(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Office)
Good week. Early this morning, at about 5:00 a.m., a complex rescue operation was safely completed to free the staff of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo. From inside the Situation Room at the Foreign Ministry, I worked alongside the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Defense, the Head of the Shabak, the Head of the Mossad, the IDF Chief of Staff and all of their staffs. One overriding mission laid before us - to secure the welfare and safety of Israel’s emissaries. We worked together in a responsible manner to ensure that this situation would end in the best possible manner.
Immediately at the beginning of the incident, I ordered that all the Embassy staff and their families in Cairo be put on a plane and returned to Israel. At the same time we worked together with Egypt and the American government to assure that our remaining staff at the Embassy would be rescued without harm.
I would like to express my gratitude to the President of the United States, Barack Obama. I asked for his help. This was a decisive and fateful moment. He said, "I will do everything I can." And so he did. He used every considerable means and influence of the United States to help us. We owe him a special measure of gratitude. This attests to the strong alliance between Israel and the United States. This alliance between Israel and the United States is especially important in these times of political storms and upheavals in the Middle East.
I wish to cite also the intervention of the Egyptian Commandos which prevented a tragedy. We maintained direct channels of communication throughout the night with the Egyptian government. It was clear to all that the defense of an Embassy, and particularly the Israeli Embassy, is the obligation of any sovereign state.
I therefore also appreciate the words of the Egyptian Information Minister who condemned the attack on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo. Many world leaders and Arab leaders joined him in this sentiment. I attach great importance to this.
Israel will continue to adhere to the peace treaty with Egypt. We are working together with the Egyptian government to quickly return our Ambassador to Cairo. I wish to make sure that the necessary security arrangements for him and for our entire staff will be effective and will assure their necessary safety. At the same time, our diplomatic delegate in Cairo will continue to represent Israel until the Ambassador’s return.
During this long night, we were required to make many difficult decisions. I would like to share with you one conversation from this night. On the line was Yonatan, the security officer of the Embassy. He and his men, six in number, were trapped in the Embassy building. The mob entered the building and entered the office. Only one door separated between the mob and Yonatan and his friends. He sounded perfectly calm to me, and on the other hand understood the situation in which he and his colleagues found themselves.
During the ongoing event, he requested from the security officer in the Foreign Ministry one thing: If something happens to me, he said, my parents should be notified face to face, and not by telephone. I got on the phone line and I said to him, “Yonatan, be strong. I promise you that the State of Israel will do everything in its power and will use all possible resources in the world in order to rescue you and your friends unharmed and whole from this situation. "
And thank God this morning they all landed in Israel. A short while ago I spoke with Yonatan and his mother. They sounded wonderful.
I wish to say one more thing this evening to you, my fellow Israeli citizens:
The Middle East is now undergoing a political earthquake of historic proportions. Perhaps this can be compared to what happened a century ago at the end of the First World War with the establishment of a new world order. In the face of this historic turmoil we must act coolly and with responsibility. We must understand that these events are occurring as a result of deep and strong political undercurrents. We in Israel have a tendency to think that everything happens because of us or that we are somehow at fault for the turbulence in our area. There are many external and strong forces at work here. More than anything else, we must in these times act to safeguard our security. This is the anchor of our existence, especially in these turbulent times. We must work towards advancing our national interests in the area at the appropriate time.
We will continue to keep the peace with Egypt. This is in the common interest of both countries. We will work toward preventing a further deterioration in our relationship with Turkey. We did not choose this sequence of events. To the extent that the matter depends upon us, we shall act to lower tensions and do everything possible to restore relations.
We shall continue to work towards peace with the Palestinians. To this end, we must return as quickly as possible to the path of direct peace negotiations. Only in this manner will we be able to advance and achieve a peace agreement. Regarding this negotiation, I believe that many people today in our nation and around the world who see what is happening in our area will understand our justified stance in defending our security interests in any future agreement.
I would like to thank again the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Defense, the security forces and above all our brave young men who were trapped for many long hours in the embassy. We worked together as a cohesive team in order to prevent a tragedy for the State of Israel and to return our men home peacefully.
I wish a good week to all of the nation of Israel.