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Monday, May 17, 1999 Published at 23:46 GMT 00:46 UK


Netanyahu's concession speech

Binyamin Netanyahu waves to supporters as he concedes defeat

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu conceded defeat in Israel's election and announced his intention to step down as head of the Likud party in a speech made in a Tel Aviv hotel:

[Netanyahu] Thank you.

I would like to congratulate Ehud Barak on his victory in the elections. [boos from audience]

The people had their say and we respect their wishes.

Israel Elections Special Report
That is how it should be in a democracy.

I would like to thank you, all those who supported, struggled and worked so hard and so devotedly for our path.

I know that you acted out of deep faith that this is the only way to bring true security and peace to Israel, peace for generations and not for a passing moment.

Together with you, I am proud of the things we did together in the past three years.

'Steadfast foundations' for Israel

We brought terrorism to almost a complete halt, we restored personal security to Israel's citizens, we stipulated the principle of reciprocity, we continued the peace process cautiously and responsibly, we turned Israel's economy into a free one, we lowered inflation, we privatised to an unprecedented extent and we brought foreign investments to Israel to an all-time record.

I believe all these things are steadfast foundations on which a glorious future can be built for the State of Israel.

I would like to believe that a better future for all of us will be built based on them.

Now that the storm has passed and the election campaign has ended, the time has come to calm tempers, heal the wounds, relax and unite.

I think the time will also come now to say something else: For almost 20 years I have been at the service of the public and the State of Israel, since the days I was the Israeli attache at the Israeli Embassy in Washington and Israel's ambassador to the United Nations.

I still have a lot to contribute to our state, but I believe that the time has come to take time out.

Time to quit Likud leadership

I believe the time has come.... [shouts from the audience] I still have a lot to contribute to the State of Israel, but I think the time has come to take time out to be with my family - my wife and my small children - and to decide on my future path.

Therefore, I announce today my intention to quit the Likud leadership. [crowd shouts no, no, no]

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank again all those who helped me and supported me so much.

I want to thank you, each of you, for the friendship, loyalty, and amity. I want to tell you that we visited the neighbourhoods, markets and towns today, and we witnessed support, sympathy and love at a level to which we are unaccustomed.

I want to tell you that is what we feel toward you this evening.

Thanks to Ariel Sharon

To conclude, I want to thank two people in particular. First, Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon [applause], who did not hesitate for one moment to stand by me in the worst moments.

I think that this man, who has come under fire many times, this time also faced up to the political fire.

I especially want to thank my wife Sara [applause], who strengthened and encouraged me and many of you and gave us ceaseless support with wisdom and energy in order to achieve our joint aim: to bring about a better future for our children, for us, and for the State of Israel.

I am certain that with God's help and with your help and with the help of the spirit of unity of the people of Israel, we will see a better future for our people and our country.

I once again thank you, my friends, from the bottom of my heart.

Thank you, thank you for the support, for the assistance; thank you for the sympathy. We will continue to tread our path.

Thank you.

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.



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