Thank you very much.
I want to acknowledge the boys and girls and their families, and all the public officials who are here: my friend, Minister Danny Hershkovitz, Minister of Science and the minister responsible for helping me and the government and you to conclude the assistance program to the evacuees, for helping the evacuees of Gush Katif, the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria,
Member of Knesset, Haim (Jumas) Oron, hello to you – one of the fine public representatives who served and serve in the Israeli Knesset,
My friends who are here, working, shouldering the burden with me: Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office, Eyal Gabay and Efi Stenzler, Chairman of KKL-JNF, who is helping and assisting in the very important changes that will benefit settlement in the State of Israel,
Shmulik Hayik, with whom in these brief minutes we have found the time to discuss the JNF’s next project here in the Lachish Region,
Sigal Moran, Head of the Regional Council,
Tzviya Shimon, outgoing Director of the SELA Administration – this is an opportunity to thank you, Tzviya, for the important assistance you provided in the framework of the SELA Administration,
Danny Morovia, hello,
And many, many others who are here,
On my way here I passed a hill. I stopped the motorcade, we walked around and I climbed the hill. I have been near Tel Lachish many times, I have stood beside Tel Lachish, but as far as I can remember, I have never climbed Tel Lachish, at least not during the day. So I decided to climb it during the day.
And before me, I saw the amazing sight of one of the most spectacularly beautiful hills, and one of the richest in our history, in the history of mankind. And it stands abandoned. Several minutes later, Zvi Hauser, the Government Secretary, joined me and said: “There is no one here. This is a huge site, but there are no people here.”
So, first I would like to ask about the children. Rabbi Yuval, have the children been on Tel Lachish? This is our land. Climb the hill! Visit this hill. Lead the people of Israel and foreign tourists in climbing the hill. Sennacherib [King of Assyria] came here and conquered the area; he came and went – we are here. After that the Babylonians came; they came and destroyed, conquered; but they fell – we are here. Many others came – but we are here, we are here in the Lachish Region, at Tel Lachish. It is in our possession, part of the State of Israel, of the Jewish people who returned to its land and re-established its sovereignty.
Near Lachish Hill there are many other regions – Efi mentioned them: there is Tel Gezer as well. Simon the Hasmonean said about Tel Gezer: “Not a foreign land have we conquered, but rather this is our land.” I would like there to be young people at Tel Gezer. I would like to speak about our heritage. I would like to speak about the land; I would like to speak about our land, our history. There is no future without the past. First and foremost, we must establish the past.
So one decision we made on the way here today at that stop was: we will rehabilitate the spectacular sites of Jewish heritage, here and there and in other sites. I have one request: I would like to see many more children here, although the number of children here today is heartwarming. How many are here today? 100 families? G-d willing, there will be 400 during my next visit.
I have a request for these children, Rabbi: that they climb the hill and learn, as I think children should learn in each and every school, about our belonging here and our connection with this land. It is not by chance that we are here. I said that there is no past without a future, but the present connects the two. There have been tremendous hardships here. I think about the suffering and the horrible trauma and the uprooting; about building a life, lives destroyed and the need to rebuild them. We will build them; you are already building them; and we will complete the task. This is our commitment.
I asked for just one thing today: I asked that this completion should happen here and now. I am taking a personal interest in this, and it is also part of my responsibility as prime minister, and working by my side are the ministers and members of Knesset. We want to bring this to an end. We want solutions for everyone, but solutions now so that people, especially the children, will know: this is my home, this is my future, this is my place, and it provides peace of mind and returns things to their natural track. I ask for the cooperation of each and every one of you so that we can complete this work quickly. Quickly means a matter of months, certainly within a year, because I think that you should move on in your lives, and this is possible.
We cannot deny the mistakes made during the Disengagement, and unfortunately, we see that what we got in exchange is an Iranian base. We did not get peace or security. We suffered thousands of rockets fired at our communities, from Gan Yavne to Be’er Sheva, to Ashkelon and Ashdod, and of course, Sderot. We will not accept rockets fired on our communities. There is nothing natural about this. Not a dribble, not a trickle, not a hail of rockets and not “one” rocket. Israel will not suffer rocket fire.
We will respond to every rocket fired. Yesterday there was rocket fire – and last night we responded. Our enemies should know that this is our policy. We will not suffer rocket fire on our communities. This clarity, this resolution should be clear to everyone.
And a second thing, we know that a unilateral abandonment, without an agreement, without security arrangements, without an exchange, without mutuality – all these create deterioration. We seek peace – genuine peace, a peace of recognition, a peace in which the other side recognizes our rights in this land, our history in this land, in the national right of the Jewish people to its own country, not because that will lead to the legitimacy of recognition for us, but because it is the only way our neighbors will begin to accept the fact of our existence and our right to exist here.
This is the first and most basic claim. The second thing – in addition to our right – is security. We must always ensure that there be appropriate security arrangements – not feeble ones that will later lead to attacks on our communities, on our children. These are two basic principles that we firmly insist on, and I think this is slowly being accepted by the international community.
We are going to develop this region. Not only in the sense of rehabilitating the evacuees and building new lives here, something that inspires wonder. I must say to you, David Hatuel, that I was moved to tears when hearing the story of your rehabilitation after murderers killed your wife and your four daughters. And now you have built a new family with Limor. You have children, and you live in Amatziya and are building a house in Israel. We will help build up this region, not only for the evacuees, but also the veteran communities that settled this land. We will transform this into a region that is not only magnificent in its beauty, but one that has strong foundations in prosperity, in growth – to ensure our future here and in the other parts of our land.
I thank you for your strength of spirit, and ask that you invite me to the inauguration of the new school soon. Invite me and I will come.
Good luck, and thank you very much.