'I will prove my innocence... but the good of the state must prevail'

At 8 p.m. on Wednesday, in a speech at his official residence, Ehud Olmert announced the imminent end of his time as prime minister. Here is an unofficial translation of the full Hebrew text of his remarks: 'As a citizen in a democratic state, I have always believed that when a person is elected prime minister in Israel, even those who opposed him in the ballot box would want him to succeed. But instead of enjoying this basic level of faith, I found myself, immediately upon being elected, subjected to a wave of investigations, probes and criticism. Almost from my first day in the Prime Minister's Office, I have been forced to repel personal attacks, even as I was busy taking fateful decisions regarding Israel's security and existence. Despite this, during my term in office, Israel's situation steadily improved. In the area of security, we strengthened the IDF - we bolstered its strength and allocated enormous resources it had not received in the past. The North is quiet and does not face an immediate threat. Israel's deterrent capability has been incomparably bolstered. We were also able to learn lessons and to correct mistakes. The procedures for internal examination are essential to a healthy society. I am proud of them. In the social and economic fields, we have maintained a stable economy and made some significant progress. We have intensified the war on poverty and the degree of involvement in depressed areas, especially in the periphery. Poverty levels continue to fall. We have invested millions of shekels in the effort to improve the education system. We have increased welfare payments to the elderly, focused on providing for children at risk and established a system to take care of preschool children whose needs had been neglected for years. We achieved record-high employment levels - hundreds of thousands joined the workforce. Unemployment has dropped to less than 6.1 percent, from 10.5% three years ago. And beyond all that, I continue to believe with all my heart that achieving peace, halting terrorism, bolstering security and creating a network of relations with our neighbors - these are the most vital goals for Israel's future. The support of the United States under the leadership of President George W. Bush greatly helps us in this. We are closer than ever to firm understandings that can serve as a basis for agreements on two [diplomatic] tracks: The Palestinian and the Syrian. On the day that the dream of peace is realized, we will all wonder how it was that we didn't get there sooner. As long as I serve as prime minister, I will not desist from the effort to bring the negotiations between us and our neighbors to a successful conclusion that offers hope. As prime minister, I bear ultimate responsibility for every decision. There are many excellent people in the country, and together with them I have championed far-reaching, daring and complex processes. I have never tried to publicly crow about these achievements and reap the political benefits. Most of them are unknown to the majority of the public, but they are well-known to those who were part of the decision-making and operational process. At the same time, I was forced to defend myself against relentless attacks by self-styled fighters for justice who sought to oust me from my job and saw all means as justifying of that end. I am the prime minister, and naturally constitute an obvious address for political battles, but anyone with eyes in their head can see that things have gone out of all reasonable proportion. Have I made mistakes over the many years of my activities? I certainly have! And I regret them, and I am sorry. But does the picture presented to the public fairly reflect the reality? Absolutely not! As prime minister, I have been denied the elementary right to the presumption of innocence, and, required to maintain silence, deprived of the ability to present my case. I want to make this clear: I am proud to be a citizen in a country in which a prime minister can be investigated like any citizen. It is the obligation of the police to investigate, it is the obligation of the prosecution to instruct the police, and I have no complaints against them on this. The prime minister is not above the law. But he is also in no way below it. This is not my personal problem. This is a challenge to our ability as a state to maintain the stability and balance of a democratic regime. No clerk, no junior or senior investigator, no lawyer, however important and fair-minded - and the overwhelming majority in the police and the prosecution are fair-minded - is permitted or entitled to decide whether a prime minister can serve or continue to serve in his position. Those determinations should be reached only at the end of responsible, quiet, well-organized processes - as occurs in every democratic state. To my profound sorrow, this correct procedure does not take place in ours. It is my obligation to soul-search on behalf of us all, responsibly, even if it is painful, even if it requires decisions that carry a personal cost. But it may be that herein is a marker for our future democratic life. Maybe I today, in my personal decision, have opened a portal to a more appropriate reality. Let me reiterate: I have full satisfactory answers. I will not conduct this discussion in the media, and not at a press conference, but in a balanced and fair struggle, as I have done throughout my life. Those who preach morality to me today will one day have to face the the truth as it rises to confront them. They know this well. Now comes the moment when I have to make a decision. I do not make it out of a sense that I cannot do my job. I strongly believe in my ability to continue to fulfill this mission and I believe in my rightness and innocence. But the witch hunt that is being conducted these days, including by fair-minded people and those genuinely concerned for the country and its image, raises a question that I do not wish to, and cannot, evade: What is more important - my personal justice, or the good of the public? My personal justice is very important to me. The intrusion into my family's privacy pains me to no end. But in the choice between considerations relating to my status and my ability to fight for my justice, and between considerations relating to the good of the state - the latter must prevail! Therefore, I have decided I will not compete in the Kadima primaries. Furthermore, I do not intend to intervene in the internal elections that, as a consequence of a decision I initiated, will take place [in September]. I will welcome the results. My decision is not taken out of bitterness, and not in an atmosphere of moralizing. I came [here today] only to say a little of what has been weighing upon me for many months. When a new chairman for the party is chosen, I will resign from my position as prime minister to enable the elected chairman to set up an alternative government speedily and efficiently. I believe there is wide public support for such a government and that it will be established quickly. I will give up my seat as is appropriate, in a dignified, fair and responsible manner, as I have acted throughout my term in office. And then I will prove my innocence and honesty. We have one wonderful, unique country. I love it with all my heart and soul, and I am grateful to you, the citizens of Israel, for the privilege you have given me to act on your behalf."