PM takes office in Jerusalem ceremony

"We'll have to roll up sleeves and start working," says Netanyahu; Olmert: I've also made mistakes.

Netanyahu Kotel  248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Netanyahu Kotel 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Incoming Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took office Wednesday in a ceremony at Jerusalem's Beit Hanassi, and said that his government was faced with many pressing challenges. "We will have to roll up our sleeves and start working straightaway, as soon as we step out of this office," Netanyahu said. The incoming premier praised his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, saying that "the outgoing prime minister... was one of Israel's most talented prime ministers." He wished Olmert success in his future ventures and said that he would seek his advice "on the tasks facing us - and they are many." Netanyahu thanked his family for their unwavering support. "My sons, who keep me grounded in reality, and my beloved wife, Sara, the mother of my children and the axis of our family life. You are the one who tells me that the strength of a society is tested by the manner in which it attends to its weaker strata. "On this eve of Pessah, we will remember this; we have no other country, we will watch over it and, with God's help, it will watch over us as well," he said. Speaking before Netanyahu, Olmert lamented that he had not succeeded in reaching a peace agreement during his term, and said that he regretted his mistakes. "I have made mistakes and I am sorry for them," he said. "In addition to tough decisions and achievements, I have also made errors, and I am not afraid to admit it." Turning to the peace talks with the Palestinians and Syria, Olmert added, "I did not succeed in realizing my dream of attaining true peace. During the entire length of my term I did not stop trying to bring peace with the Palestinians and the Syrians." However, he added, "I believe that we can reach real peace that can ensure Israel's prosperity." President Shimon Peres thanked Olmert in his speech and reminded Netanyahu of the importance of a two-state solution. "An orderly transfer of authority is a hallmark of an enlightened and democratic nation," Peres said at the beginning of his speech. "Israel has seen many governmental changes in its 61 years, but has displayed a culture of democracy every time the baton was passed. This is a source of pride for its citizens and institutions." He went on to thank Olmert for his service. "During your term," he said, "you and the ministers of the government you headed... faced great challenges and dealt with them with impressive ability. You did a great and important service to the State of Israel. "Ehud, in the name of the State of Israel, in the name of its citizens and in my own name - we thank you from the bottom of our hearts," Peres said. Then, turning to Netanyahu, the president continued, "And you, incoming prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, I congratulate you on receiving the Knesset's confidence in yourself and in your appointed government. "I appreciate the serious efforts you've invested in order to create a broad government. I know the craft of building a government is no mean feat. But a government that has won a parliamentary majority is a legitimate government. And I congratulate you and the ministers of the government. "The tasks that await you are immense: The moral obligations to preserve the job market, even during a heavy global crisis; the responsible management of the national budget; expanding infrastructure and developing a regional economy; making education and social values a central effort; concluding the draft of a constitution and fighting organized crime." "But above all," he said, the new government would be tasked with "maintaining the security of the state in view of the "Axis of Evil" and the sting of terror, and establishing a multinational front to halt Iran's nuclear race. "While strengthening the State of Israel you must also invest supreme efforts to promote peace on all fronts. The country adopted the vision of two states for two peoples, as initiated by the US administration and agreed upon by most of the world's countries, and your government will establish the shape of our reality," the president said.