Ariel Sharon: A unique opportunity for peace in the Middle East

From a speech at the Fifth Annual Herzliya Conference, by the Prime Minister of the State of Israel

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The greatest opportunity for building a new relationship with the Palestinians was created following the death of Yasser Arafat, who constituted the primary obstacle to peace. Now there is a real chance that new Palestinian leaders will rise, those who will be elected, who will truly abandon the path of terror, and instead will advance a strategy of reconciliation and negotiation without violence, terror and hatred.

The greatest opportunity for building a new relationship with the Palestinians was created following the death of Yasser Arafat, who constituted the primary obstacle to peace. Now there is a real chance that new Palestinian leaders will rise, those who will be elected, who will truly abandon the path of terror, and instead will advance a strategy of reconciliation and negotiation without violence, terror and hatred.

If this happens, we will have a genuine chance to reach an agreement, and in the future, perhaps genuine peace. The Palestinians can then also live in dignity and freedom in an independent state, and, together with us, enjoy good neighbourly relations, while co-operating for the good of both our peoples.

A two-state vision involves great sacrifice on both sides. We made the historic decision that we were prepared for such a sacrifice since the alternative of one nation, where one rules over another, would be a horrible disaster for both peoples.

On the evening of the vote to approve the Disengagement Plan, I addressed our Arab neighbours from the Knesset. I would like to repeat what I said that day: we stand before a unique window of opportunity.

We desire a life living side by side, in understanding and peace. We have no desire to rule over you, we have no desire to run your affairs.

Lately, we made the historic decision that this is our desire. I have paid a heavy personal and political price for my leadership in this decision. I hope that in the near future you too will make an historic decision to stop those who support terror, and stop the terror activities, and that, together, we will find a way where both peoples can live here, on this piece of land, in security and peace. I believe that it is within our grasp.

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