I had the good fortune to be born to parents who were among those who fought for the liberation of our homeland from British rule. In the years in which a rare few believed they'll live to see the establishment of a sovereign Jewish state, my father and mother, Emmanuel Hanegbi and Geula Cohen, believed. They joined the Lehi underground – "Israel Freedom Fighters" – and after they were caught by British soldiers, they escaped from prison and rejoined the battle for independence.
It is from my parents that I inherited the commitment to public service. From them I learned what it means to have a sense of mission. It is thanks to them I chose to devote my life to public affairs.
In the three decades that had passed, I've worked for the benefit of the public as a Member of the Knesset and as a Minister. I had the privilege of working alongside leaders that had shaped our nation's path – Yitzhak Shamir, Binyamin Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert. I witnessed from up-close the weight of the responsibility they bore. I set myself the challenge of specializing in foreign affairs and national security. As the Head of the Prime Minister's Bureau, as the Minister of Justice, as the Minister of Internal Security, As the Minister in charge of the Strategic Dialogue with the United States, as the Minister in charge of the Secret Services and as the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, I was exposed to our political, military and intelligence dilemmas on a daily basis.
Even though I had focused on foreign policy and security matters, I had the opportunity to deal with other important issues, as Chairman of the Economy Committee, as the Minister of Health, as the Minister of the Environment, as the Minister of Transportation and more. In every office I held, I made a point of learning the issues in depth, consulting with the experienced professionals, forming a plan of action, and promoting concise goals, often after a determined struggle.
I've made mistakes as well. In 2010 a prolonged trial, in which the legality of appointments I made in the Ministry of the Environment was questioned, came to a close. I was acquitted of most charges, but convicted of perjury. I respected the court's decision, and after 22 consecutive years as an MK, I resigned from the Knesset. Even though I paid a high price, I learned an important lesson in public conduct.
Decades have passed since I was an outspoken students' leader, defiantly protesting the government's decision to evacuate the Sinai settlements from the top of the monument in Yamit. The experience I gained, the public posts I held, the wisdom that comes with age, all these contributed to a few significant changes in my approach.
As a young man that was raised on the writings of Jabotinsky, I fought for years to strengthen our hold on Judea and Samaria. While I am still convinced of our just cause and of our historical birthright, my political views now reflect an acknowledgment of the changing reality. I recognize that we must strive to achieve a historic compromise with the Palestinians. There is no escape from painful concessions. In any such agreement, Israel's security must be ensured, and its sovereignty over the Jewish holy sites must be maintained. The Palestinians will achieve statehood, but they will have to give up the demand for the return of refugees, and agree to land swaps. This compromise is the only real option, if we wish to ensure Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state.
As I gained experience, my political attitude has also softened. When I started my career, I was known as a militant MK that did not shy away from direct personal conflict with his rivals. As the years passed, I learned the value of a stately approach. I respect any person who takes part in public service, and believe that personal attacks promote nothing. If this approach was common in the political system, it would be easier to deal with the challenges on the agenda, and the public's trust in its elected representatives would be strengthened.
I believe that national unity is an imperative. When the fundamental differences between the major political parties can be bridged, the public can only benefit from political cooperation. Party leaders understandably try to differentiate themselves in order to gain support, but this practice has a price: each side is forced to ally itself with extremists, and vital issues that enjoy wide-ranging public support are indefinitely neglected.
It has become ever more apparent to me that a leader must be bold in making decisions, difficult as they may be. More than once I've learned that the price we pay for avoiding a decision, because of political interests or lack of courage, is greater than the price of the decision itself. This is true with respect to the essential national security issues, the economic and social challenges, and the growing tension between religion and the State. The public expects its elected officials to not be deterred from policies that require leadership and vision. We must not act rashly or fall victim to self-delusion – but above all we must lead, initiate, and decide.
My parents and their friends dreamed of the moment when they would be able to remove the banner of the British Empire from the mast, and raise the flag of the Jewish state instead. Their generation has realized that dream, but our generation faces demanding tasks as well. In the upcoming elections for the 19th Knesset I will present my candidacy, in order to once again take part in the ongoing struggle for the future of Israel. The sense of mission that led me to the public arena is as powerful as ever, even if through the years my views have become more moderate. I believe the path I traveled has prepared me to return to the forefront of national leadership, and to that I look forward.