Israeli President Moshe Katsav apologized on behalf of the State of Israel to the settlers for asking them to leave the settlements. He made the comments in a special address broadcast live by Israeli television networks on Wednesday.

‘On behalf of the State of Israel, I ask you, the settlers, for forgiveness,” Katsav said, “over the demand that you leave after dozens of years of construction and victims.’

Katsav said Israel and the Israelis are facing one of the most “fateful decisions since the declaration of independence.” He added that the settlers were placed in the settlements in accordance with government and Knesset orders, and now they are being ordered to leave in accordance with policies made by the same institutions.

Katsav, however, also warned that acts of violence against the army during pullout are illegitimate.

“You have the right to protest, to carry out a plea to replace the government,” Katsav said, “but these rights do not justify violence and illegal activities.”

Katsav also called on the soldiers to implement the military order given to them to evacuate the settlements, adding that those who believe that insubordination will bring about good results are “gravely mistaken.”

Addressing the settlers themselves, he said “You, settlers, should prepare for other battles waiting for us. The real fight is over the eastern border – this is well known even by those who oppose the pullout.”