Secretary Clinton: Thank you very much for the overwhelming response to the first “Text the Secretary” event during my recent trip to the Middle East and Europe. Six main themes appeared throughout all of your questions. Listed below are my responses to the important issues you raised.
How was your trip?
Listen to the Secretary's response
I thought this trip was a very good start for the new policies and the new approaches of the Obama Administration. I particularly appreciated all the work that went into the announcement that I made at Sharm el-Sheikh that the United States would commit more than $900 million to the cause of humanitarian relief for the Palestinians in Gaza and for the work that the Palestinian Authority is doing in the West Bank.
I also very much enjoyed visiting a program that is in a contest for State Department recognition, talking to women in Israel who are part of a micro-finance and entrepreneurial training program, and then going to Ramallah and the West Bank and visiting another State Department-supported program, the ACCESS program that teaches young Palestinians, as it does with young people in many countries, learning English and learning more about our culture. This is a program specifically aimed at young people who are not from well-to-do, affluent, already-educated families. I was just thrilled at their enthusiasm.
Those are the highlights of what was a very important trip and a good beginning for our efforts.
What is the United States' policy on maintaining lasting peace between Israel and its opposing countries?
President Obama and I believe that the bond between the United States and Israel – and our commitment to Israel’s security and to its democracy as a Jewish state – remains fundamental, unshakable, and eternally durable.
That said, the United States is committed to a comprehensive peace, including a two-state solution. I have said that publicly and I have said it privately. The United States supports the Palestinian Authority as the only legitimate government of the Palestinian people. As I pledged in Sharm el-Sheikh, we will work with the Palestinian Authority to address critical humanitarian, budgetary, security, and infrastructure needs, both in Gaza and in the West Bank.
As I said in Sharm el-Sheikh, a child growing up in Gaza without shelter, health care, or an education has the same right to go to school, see a doctor, and live with a roof over his or her head as a child growing up in any country. A mother and a father in the West Bank, struggling to fulfill their dreams for their children, have the same right as parents anywhere else to have a good job, a decent home, and the tools to achieve greater prosperity.
The United States aims to foster conditions in which a Palestinian state can be fully realized, a state that can provide these opportunities, a state that is a responsible partner, is at peace with Israel and its Arab neighbors, and is accountable to its people.
As I said throughout my recent trip to the Middle East, time is of the essence. We cannot afford more delays or regrets about what might have been had different decisions been made in the past. The Obama Administration will be vigorously engaged in efforts to forge a lasting peace between Israel, the Palestinians, and all of the Arab neighbors and I will remain personally engaged. As I said in Sharm el-Sheikh, this is a commitment that I carry in my heart, not just in my portfolio as Secretary of State.
Should the U.S. engage in direct dialogue with Hamas?
Hamas has to understand what the principles for any engagement are not just from the United States. The Quartet – which consists of the United Nations, Russia, the European Union, and the United States – as well as the Arab League are in agreement that there are certain principles that Hamas would have to adopt in order for any of us to engage with Hamas: recognize Israel, renounce violence, and agree to abide by the prior PLO agreements. That is not the United States talking – it is the Quartet and the Arab League. Everyone knows what Hamas must do, and it is up to Hamas.
Why isn’t the U.S. doing more to end the Gaza blockade and allow humanitarian aid to enter (based on UN Security Council Resolution 1860).
I announced at the Gaza donors’ conference in Sharm el-Sheikh that the United States is joining others in responding to the needs of the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank. We pledged over $900 million for humanitarian and early recovery assistance.
Two points clearly emerged from the conference: First, the international community is committed to providing immediate assistance to meet the humanitarian needs in Gaza and to help the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to improve the lives of all the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank. Second, that the assistance we are offering is integral to our broader goals of a comprehensive peace and a two-state solution.
As a general principle, we believe it is important for Israel to work with its responsible Palestinian partners to improve the lives of Palestinians, to expand opportunities for Palestinians, and to strengthen their capacity to govern the Palestinian people and move toward a viable state.
To me, this is about what happens to the children in Gaza and the West Bank. I got into politics because I care deeply about what happens to children. I could never have imagined that I’d be sitting here as the United States Secretary of State. My work has always been about how to give children a better chance to live up to their God-given potential.
A child in Gaza has the same right as a child anywhere in the world to a good education, to health care, and to a better future. Parents in the West Bank have the same right as parents anywhere in the world to a good job, to housing, to a better opportunity for their children.
That is what motivates me, and I believe that will be the basis on which we discuss how best to realize the goal of a two-state solution, a comprehensive peace, and a better future for Israeli and Palestinian children.
Is the missile defense system in Europe worth jeopardizing U.S.-Russia relations?
As I mentioned to reporters in Belgium on my recent trip, missile defense is an element of our joint defense posture. It obviously has to be proven to work and be cost-effective for it to be deployed in the Czech Republic and in Poland, but it is intended to be part of a deterrent and a defensive response vis-a-vis Iran and other actors that might obtain and determine to use missiles against Europe.
We believe that Russia and the United States have the opportunity to cooperate on missile defense, to do joint research and joint development, and even eventually – assuming we can reach such an agreement – joint deployment. This is the 21st century. Just as NATO is reviewing our strategic concept and the European Union is looking at its defense policy, we need to be prepared to provide mutual defense in effective manners. We’re going to continue to explore various ways of doing that. If missile defense is proven to work and is cost-effective, it can be a part of that overall defense.
What actions will the U.S. take to resolve the crisis in Darfur and bring President Bashir to justice?
In the last few weeks we have seen the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment of President Bashir; the expulsion of aid organizations that serve the people in the internally displaced persons camps; and harassment of citizens of European countries as well as the United States. The ICC was created to amass evidence and reach conclusions as to culpability and bring indictments where appropriate, which it has done concerning President Bashir and his role in war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur and other government-sponsored activities that have created misery in Sudan. To avoid such misery from getting worse in Darfur in particular, we need to see a return of those aid organizations that have been prevented from continuing their life-saving work in that region.
But we know that this is just the first step. I had a long conversation with the Belgian Foreign Minister on my recent trip to Brussels about Sudan and other conflict areas in Africa and what can be done. This is a matter of real personal concern to me and I know to President Obama as well.
Our hope is that we will come up with new ways of supporting and encouraging positive changes in Africa for the betterment of the people there. But it is going to be a challenging time.