"My fellow Israelis, as the holidays end I thought it important to address you and give an assessment of recent events and an update on my thoughts for the future. However, this speech will also be for a wider audience. I am also addressing the Palestinians, the rest of the Arab world, and the many countries that have an interest in seeing real peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
"I would first like to acknowledge and thank President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry for trying so hard to find a common ground between our two peoples. Unfortunately, it was not to be. I am not going to continue the aptly termed 'blame game.' We are beyond that. Few minds are changed by fault finding. Let me just say we wished the results had been different. I have said and continue to believe that living side-by-side in peace with our Palestinian brothers is going to be the only solution that will ensure a healthy and prosperous future. We all need to live securely within our borders and be sure that our neighbors hold peace as the highest goal for their peoples.
"We do not feel that the Palestinians or their Arab brethren have ever had that goal in mind. Since even before the UN partition plan in 1947 and the war of 1948, the Arab world has sought to crush us. Even though Jews have lived uninterrupted in the land of Zion for millennia, even though Jesus and Muhammad built religions based on our forefathers, the region's countries have tried to portray us as foreigners, as strangers in our own land.
"Sadly, to defend our land we have had to fight at least three major wars and countless smaller ones. We have had to defend against an endless series of small attacks and countless acts of terror aimed at our civilians. Women and children have not been spared; in fact, they have often been targeted. We have answered each and every one of these attacks very harshly, hoping that our enemies would feel and understand our resolve. It has been costly for us. Our sons and daughters in the prime of their lives have been felled, and our cities and even our small border towns have been attacked. Our people have been slaughtered in foreign lands. We have been attacked and murdered when we went to pray, came home from work, or gone out for a meal.
"Yet here we are today, stronger than ever. Those who sought to destroy us are destroying themselves. Those who denied our existence are clinging to theirs. The brutality, the beastly violence that our enemies turned on us, they have turned on themselves. We are an island of stability in a sea of struggle and bloodshed. The new wave of refugees flooding adjacent lands has been created by the very same people who made political capital of the Palestinian refugees from our conflict. Our children have hope; our young people can create a decent life for themselves in our vibrant economy. We look around and wish our neighbors would see that they could do this do too, by creating a just society where each person has rights and security, a society full of opportunity and justice.
"We are not afraid of the future. We are not afraid, period. Anyone who thought we were fearful has made a mistake. When we were attacked we fought back. We took the fight to every nook and cranny of our enemies' lands and hideouts. There is no task or mission that our citizens and soldiers are afraid to engage. We know we could crush anyone who wants to hurt us in hours, days or weeks. We have done so in the past and are prepared to do so tomorrow, if necessary.
"However, we could be even stronger. We could be more prosperous. We could be more deeply connected to our friends all over the world. Israel could once again fulfill its biblical role and be a light unto the nations. It is this goal, this strengthening of Israel and its mission in the world, that I want to speak of now.
"Today, with the full approval and support of the army, the intelligence agencies and the people of Israel, I am going to announce a series of steps to try to lessen the conflict between the Palestinians in the West Bank and us. Israel will gradually lift roadblocks, checkpoints and military closures throughout the West Bank. We are extending the security and governance responsibilities of the Palestinian Authority to all of Area B and much of Area C. We will work with the Palestinian Authority to do so in a systematic manner so that they will be able to fulfill the security roles they are assigned. All people in the West Bank will have freedom of movement. What Israel is prepared to do is to take a huge chance, a gamble, that the Palestinians will respond to this initiative -- with peace. Since we could not reach a large overall agreement, perhaps we can reach a smaller one and see if an on-the-ground, step-by-step approach works. If it does and we see a real effort by the Palestinian Authority to bring economic improvement and civil society to the West Bank, additional steps will be taken, ones on which we can mutually agree.
"Two more things need to be said so that there will be no misunderstandings.
"Firstly, Israel, as of today, will diligently enforce the law as it applies to those living in the West Bank. I have ordered the police, the army and the responsible prosecutors and judicial authorities that everyone must live within the law. We will do all we can to ensure that Israelis do not commit illegal acts of violence. If they do, punishment will be swift and meaningful.
"Secondly, the Palestinian reaction will be the key measure of the success of this new effort. If you take our olive branch and use it as a weapon against us, we will get the message. If you use your new freedom of movement to move against us, we will understand that your hatred has yet to be vanquished. If you return to the tactics of before and celebrate the slaughter of children, if you make tents of hospitality for murderers, then we will be sure we were right in separating ourselves, and we will renew our commitment to that separation. You will lose -- for another precious generation -- the freedom to have a better life.
"As for Gaza, there is little to say. They have chosen war and terror. They deny reality; they deny we exist. We will continue to ensure that they cannot hurt us. When they come to understand that their strategy is a losing one, we will talk to them too.
"We live in this neighborhood together. The Europeans do not. The Americans do not. While we thank them for all their interest and help over the decades, it has not brought us peace. Today, with this announcement, I reach across the wall and ask the Palestinians to work with us to make a better life for all the inhabitants of this holy land."
How will Donald Trump’s first 100 days impact YOU? Subscribe, choose the community that you most identify with or want to learn more about and we’ll send you the news that matters most once a week throughout Trump’s first 100 days in office. Learn more