By SHIMON PERESThe following is a full transcript of former prime minister Shimon Peres's remarks Wednesday announcing his exit from party politics.
Today is a very difficult day for me. But I ask myself, what is the main thing that faces Israel in the next four years? I have no doubt that it is the peace process.
I ask myself, how can I contribute in the coming years? My answer is by promoting the peace process, which will bring economic prosperity and social justice. I believe that in the current political structure advancing the peace process is possible only through a coalition for peace and development; and in my view the man best suited to lead such a coalition is, based on proven results, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
I spoke with Mr. Sharon and I am convinced that he is determined, as I am, to continue with the peace process, and restart it immediately after the elections. He is open to creative ideas for achieving peace and security. I decided therefore to support his election and cooperate with him to realize these goals.
This has not been an easy conclusion for me. But I found myself faced with a contradiction between the party of which I am a member and the requirement of the political situation.
Without ignoring the deep connection that I have to the Party's historical path and its members, I must prefer the more urgent and greater consideration.
I learned from my mentor David Ben-Gurion to put country before party. My party activity has come to an end, whereas my contribution to peace, development, and the Negev and Galilee is yet to be complete. I have decided to dedicate the next years to contribute to the supreme effort of making peace between our neighbors and us, while keeping the peace within us.
In my conversations with Mr. Sharon, we explored the possibility of expanding the scope of peace and development. In addition to the road map, we will work to create an economic triangle of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians that may enjoy a special status in the European Union.
We will work to mobilize substantial international, government and private sources for the region's economic development. We will open discussions with the United States to secure the region against the Iranian threat and fanatical terror.
My concern, which is deep, and my hope, which is great, compel me to a decision that is neither simple nor mundane. But I cannot escape it.
It has not been easy, but I have made my choice.