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Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak Delivers Statement Before Heading to Camp David Peace Summit

Aired July 10, 2000 - 2:32 p.m. ET

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

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

EHUD BARAK, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): ... and to win. The best of my young, daring colleagues fell on the battlefields. They are before my eyes today; they and the entire family of the bereaved, and I remember them, one by one. As Chaim Guri wrote during the war of independence, the moment of truth is close and I'm prepared for it.

During the years of enmity, hundreds of years of enmity and fighting amid -- at this point, behind me are buried far too many suffering and anguish on both sides, because there is a unbearably high price, not only to defeat, but also to conquest. The time has now come to try to allow the best of our youngsters to flourish and not be cut down in their prime. This is the time to take decisions and to bequest, to bequeath a better future to our children, a different reality from that known by our and our parents' generations. This is the time to devote our best resources to education, to reducing unemployment, to bridging social gaps, to equality of opportunity, and to taking advantage of the enormous talents in our young generation.

This is the meaning of peace and security. There is no peace without a price, just as there is no peace at any cost. The dream and the ideal are lofty and they will never be straightforward and perfect. The reality of life is highly complex and complicated and there is no escaping the need to make painful decisions.

I'm going off on this mission totally focused on every single part of the landscape of Israel and the heritage that has grown out of it, as a simple soldier, as a commander, as the commander in chief. This country and its stones, every detail of it, were the source of inspiration for everything I did. I am bound up with its personal and geographical details, and with every single point both of where people live and the nature in this country. The negotiations will be heart- rending and difficult because it's not about distant maps, it's about beloved places, about roots which have given rise to so much, and to so much to which I am bound.

We are not talking about any line that will not be visible. There will be a price if we do reach a settlement, but it will be necessary, as Menachem Begin said. He said the difficulties of peace are better than the agonies of war. If there is an agreement, it will only be one that will secure and assure the security of Israel, its economy and its regional and international status. Otherwise, there will be no agreement.

If there is an agreement, it will only be one that will comply with the principles which I undertook to implement before I was elected, and principles that I have stressed: a united Jerusalem under our sovereignty. The 67 borders will be amended and the overwhelming majority of the settlers in Judeo-Samaria and the Gaza Strip will be in settlement blocs underneath or sovereignty. The whole area west of the Jordan will be without the presence of a foreign army and a solution of the problem of refugees outside of the sovereign territory of Israel. Those are the principles and we will stand fast by them.

If there is an agreement, as I have promised, I will submit it to the people for decision; the people in a referendum of those who would take a decision on the agreement. I will sign the agreement only if I'm convinced that it strengthens Israel and its future.

Such an agreement will, I am sure, be approved and endorsed by an overwhelmingly majority of the Israeli people, and I am sure by a majority of the settlers in Judea-Samaria and the Gaza Strip. If there is an agreement, it will require a compromise not only by ourselves, but also a painful compromise by the Palestinians. Otherwise, there will be no agreement.

On this opportunity, on the eve of the summit, I would like to make another of comments to the Palestinian leadership and people and ask them to clean up the atmosphere with regard to -- given the greatness of the hour. We will be coming to a decisive crossroads in relationship between us. The choice between us is between choosing the peace of the brave, which will put the relationships between us on the right tracks, good tracks, between neighbors on good terms with a flourishing peace, or, God forbid, further conflict that will lead to further victims that won't solve anything.

The state of Israel does not wish to control you and your future. We want good, neighborly relations with you that will be based on respect, on joint, shared interests, and a separation that will allow you and us to have an independent identity development and free development. And I look forward to Yasser Arafat coming to Camp David with the full backing of the Palestinian people to achieve a historical peace. I expect you to come full of resolution and the ability to make a decision in order to achieve a settlement. Together with the president of the United States, together, let us be able to bring peace and security to our people. This is an opportunity, a window of opportunity, that will not reoccur. It is accompanied by major risks and if, God forbid, we fade, then the risks and not the opportunities will come true.

As we leave, I and all members of the delegation are accompanied by the hopes and prayers of Israel's citizens. I am accompanied by the fear of the mother and the concern of the father for their soldier son. I am accompanied by the anguish of those among us who have suffered the greatest loss of all and by their hope that those who should not lead to any further bereavement. And I'm accompanied by the ongoing suffering of those who have suffered and those who have been disabled in battles, and the IDF, who bear the scars of war.

I acknowledge the major burden of being Israel's representative at this historic where we will try to take advantage of this window of opportunity to put an end to enmity and an end to violence. We wish to make the light of peace and security shine on us and on our children with a bright promising light.

I hear the real voice of Israel's citizens reinforcing me with their support and their greetings, and together with them I will conclude with the words from the prayer: "May You put a good peace on us and all of Israel, Your people, and may You bless the whole of Your people with power, with strength and peace. Bless it art You, Lord, who blesses your people with peace. Amen."

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak wrapping up his statement, quoting a verse from Ecclesiastes, saying times of peace and times of war, and for him this is a time of peace.

He referred to when he was a soldier during the war and how he remembers the faces of his fellow soldiers who lost their lives and how it affected his country. And now he is going to make peace happen. He says he will sign the accord only if he is convinced it will strengthen Israel.

The politically bruised prime minister now will head to Camp David peace summit with Yasser Arafat.

Just to recap for a moment, in the past hour, he survived a no- confidence vote in parliament. Three of the prime ministers governing partners forced the showdown. They quit the Barak coalition this weekend. They were angry that the prime minister might yield what they feel is too much land to the Palestinians. However, Barak came back and said he is not here to support the parliament but rather the people of Israel.

Palestinian negotiators arrived in Washington today to take part in the Camp David conference. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is not expected in the U.S. until later this afternoon, or tonight, possibly early tomorrow.

Again, the issues for discussions will be the future of journalists -- or future of Jerusalem, that is, borders of a Palestinian state and the fate of refugees.

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