I was elected to pave the way to peace

Taken from a speech given on Saturday night by the Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Barak, in which he announced his surprise resignation

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On May 17, 1999 I was elected by you with a large majority in order to bring change to Israel. For 35 years I fought for Israel's security and I took part in dozens of difficult, complicated operations. In the next year and half I experienced the most difficult challenges of my life - leading Israel.

On May 17, 1999 I was elected by you with a large majority in order to bring change to Israel. For 35 years I fought for Israel's security and I took part in dozens of difficult, complicated operations. In the next year and half I experienced the most difficult challenges of my life - leading Israel.

The job of Prime Minister is one of the most complicated jobs in the world - a daily struggle over our right to be sovereign in this difficult region of the Middle East, while trying to build a democratic open society with a shared vision.

All along, I remembered that I was your envoy, that I was elected to pave the way for peace. I knew we must take every chance to get a peace deal with our neighbours in order to reach our dream for an Israeli society in the 21st century. If we fail in this we could face years of blood with no real chance of peace and security.

I know the way is not easy. It is difficult, painful and complicated, but everyone knows that the only way to get out of the cycle of blood is through a peace agreement. I am not taken aback by the obstacles we have faced.

I follow events as they happen and my heart breaks along with the families who suffer. I know that my responsibility as Prime Minister is, above all else, to the future of the millions of citizens of Israel, both children and adults. I see the sons and daughters of all of us in army service, doing their duty night and day, guarding and defending our country, while political figures pursue their short-sighted interests. We can win every fight against every enemy of the country because the army will win this ongoing struggle.

There are those who ask why we wish to reach an agreement with our enemies if we can defeat them. The answer is that we live in a world of terrorists like Osman bin Laden who, in the not too distant future will have access to non-conventional weapons.

The main confrontation is a basic outcome of two national desires. The time frame was never up to us.Before us are more difficult days. There will be those who will fight against us and try to break our spirit. There are those who will not give a reward to violence, but our spirit will not break and we will not stop looking for a way to renew our search for peace.

We wanted to have an emergency unity government as the best alternative, but to my dismay the call was not answered. I never thought that we would reach a situation where instead of standing together we would have to go on to hold complicated elections between ourselves.

Yesterday I sat with my close family, and like every family in the country we spoke about the situation. There are those who cast doubt on my mandate to bring Israel to a brave agreement which would ensure the future of all our citizens. But this mandate is very important to me, as we are in an emergency situation.

We need to continue to work for a reduction of violence, so I am asking for a new mandate from the Israeli public. Tomorrow morning I will tell the President that I am stepping down and calling for a new election for Prime Minister of Israel.

This was my personal decision after consulting with my family and those close to me. I don't see any reason to drag the country to a needless election campaign. As a Prime Minister who was voted in by a large majority of the population, I am asking the people to continue along the road that we have taken in the faith that this is the genuine and only path for Israel.

Israel needs swift elections so we will have a government with new confidence and with a new mandate. I say again that I would rather have had an emergency government, but as this did not come about I hope for a new mandate. This is the right way for the peace process to proceed, and I will work with my entire strength to regain the faith of the people.

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