Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Speaking to the Knesset
September 16, 2001

Mr. Speaker, Members of the Knesset,

Last week, the empire of terrorism struck at the heart of our courageous friend, the greatest democracy on earth - the United States of America.

We have assembled here today in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, the capital of the only democracy in the Middle East, in order to bow our heads in sorrow and deep mourning over the deaths of innocent citizens in New York and Washington, of the innocent passengers whose lives were cut short for no reason on their part - by criminal terrorists of the worst kind that the world has known since World War II, and even beyond.

The Government of Israel has declared a day of mourning in solidarity with the American people. National flags were lowered to half-mast at all government institutions to mark the awful tragedy which struck the US.

The hand that dispatched the suicide-terrorists to hijack the passenger planes in order to turn them into piloted human bombs - intended to strike at the pulsating heart of the American economy at the World Trade Center's twin towers in New York and the US Department of Defense at the Pentagon - in order to try to undermine the great democracy, which is the foundation and basis of global security and peace more than any other nation in the history of the world. The criminal massacre of innocent citizens was designed to cause the demoralization - and loss of security - of American society in the country that is the exemplar of the rule of law and order.

The conduct of the citizens of the US in this hour of crisis, the spirit of the rescue teams and those who volunteered to assist the injured, the leadership of President George W. Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell and their aides, and the courageous spirit of New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani - all these prove that the US will again emerge victorious from a war that was forced on it by the dictatorship of terrorism.

The issue of terrorism - to my regret - is not new to us. The State of Israel has been fighting Arab, Palestinian and Islamic fundamentalist terrorism for over 120 years. Thousands of Jews have been murdered in terrorist attacks; Arab terrorism has left thousands of widows and tens of thousands of orphans. The pain of the bereaved American people is familiar to us - very familiar to us. The war against terrorism must be an international war, a war by a coalition of the free world against the forces of terrorism and all those who believe that they can threaten freedom and our values. This is a war between good and evil - between humanity and those who thirst for blood. The way of the wicked will be defeated, the way of those who profess evil will not prosper. The way of the righteous, the humane and the free, will be victorious.

We know this. We have been in this war for many years.

We were not surprised by Arab, Palestinian and radical Islamic terrorism. Arafat chose a strategy of terrorism and established a coalition of terrorism. Terrorist actions against Israeli citizens are no different from Bin-Laden's terrorism against American citizens. Terrorism is terrorism and murder is murder.

And we must remember: It was Arafat who - dozens of years ago - legitimized the hijacking of planes. It was Palestinian terrorist organizations who began to dispatch suicide-terrorists. All extremist movements have receive redoubled legitimacy from Arafat since the murder of the Israeli athletes at Munich, and the murders of children at Avivim and Ma'alot.

There is no "good" and "bad" terrorism - it is all horrific, all evil, all lacking in human values. There is no forgiveness of terrorism. There is no compromise with terrorism.

There are no terrorists who are "good boys" while other terrorists are "bad boys." They are all bad. The Arab countries are demanding - in order for them to join the coalition - that Israel pay a diplomatic and security price. And this they cannot receive.

The war against terrorism is also a war against incitement, the terrible daily incitement in the official media and in the mosques. It is the incitement that leads to attacks, that dispatches suicide-bombers, that pulls the finger on the detonator trigger. In this war, every state that supports terrorism - is guilty, every body that encourages terrorism - is guilty, every person who incites - the same judgment. A differentiation must be made between the forces of light who sanctify life and the forces of darkness who sanctify death.

Mr. Speaker, Members of the Knesset,

We are all committed to peace. We all want to reach a diplomatic agreement, but we must not, I emphasize - we must not, allow a differentiation to be made between terrorism against us and terrorism against others as terrible as it may be, and the terrorism in the United States is the worst the world has ever known.

I congratulate President George W. Bush on his decision to create a coalition against terrorism. This coalition must fight against all terrorist organizations, including those belonging to Arafat: the Presidential Guard, Force 17, parts of Arafat's security services that are collaborating in terrorism, the Tanzim and Fatah, who are causing a great part of our losses, as well as their partners to Arafat's coalition of terrorists - the Islamic Jihad and Hamas, Hizbullah and the PFLP.

If we are invited, we will join, and in the meantime, the President of the United States has warmly thanked us for the help that we have already provided. If we are invited, we will join because we are already fighting terrorism in any case.

I supported the Peres-Arafat meeting in order to deal with easing the hardships of the population that is not involved in terrorism, and to help in reaching a cease-fire. However, in my opinion, a meeting with Arafat at the senior political level, at this point in time, while he is actively using terrorism at its fullest possible strength and has taken no preventative steps, and in light of the apparent trends, will legitimize Arafat as a "good guy", and perhaps he might even join the coalition, as the Syrians might possibly join as well.

This is very dangerous, and it will give Arafat the opportunity to continue terrorist actions without allowing us to act against him.

In light of the commitments that the United States has taken upon itself to uproot all terrorist organization networks, and out of a desire to prevent the continued bloodshed in our region - I turn to Arafat from here and call on him to end all terrorist actions forthwith. If Arafat declares a cease-fire, I will declare a cessation of IDF initiated actions. If the absolute quiet lasts 48 continuous hours, our Foreign Minister will meet with Arafat in order to advance the cease-fire process and bring about the seven days of quiet that are an essential condition to the implementation of the Mitchell plan, and to bring about an easing of the burden on the Palestinian population in the territories.

I - the Prime Minister of Israel, a free and democratic state - stand here, and in the name of all the decent and free people of the world I stand here and oppose all the forces of evil that have brought about the rising wave of terrorism that threatens the foundations of human society. I oppose all those who relate to innocent civilians - women and children, babes in their mothers arms - as legitimate targets, and against states and organizations that - with premeditation - fund, support and encourage the bloodthirsty terrorists.

I want to say to all those today - I hope your time has passed.

I wish to send my condolences to the American people, to President George W. Bush. In this difficult hour, our hearts are with you.

May it be His will that the approaching new year should be good and bring security and peace to the world. May it be His will.