In Their Own Words


We hereby proclaim the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine, to be called Medinat Yisrael. With trust in the Rock of Israel, we set our hand to this Declaration, at this session of the Provisional State Council, on the soil of the homeland, in the city of Tel-Aviv, on this Sabbath eve, the fifth of Iyar, 5708, the fourteenth of May, 1948.”
— David Ben-Gurion, reading Proclamation of Independence, May 14, 1948
“The people are profoundly happy. And I am filled with foreboding. I feel like the bereaved among the rejoicing.”
— David Ben-Gurion, in his diary, May 14, 1948
“If the Arab states want peace with Israel, they can have it. It they want war, they can have that, too. But whether they want peace or war,

they can have it only with the independent sovereign state of Israel.”
— Abba Eban, first speech to the UN Security Council, 1948
“I am certain that the world will judge the Jewish state by what it will do with the Arabs, just as the Jewish people at large will be judged by what we do or fail to do in this state.”

— Chaim Weizmann,
in his autobiography, “Trial and Error”, 1949
“In rising to present the case against the accused, I am not alone. I am accompanied and surrounded by 6 million prosecutors, who, alas, cannot stand and point their finger of accusation against the man in the dock, declaring ‘I accuse!’ Their ashes are either at Auschwitz and Treblinka, or in graves scattered all over Europe. Their blood cries out but their voices are silent and unheard. It is in their name I present this awful indictment.”
— Gideon Hausner, in opening statement at trial of Adolf Eichmann, April 17, 1961
“Those [Israelis] who survive will remain in Palestine. I estimate that none of them will survive.”
— Ahmed Shukeiry, first leader of PLO,
before Six-Day War, 1967
“The Temple Mount is in our hands. Repeat. The Temple Mount is ours.”
— Mordechai Gur, commander of the parachute brigade that captured Jerusalem’s Old City in the Six-Day War, 1967
“The paratroopers, who conquered the Western Wall, leaned on its stones and wept, and as a symbol this was a rare occasion, almost unparalleled in human history. Such phrases and cliches are not generally used in our army, but this scene on the Temple Mount beyond the power of verbal description revealed as though by a lightning flash deep truths.”
— Yitzchak Rabin, chief of staff during the Six-Day War, 1967
“When peace comes, we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons.”
— Golda Meir, after the Six-Day War, 1967
“I’ve worked hard for you and I’ve never asked anything for myself, but I’m asking you now: Please send the Israelis what they need. You can’t let them be destroyed.”
— Max Fisher, business executive and philanthropist, in letter to President Nixon during Yom Kippur War, 1973
“Hitler would have felt at home on a number of occasions during this past year, listening to the proceedings of this forum.”
— Chaim Herzog, Israeli ambassador, during debate over UN’s “Zionism Is Racism” resolution, Nov. 10, 1975
“When Arabs came back here [after the Six-Day War], they were astonished to see that we have Arab street signs … in Jerusalem. We are not a particularly tolerant people, but we are a lot more tolerant than anybody else.”
— Teddy Kollek, interview, 1977
“Let us work together until the day comes when they beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”
— Anwar Sadat, at White House signing of the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement, March 26, 1979
“No more war, no more bloodshed, no more bereavement, peace unto you, shalom, salaam, forever.”
— Menachem Begin, at White House signing of Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement, March 26, 1979
“Goyim kill goyim, and they immediately
come to hang the Jews.”
— Menachem Begin, after the 1982 massacre in the Palestine refugee camps Sabra and Shatilla carried out by Christian Phalangist Lebanese, 1982

“The Six-Day War had made an indelible impression on me as it did on most Soviet Jews, for in addition to fighting for her life, Israel was defending our dignity. … A basic eternal truth was returning to the Jews of Russia — that personal freedom wasn’t something you could achieve through assimilation. It was available only by reclaiming your historical roots.”
— Natan Sharansky, in his autobiography, “Fear No Evil”, 1988
“Our image has undergone change from David fighting Goliath to being Goliath.”
— Yitzchak Shamir, 1989
“I heard a Tel Aviv flight announcement and suddenly found myself walking toward it. I was adopted by this country and I felt it my duty to be with the Israelis at a time of emergency.”
— Zubin Mehta, about changing planes in Paris at the start of the Persian Gulf war, Jan. 14, 1991
“The battle for peace is the most difficult battle of our lives. It deserves out utmost efforts because the land of peace yearns for a just and comprehensive peace.”
— Yasir Arafat, at White House signing of Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, Sept. 13, 1993
“We the soldiers who have returned from the battle stained with blood, we who have fought against you, the Palestinians, we say to you today in a loud and clear voice: Enough of blood and tears! Enough!”
— Yitzchak Rabin, at White House signing of Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, Sept. 13, 1995
“Never was Israel just a country. It was a message as well. Now that we have a country, we haven’t forgotten the message. Never in our history did we want to occupy, dominate or discriminate against another people.”
— Shimon Peres, in New York speech after signing of Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, 1993
“The fact that the prize is given to the person who invented international terrorism, the arch-murderer who says he decided to stop killing for a while and whose men killed seven Israelis this year, this fact turns the prize into a farce.”
— Benjamin Netanyahu, on learning that Yasir Arafat was to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, 1994
“As a Jew and an Israeli, as a man and as a human being, I am humiliated by the shame brought upon us by this lowly killer.”
— Yitzchak Rabin, about massacre of Palestinians by Baruch Goldstein at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, 1994
“I acted alone on God’s orders, and I have no regrets.”
— Yigal Amir, after being arrested for assassinating Yitzchak Rabin, Nov. 4, 1995

“It hurts, but it’s not so bad.”
— Yitzchak Rabin, being driven to a Tel Aviv hospital mortally wounded, Nov. 4, 1995
“Many of our fears are justified; after all, we’re not surrounded by the Salvation Army.”
— David Grossman, Israeli author, about Benjamin Netanyahu’s election over Shimon Peres, June 10, 1996