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Wednesday, 7 February, 2001, 08:12 GMT
Barak: Truth is bound to triumph
The following are excerpts from the speech by Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Labour's election campaign headquarters in Kibbutz Shefayim, after he conceded victory to his rival Ariel Sharon.
My friends, good evening. The electorate has had its say, and I respect its democratic verdict. From this podium I would like to convey my appreciation to the thousands of citizens who gave me their vote.
A short time ago I phoned MK [MP] Ariel Sharon and congratulated him on his election. There is no need to boo.
I promised Ariel Sharon that upon the establishment of the new government headed by him and its acceptance by the Knesset, power would be handed over in an orderly and honourable fashion in accordance with the law, as is customary in a free and normal democratic regime.
My friends, we lost the battle but we will win the war. Acceptance of the voter's verdict has not undermined our confidence in the justice of our path.
Path of truth
The path we trod is the path of truth, the one and only one. It is the path that will ultimately lead the state of Israel to peace and security, through the strength to decide to separate from our Palestinian neighbours and set up a border between us and them.
This path of truth calls for courage and it demands sacrifices and the willingness to pay a heart-rending price, and perhaps not all the public is yet ready for the painful truth to which we exposed it.
On the other side as well, on the Palestinian side, maturity and the ability to make decisions have not yet been found to deal with the truth that is also painful to them. Violence was a bad and futile outlet.
I bear the collective responsibility for the path taken by my government and its policy, and I am proud of both of them.
I am also responsible for this election campaign and its results, and although I regret the outcome I respect it. During our 18 months in government we did a lot to advance the state of Israel. We pulled the IDF [Israeli military] out of Lebanon.
We had the strength to decide to pull out of Lebanon and we had the strength to decide to pull the country out of a recession.
Veils of illusion
Second, we removed all the masks from the neighbour-partner-rival without ceding anything, amid willingness to discuss far-reaching issues which no other government had ever touched on in the past to ascertain once and for all whether an arrangement was achievable or not.
Not only did we remove the masks from our rivals, but also the veils of illusion from ourselves, on the right wing, about the nature of an arrangement with the Palestinians, which will ultimately be painful and smaller than our dreams.
We also removed the veils of illusion regarding the nature of the neighbour-partner-rival, and it turned out that the Palestinian partner was less than what we, on the left, had dreamed of.
Fourth, we prevented the possible historic tragedy of going into yet another bloody struggle with the Palestinians with a large part of our people not being sure that the other side was responsible for such a course.
We did all these things while displaying responsibility regarding the handling and use of force.
I repeat here that more than once I hear the claim that the violence we encounter today stems, as it were, from the concessions of the Barak government.
I tell you: the opposite is true. This violence stems from the fact that beside the willingness to discuss far-reaching ideas, we did not make concessions before it was clear with whom and what exactly we were discussing.
In the telephone conversation this evening, Prime Minister-designate Ariel Sharon proposed setting up a unity government.
If it will be possible to formulate a joint and realistic plan of action for a true promotion of the political process, a responsible security policy, mutually-acceptable economic, social, and civil principles, then participation in a unity government should not be ruled out.
If this is not possible, the Labour Party will be a fighting opposition and will struggle for its belief with all the parliamentary and democratic means to convince the people of the justice of its path and to replace the government that will be established in the coming weeks as soon as possible.
Following the formation of the new government, it is my intention to resign from the Knesset and from my position as Labour Party chairman; to remain a member of the Labour Party and its institutions, but to leave for some time diplomatic and political activity.
That is why I know that perhaps when the time comes, we will also return because our path is the only path; it is the path of truth and the truth is ultimately bound to triumph. Thank you very much.
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