Thank you for giving us the time again today, Madame Secretary. You are about to embark on your first trip to the Middle East, and some would argue that it’s coming at an inopportune time: Israel is, of course, struggling to form a government; President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority – his term has technically expired; and of course, you have that overhanging split between the forces of Mr. Abbas and Hamas. Isn’t this a particularly difficult time for you?SECRETARY CLINTON:
Well, this will be my first trip to the Middle East as Secretary of State. Of course, I have been there many times in the past. And as you know, George Mitchell was designated Special Envoy for Middle East Peace and is currently in the midst of his second trip to the region.
I’m eager to meet with leaders to hear their thoughts about the best way to move forward on seeking peace and security. So at Sharm el-Sheikh, I’ll be joining other members of the international community to address the immediate humanitarian crisis in Gaza. We want to strengthen a Palestinian partner willing to accept the conditions outlined by the Quartet and the Arab summit; in other words, a renouncement of violence, a recognition of Israel, and a commitment to abide by the previous agreements entered in by the Palestinian Authority.
All of our efforts will be designed to produce the sort of progress that is concretely felt by people on the ground. Our aid dollars will flow based on these principles. They’ll be spent only in service of the goals that will help people feel more secure in their lives, and therefore more confident that progress toward peace would serve them better than retreating to violence and rejectionism. And I will be announcing a commitment to a significant aid package, but it will only be spent if we determine that our goals can be furthered rather than undermined or subverted.
So I’m looking forward to returning to Israel. During my last visit in 2005, the reception I received, along with my husband, was so warm, and I have so many great memories of my many visits to Israel. It’s a visit with old friends. And obviously, this is a sensitive time in Israeli politics as they seek to form a government, but I will take the opportunity to reaffirm the strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship and talk about the best way to move peace forward. We are still committed to a two-state solution. I will also be visiting with Palestinian leaders in Ramallah to consult with them.
So I guess in summary, I will be working along with Special Envoy Mitchell to help make progress toward a negotiated agreement to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians; to create an independent, viable Palestinian state in both the West Bank and Gaza; and to provide Israel with the peace and security that it has long sought and which the people deserve to have.QUESTION:
Madame Secretary, are you in any way encouraged by the reports of progress in the Egyptian mediation efforts between the major Palestinian parties?SECRETARY CLINTON:
Well, I believe that it’s important, if there is some reconciliation and a move toward a unified authority, that it’s very clear that Hamas knows the conditions that have been set forth by the Quartet, by the Arab summit. And they must renounce violence, recognize Israel, and abide by previous commitments; otherwise, I don’t think it will result in the kind of positive step forward either for the Palestinian people or as a vehicle for a reinvigorated effort to obtain peace that leads to a Palestinian state.QUESTION:
What about the Israeli side of the equation? Benjamin Netanyahu, who is the designated – the prime minister-designate, hasn’t fully embraced the two-state solution that’s been a real fundamental part of U.S. policy. SECRETARY CLINTON:
Well, I think that our policy remains as it is the policy of the Quartet and the Arab League peace initiative to move toward a two-state solution. And there is not yet a government in Israel, so clearly, we have not had an opportunity to consult with anyone, but we will certainly convey our strong commitment to a two-state solution.STAFF:
David, I’m sorry to jump in, but we have to let the Secretary make a flight.QUESTION:
Okay. Well, I do appreciate it. Appreciate the time.SECRETARY CLINTON:
Thank you, David. Good to talk to you. Bye-bye.QUESTION:
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