The following article is an excerpt of a speech given by Shimon Peres to the Knesset on July 15, 2007 as he was sworn in as Israel’s ninth President. A copy of the complete speech may be viewed on the President’s website by clicking here.
I stand here today moved and appreciative of the trust you have placed in me on behalf of our people. Your trust is of value to me, it places a great duty on me, one which I, as President of the State, will carry with reverence and a deep feeling of mission. I shall be committed to nurture unceasingly those fine threads of fabric, which weave us together as a nation, when among us there are people with various opinions who fiercely fight for them. It must always be remembered that we are the sons and daughters of one Land of Israel. We do not have, and we are not looking for, another country...
I am leaving this house - the beating heart of Israeli democracy, after having sat on its benches for 48 years, more than half of my life. I loved its deafening volume, the great debates, the soul reaching tumults and the unexpected reconciliations. I know that this house is able to take historical decisions even when democracy is storming.
I know that I am now moving from the executive arm to the unifying shoulder. I am no longer the messenger of a party but a trustee of the nation, of all the citizens of the state. From this moment I will be the voices and the address for every citizen of the State of Israel, for every baby and child, for woman and man, for the poor and the elderly. My home will be open to all - my hands will be extended to each and every one.
I arrived in Israel as a young man and I was greatly privileged to serve the nation. A man ages but faith does not grow old. It renews itself all the time. As in the words of prophet Joel: "Your old men shall dream dreams - your young men shall see visions." (Joel 2:28) ...
I know that the President is not a governor, is not a judge, is not a lawmaker, but he is permitted to dream. To set values, to lead with honesty and with compassion, with courage and with kindness...
Israel must not only be an asset but a value. A moral, cultural and scientific call for the promotion of man, every man. It must be a good and warm home for Jews who are not Israelis, as well as for Israelis, who are not Jews. And it must create equal opportunities for all segments of the population without differentiating between religion, nationality community or sex.
The President must call on the religious and secular public to find that which is common between them. He must call on the Palestinians and on the Arab countries, without blurring their heritage, to participate in the great journey across a world built on intellect, not only on land. To provide supremacy to education.
On the future map of Israel four priorities must be marked: Jerusalem, the Negev, the Galilee and the Valley of Peace.
a. Jerusalem is yearning for momentum and is thirsty for renewal. To be the city, promised to us and holy to all believers. To be the spiritual and political center for the Jewish people and a nest of prayer for seekers of peace of all believers. To be a universal center for science and an intellectual challenge to all who come to her gates. The uniqueness of Jerusalem is also its destiny.
b. The Negev has begun to awaken. It must never be allowed to fall asleep again. The Negev makes it possible to double the settled area of Israel. We will combat the barrenness in it, just as we fought the hostility outside it. Missiles are now able to reach distant ranges, which blur the difference between the front and the hinterland. As the settlements are more scattered, the concentration of the targets of the missiles will be reduced.
The Negev enables us to harness the sun’s energy and to create clean electricity for the state and to desalinate water from the sea and underground ancient water. It enables a common ground of economic relations to be formed with the three neighbors: the Jordanians, the Egyptians and the Palestinians.
c. The Galilee: its charm is renowned. It possesses overwhelming beauty. Half of the people living there are Jews and half are Arabs. This is an opportunity to create true equality for all. The Galilee invites the young generation to enrich the Galilee with intellectual energy and to establish in it clean industries, to cover it with vines and to host tourists in it. The day will come when Lebanon will be freed of its destroyers and Syria will free it of its ropes, and from the north peace will come.
d. The Valley of Peace extends along the border between us, the Hashemite Kingdom and the Palestinians. It may become a haven of cooperation between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians. All three have already given their agreement. The Arava will be an amazing tourist area. A number of artificial lakes in it are likely to make it alive and attractive. Along its length a water conduit will be built to the Dead Sea to compensate it for the loss of its water. Along the valley industrial parks will be established which will offer many opportunities of work for all the partners. In the Valley of Peace we will see how, for the first time, it will be possible to harness the economy as a bulldozer for peace. A partnership between organized Jordan and modern Israel will help the Palestinians overcome their destitution and establish their country...
Permit me to remain an optimist. Permit me to be a dreamer of his people. Permit me to present the sunny side of our state. And also, if sometimes the atmosphere is autumnal, and also if today, the day seems suddenly gray, the President whom you have chosen, will never tire of encouraging, awakening and reminding - because spring is waiting for us at the threshold…
Long live the State of Israel!
***The opinions expressed in the Middle East Briefing do not necessarily convey those of JCPA***