Ariel Sharon: Disengagement from Gaza is not an act of deception

From a speech by the Prime Minister of Israel delivered in debate at the Knesset, in Jerusalem
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The Independent Online

I know the implications and impact the Knesset's decision [to withdraw from Gaza] would have on the lives of thousands of Israelis who have lived in the Gaza Strip for many years, who were sent there on behalf of the Government of Israel, and who built homes there, planted trees and grew flowers, and who gave birth to sons and daughters, who have not known any other home.

I am well aware of the fact that I sent them and took part in this enterprise, and many of these people are my personal friends. I am well aware of their pain, rage and despair. However, as much as I understand everything they are going through during these days and everything they will face as a result of the necessary decision to be made in the Knesset today, I also believe in the necessity of taking the step of disengagement in these areas, with all the pain it entails, and I am determined to complete this mission.

I am firmly convinced that this disengagement will strengthen Israel's hold over territory that is essential to our existence, and will be welcomed and appreciated by those near and far, reduce animosity, break through boycotts and sieges and advance us along the path of peace with the Palestinians and our other neighbours.

I am accused of deceiving the people and the voters because I am taking steps which are in total opposition to past things I have said and deeds I have done. This is a false accusation. Both during the elections and as Prime Minister, I have publicly said that I support the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel.

I have repeatedly and openly said that I am willing to make painful compromises in order to put an end to this ongoing and malignant conflict between those who struggle over this land, and that I would do my utmost in order to bring peace.