ago. In the future, too, we will have to be steadfast, obstinate, able to take it on the chin. In the future, too, we will have to cling to the idea that we wish to live in peace with our neighbors and assure a future for our children. My government will fly the flag of Zionism in education, in immigrant absorption and in rural settlement.

I believe, to the very depths of my being, that the Jewish people will be able to stand firm. And we will work to ensure that all the Jews who come to Israel are absorbed with love. We will work for equality between individuals, national dignity and the love of our homeland.

Shortly after the state was set up, the first prime minister of the state of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, of blessed memory -- I think this was the 2nd -- 22nd of July, '48. Ben-Gurion said -- and I had the right to work with him in defending the country.

He said the following: The state of Israel has not been established in order to carry out military conquests and wage wars. It wasn't even established in order to assure the security and well- being of its own citizens. Rather, it's been given the very special I.D., in any case, in our days without which it has no right to exist.

When it comes to the souls of the country and the ingathering of the exiles, those, then, the development of the country and the ingathering of exiles, the absorption of immigrants were the tasks of Israel, as Ben-Gurion saw it. And I cannot here pass over the generation of our parents and grandparents, whose vision of Zionism led to the establishment of the state. They came here and they worked to settle the land.

I was born and I grew up in the midst of this rural settlement movement. I was born on a kibbutz. I'm an inseparable part of this movement. It's a part of Israel's history. And it happened to me personally. And I will do everything -- every -- I will make every effort to maintain it.

And we have a very special relationship with a special ally of the United States. I will do everything to maintain this relationship and to maintain excellent relationships with the other countries of the world. We are a country where the rule of law pervades. And this is a vital basis for democracy in Israel. All of us, all members of the government, must make sure that the government works properly, that there is proper administration throughout the country, with proper human rights, and that everything that is done falls within the rule of law.

WATERS: Ariel Sharon, about to be sworn in as the next prime minister of Israel, extends an olive branch to Palestinians, calling on them to renounce terrorism, turn away from the bloodshed. He says: We extend our hand in peace. He says it's time for a change in direction, for maturity.

The security situation, he says, has determined this coalition government, which includes Likud, Labor, and Orthodox Shas Party. And Sharon says he will work to bring others into the coalition, which will now hold 78 of the 120 seats in the Knesset. Ariel Sharon, former general, former defense minister with Menachem Begin, now about to become prime minister of Israel: We will continue following that story -- difficult days ahead, says Sharon.

And we will be covering them all.

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