The following is the text of an open letter to the citizens of Israel from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of the proposal to resume the peace talks with the Palestinians, which will be submitted to a cabinet vote on Sunday:
From time to time, prime ministers are called on to make decisions that go against public opinion -- when the matter is important for the country's well-being.
Prime ministers are not needed to make the decisions that the public already supports.
At the present time, I believe it is of the utmost importance for the State of Israel to enter a diplomatic process. This is important both to exhaust the possibilities of ending the conflict with the Palestinians and to establish Israel's position in the complex international reality around us.
The major changes in our region -- in Egypt, Syria and in Iran -- not only pose challenges for the State of Israel but they also present significant opportunities for us.
For these reasons, I believe that it is important for the State of Israel to enter a diplomatic process for at least nine months -- to see if it is possible to reach an agreement with the Palestinians during this time.
But despite placing a great deal of importance on the diplomatic process, I was not prepared to accept the Palestinians' demands for withdrawals and [settlement building] freezes as preconditions for entering negotiations.
Neither was I prepared to accept their demand to release Palestinian prisoners before the start of negotiations. I did agree to release 104 Palestinians in stages after the start of the negotiations and in accordance with the circumstances of their progress.
This is an indescribably difficult decision to make, it is painful for the bereaved families, it is painful for the entire nation and it is also very painful for me.
It conflicts with a value of incomparable importance, the value of justice.
It is a clear injustice when depraved people, even if most of them have sat in prison for over 20 years as in this case, are released before they have finished serving their sentences.
The decision is difficult for me seven-fold because my family and I personally know the price of bereavement from terrorism. I know the pain very well. I have lived with it every day for the past 37 years.
The fact that previous Israeli governments have released over 10,000 terrorists does not make it easier for me today, and did not make it easier when I decided to bring back Gilad Schalit.
Gilad Schalit's return home required me to make an incredibly difficult decision -- to release terrorists. But I believed that the value of bringing children back home required me to overcome this difficulty.
People in positions of leadership are forced to make complex choices and sometimes the necessary decision is the most difficult one when the majority of the public opposes it.
Thus I decided to end Operation Pillar of Defense after the elimination of archterrorist Ahmed Jabari and after the severe blows the Israel Defense Forces dealt to Hamas and the other terrorist organizations.
I made the decision to end the operation even though most of the public supported continued action, which would have required entering the Gaza Strip on the ground. As prime minister, I thought that the goal of deterrence had been mostly achieved by the determined actions that we carried out.
Today, almost one year after the end of Operation Pillar of Defense, we are witness to the quietest situation in the south in over a decade. Of course, this quiet can fall apart at any minute but my policy remains clear on all fronts: We will, to the best of our ability, thwart the threats against us in a timely manner. We will react strongly to any attempt to harm our people.
In the next nine months, we will consider whether there is a Palestinian element on other side that, like us, truly wants to end the conflict between us.
Such a conclusion will be possible only under conditions that will ensure the security of Israel's citizens and our vital national interests.
If we succeed in achieving such a peace agreement, I will submit it to a referendum.
Such a fateful decision cannot be made by a close vote in the Knesset.
Every citizen must be allowed to directly influence our future and our fate on such a crucial issue.
The best answer we can give to those murderers that sought to defeat us through terrorism is during the decades that they sat in prison, we built a glorious country and turned it into one of the most prosperous, advanced and strongest countries in the world.
I promise that we will continue as such.