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PM Netanyahu Statement to Knesset on Hebron Protocol

Donderdag, Januari 16, 1997 / Last Modified: Vrijdag, December 16, 2011

PM Netanyahu Statement to Knesset on Hebron Protocol

Jerusalem, January 16, 1997

Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Members of Knesset,

These are difficult days. Every step that we take in the city of the
patriarchs and the matriarchs is difficult, even when we redeploy in
Hebron. We are not leaving Hebron, we are not redeploying from Hebron. In
Hebron, we touch on the very basis of our national consciousness, the
bedrock of our existence. Everyone whose heart beats with national
feeling, with Jewish feeling, cannot help but feel the weight of the
responsibility placed on our shoulders, and the supreme obligation to
preserve our heritage.

At the same time, we cannot ignore reality. I must say to the Members of
the Knesset and the citizens of Israel, that we inherited a difficult
reality. The agreements signed by the previous governments are binding
upon the Government of Israel. We said this in the election campaign, we
said this after the election campaign, before the establishment of the
government and afterwards. These agreements which we inherited were
framework agreements, full of breaches, and we criticized them – and
rightly so – because they did not take into proper account the problem of
security; they did not take into account the full significance of the
agreements for our national security; they did not demonstrate sufficient
concern for the fate of the settlers in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, including
the fate of the Jewish community in Hebron.

We inherited difficult agreements. This is the reality. One could try to
ignore it. We chose not to ignore this reality. These agreements comprised
written texts; but worse, was the “oral law”. At least part of the
previous leadership – I do not wish to include them all – sought to use
these agreements to bring about objectives and goals which in my view are
dangerous – potentially disastrous for our future. This was true both with
regard to Hebron and with regard to the permanent status arrangements.

With regard to Hebron, we inherited a framework agreement full of holes. I
want to clarify that this is an agreement of two-three pages, which
comprises a list of general instructions. This is the “written law”. I say
that there was also an “oral law”, in which at least part of the coalition
– an important part – had the courage and the integrity to openly state
their intention, their goal – in placards posted on streets and in buses.
Part of the coalition did conceal its intention was to uproot the Jewish
community in Hebron, to remove it. Some of the Labor ministers of the
previous government did not conceal that this was their opinion, and the
goal of the government.

I want to make this clear, not in order to indulge in polemics but to
clarify a fundamental point: We are committed to the written agreements.
We are not committed to the “oral law”. Our viewpoint and our objectives
are completely different. We do not want to remove the Jewish community
from Hebron. We want to preserve and consolidate it. We do not want to
remove ourselves from Hebron; we want to remain in Hebron. From this
different objective are derived those items, those paragraphs, those
components which were inserted into the agreement as a result of the
negotiations. The agreement today is of course much broader, much more
detailed.

But the major point that I wish to convey to the Members of Knesset with
regard to our policy is that it is our different objective, in this case
to remain in Hebron, that dictates in the details in the agreement before
you. From this different objective, we saw to it that there would be areas
of separation, we removed the rifles, we saw to it that there would be an
IDF presence in the territories overlooking the Jewish community and
the major routes, through joint patrols. We saw to it that the Jewish
community would be protected from high Palestinian buildings that could
threaten or encroach on Jewish homes. We saw to improved and more numerous
security mechanisms between us and the Palestinian security forces in
order to make possible a reality of security, a reality of living, a
reality of development and consolidation for the Jewish community.

I can therefore say with confidence that this is an agreement that is
better, more secure, more responsible than that which we inherited. But
above all, I would like to appeal to the residents of Hebron. I know that
you are fearful today, and I would like to say to you, brothers and
sisters, that we are concerned for you, that we do not see you as an
insignificant appendage. We see you are dear brothers. We are concerned
for each and every one of you. We do not see you as 400 insignificant
Jews, but as our representatives.

I do not say today that there are no dangers. I do not say that this is a
perfect agreement – it cannot be. We received it in its crude form as a
flawed agreement. But neither do I say that we did not act to distance
ourselves from dangers and to limit them. This is what we did. But in the
last analysis, every agreement is dependent upon the goodwill of the
signatories. I call from this podium upon the Palestinians and our Arab
neighbors to support the agreement, to fulfill all its provisions, in
order that security should be preserved. A better, more secure agreement
is important to both sides. An agreement that will not be upheld, security
that will founder will be bad for both sides.

Until now, Hebron has been a symbol of division and conflict because of
the hostility between Palestinians and Israelis. Now we have an
opportunity to prove that Hebron can also serve an opposite example – one
of cooperation, of co-existence, a paradigm of peace.

With the signing of the Hebron agreement, we are embarking on a fateful
course, which will not be simple, whose final goal, on the conclusion of
the negotiations on the permanent status arrangements, is to bring peace
with security between us and the Palestinians.

I want to say again to the Members of Knesset. In this agreement, too,
under the general framework of Oslo, we inherited an agreement which was
not to our liking. The agreement were divided into a written text, which
is binding, and an “oral law” whose purpose, at least for part of the
leadership, a considerable part, would have produced negative results:
withdrawal to the ’67 lines, or almost; the establishment of a Palestinian
state; and even the division of Jerusalem.

We are committed, of course, to the written agreements. We have
demonstrated today that we are fulfilling our commitments. But our goals
are different. We are using the time interval in the agreement to achieve
our goals: to maintain the unity of Jerusalem, to ensure the security
depth necessary for the defense of the state, to insist on the right of
Jews to settle in their land, and to propose to the Palestinians a
suitable arrangement for self-rule but without the sovereign powers which
pose a threat to the State of Israel.

This is the mandate which the government which I head received from the
voters. With this, we will go forward. In following this course, not only
is our goal different but also the way to achieve this goal, as is the way
to move forward, to conduct negotiations.

We insisted on three fundamental principles in the course of the
negotiations, both on Hebron and on the agreement to follow Hebron.

The first is the principle of reciprocity. We established the principle of
reciprocity – in an official document – as a basic principle for the
continuation of the process of the permanent status negotiations. This is
now an integral part of the agreement. Both sides agreed on a list of
mutual undertakings and clarified that the fulfillment of the agreement,
the fulfillment of the undertakings of one side will be dependent upon the
fulfillment by the other side. I do not know any other interpretation of
the word “agreement”. An agreement that obliges only the Israeli side,
where only the Israeli side gives and the Palestinian side takes, is not
an agreement. An agreement in which both sides accept the mutual
commitment to fulfill obligations – this is an agreement. What we have
today in the documents before you is the anchoring and formalization of
the principle of reciprocity, for the first time since the Oslo
agreements.

The second important issue that was clarified in the agreements and
documents achieved in the course of these negotiations is that the
implementation of the redeployments will be an Israeli decision that will
not be a matter for negotiation with the Palestinians. This decision must
comply with Israel’s security considerations, as Israel sees fit. It is
Israel that will define the security zones. But before this, it is Israel
that will determine the nature and scope of the three redeployments – not
only the first and second, but also the third. This is also the way in
which the United States interprets the agreement. And I believe this is
very important distinction. For us, for the entire Knesset, there must be
absolute consensus on the supreme importance that Israel will be able to
define, accord to its own understanding, the security needs of the State
of Israel and to carry out the further redeployments according to this
understanding.

The third achievement, beyond the reciprocity and to Israeli definition of
the redeployments, is the timeframe. I believe that this is not something
that stands alone. Rather, it allows us room for maneuver, room to test
reality, room to test reciprocity in the fulfillment of the agreement.

These three elements are a significant change, and a change for the
better, compared to our situation not long ago, only a few months ago. We
were in the midst of an almost uncontrolled dash to the ’67 lines. Nine
months from today we might have found ourselves almost at these borders,
with the only subject in effect remaining on the agenda – Jerusalem. This
situation – I say to both the opposition and the coalition – we have
changed completely. We will conduct negotiations with the time, the
ability and the freedom for political maneuver that we did not enjoy
before. We will conduct the negotiations carefully, responsibly, with
discretion. I am convinced that our goals of preserving Jerusalem,
preserving the security depth, preserving Israel’s ability to defend
itself, and a suitable arrangement with the Palestinians – I am convinced
that these are goals which the large majority of the Israeli people
support, and that the large majority of the people support the course
which we have set, insisting on reciprocity and security.

In practical terms – not in the Hague court, but in the court of
international opinion, and not only international opinion – it was until
recently self-understood, almost an axiom, that the only item on the
agenda was an agreement in which Israel must fulfill all its commitments
and in which the other side owes nothing. All its commitments were
ignored. What we have today in the international community, signed with an
official seal, is an agreement which is binding, in which the principle of
reciprocity is clear.

These agreements contain important improvements as well as the time in
which we will be able to bring to completion the goal which we seek to
attain, which I believe is shared by all Members of Knesset. I believe
that the large majority of the people supports this course. I believe with
all my heart that this is the only way to achieve the aspiration which we
all share: peace with security, peace for generations and not for one
year, peace for our children and also for our grandchildren. After the
arguments will end, and after the smoke and dust will settle, I believe
that we will achieve these goals.

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