Good morning and welcome to the State Department here in the Benjamin Franklin Room. I want to thank all of you for joining us today to re-launch negotiations to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I know the decision to sit at this table was not easy. We understand the suspicion and skepticism that so many feel, born out of years of conflict and frustrated hopes. The tragic act of terror on Tuesday and the terrorist shooting yesterday are yet additional reminders of the human costs of this conflict. But by being here today, you each have taken an important step toward freeing your peoples from the shackles of a history we cannot change, and moving toward a future of peace and dignity that only you can create. So, thank you. Thank you for your courage and your commitment.
I also want to recognize the support of Egypt and Jordan, which have long been crucial partners for peace. And we appreciate the support of the Arab League for the vision of a comprehensive peace embodied in these talks.
I also wish to thank former Prime Minister Tony Blair, the special representative of the Quartet, for his leadership and efforts. Mr. Blair’s work in support of the institutional and economic development of the Palestinian people is critical to the success of these peace efforts. As we’ve said all along, progress on this track must go hand-in-hand with progress in negotiations.
And let me also, as represented by this overwhelming turnout of representatives of the press from across the world, express our gratitude to many friends and allies who have worked so hard for progress toward our shared goals. To those who criticize this process, who stand on the sidelines and say no, I ask you to join us in this effort. As President Obama said yesterday, we hear often from those voices in the region who insist that this is a top priority and yet do very little to support the work that would actually bring about a Palestinian state. Now is the opportunity to start contributing to progress.
For our part, the United States has pledged its full support for these talks, and we will be an active and sustained partner. We believe, Prime Minister and President, that you can succeed, and we understand that this is in the national security interests of the United States that you do so. But we cannot and we will not impose a solution. Only you can make the decisions necessary to reach an agreement and secure a peaceful future for the Israeli and Palestinian people.
Now, for many of us in this room, this is not the first trip to the negotiating table. I look around and I see veterans from all three of us. We’ve been here before and we know how difficult the road ahead will be. There undoubtedly will be obstacles and setbacks. Those who oppose the cause of peace will try in every way possible to sabotage this process, as we have already seen this week.
But those of you here today, especially the veterans who are here today, you have returned because you have seen the cost of continued conflict. You know that your people deserve the benefits of peace. The core issues at the center of these negotiations – territory, security, Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, and others – will get no easier if we wait. Nor will they resolve themselves.
Success will take patience, persistence, and leadership. The true test of these negotiations will not be their first day and it will not be their last day. It will be all those long days in the middle, when the path toward peace seems hidden, and the enemies of peace work to keep it obscured. But we are convinced that if you move forward in good faith and do not waver in your commitment to succeed on behalf of your people, we can resolve all of the core issues within one year.
You have taken the first steps. You have both embraced the idea of a two-state solution, which is the only path toward a just, lasting peace that ensures security and dignity for both Israelis and Palestinians. I fervently believe that the two men sitting on either side of me, that you are the leaders who can make this long, cherished dream a reality. And we will do everything possible to help you. This is a time for bold leadership and a time for statesmen who have the courage to make difficult decisions.
Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. President, you have the opportunity to end this conflict and the decades of enmity between your peoples once and for all.
And I want to conclude by just saying a few words directly to the people of the region. Your leaders may be sitting at the negotiating table, but you are the ones who will ultimately decide the future. You hold the future of your families, your communities, your people, this region, in your hands. For the efforts here to succeed, we need your support and your patience. Today, as ever, people have to rally to the cause of peace, and peace needs champions on every street corner and around every kitchen table. I understand very well the disappointments of the past. I share them. But I also know we have it within our power today to move forward into a different kind of future, and we cannot do this without you.
So now let me turn to the prime minister, who will make his remarks, followed by the president.PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:
Thank you, Madam Secretary. I want to thank you and President Obama for the many efforts that you have invested to bring us to this moment. My friend, Senator Mitchell, thank you for your consistent effort, for you and your staff’s efforts to bring a lasting and durable peace to our region.
President Abbas, as I said yesterday in our meeting at the White House with the President of the United States, the President of Egypt and the King of Jordan, I see in you a partner for peace. Together, we can lead our people to a historic future that can put an end to claims and to conflict.
Now, this will not be easy. A true peace, a lasting peace, would be achieved only with mutual and painful concessions from both sides – from the Israeli side, from the Palestinian side, from my side, and from your side. But the people of Israel, and I as their prime minister, are prepared to walk this road and to go a long way, a long way in a short time, to achieve a genuine peace that will bring our people security, prosperity, and good neighbors – good neighbors, to shape a different reality between us. That’s going to involve serious negotiations, because there are many issues in contention. The core issues that you outlined, Madam Secretary, are things that we have disagreements on, but we have to get from disagreement to agreement – a big task.
Now, two years ago, or rather, a year ago, in a speech I gave in Bar-Ilan University in Israel, I tried to outline the two pillars of peace that I think will enable us to resolve all the outstanding issues. And these are legitimacy and security. Just as you expect us to be ready to recognize a Palestinian state as the nation-state of the Palestinian people, we expect you to be prepared to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. There are more than a million non-Jews living in Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people, who have full civil rights. There is no contradiction between a nation-state that guarantees the national rights of the majority and guaranteeing the civil rights, the full civil equality, of the minority.
I think this mutual recognition between us is indispensible to clarifying to our two people – our two peoples that the conflict between us is over. I said, too, yesterday that a real peace must take into account the genuine security needs of Israel that have changed. They have changed since I was last here. You spoke about the veterans who are gathered here at this table. We’ve been here before. We fashioned the Hebron agreement and the Wye agreement. This was 12 years ago. In these 12 years, new forces have risen in our region, and we’ve had the rise of Iran and its proxies and the rise of missile warfare. And so a peace agreement must take into account a security arrangement against these real threats that have been directed against my country, threats that have been realized with 12,000 rockets that have been fired on our territory, and terrorist attacks that go unabated.
President Abbas, I am fully aware and I respect your people’s desire for sovereignty. I am convinced that it’s possible to reconcile that desire with Israel’s need for security. We anticipate difficult days before we achieve the much-desired peace. The last two days have been difficult. They were exceedingly difficult for my people and for me. Blood has been shed, the blood of innocents: four innocent Israelis gunned down brutally, two people wounded, seven new orphans. President Abbas, you condemned this killing. That’s important. No less important is to find the killers, and equally to make sure that we can stop other killers. They seek to kill our people, kill our state, kill our peace. And so achieving security is a must. Security is the foundation of peace. Without it, peace will unravel. With it, peace can be stable and enduring.
President Abbas, history has given us a rare opportunity to end the conflict between our peoples, a conflict that has been lasting for almost a century. It’s an unprecedented opportunity to end a century conflict. Well, there have been some examples in history, but not many. But we face such a task to end the bloodshed and to secure a future of promise and hope for our children and grandchildren.
In the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, there is a story of how two brothers in conflict – brothers, Isaac and Ishmael – joined together to bury their father Abraham, our father, the father of our two peoples. Isaac, the father of the Hebrew nation, Ishmael, the father of the Arab nation, joined together at a moment of pain and mutual respect to bury Abraham in Hebron.
I can only pray, and I know that millions around the world, millions of Israelis and millions of Palestinians and many other millions around the world, pray that the pain that we have experienced – you and us – in the last hundred years of conflict will unite us not only in a moment of peace around a table of peace here in Washington, but will enable us to leave from here and to forge a durable, lasting peace for generations. Shalom. Salaam. Peace. PRESIDENT ABBAS:
(Via interpreter) In the name of God, Madam Secretary Hillary Clinton, Mr. Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, ladies and gentlemen, let me, in the first place, once again, extend my thanks to President Barack Obama and to Secretary Clinton and Senator George Mitchell and their teams for the unrelenting effort they exerted during the last month in order to re-launch the negotiation on the final status between the PLO and the Israeli Government.
Ladies and gentlemen, now that you are launching these negotiations today, we do know how hard are the hurdles and obstacles we are facing and we will face during these negotiations, negotiations that should, within a year, lead to an agreement that will bring the peace – the just peace of international law – international legality between our two people, the Israelis and the Palestinians. What’s encouraging as well and what’s giving us confidence is that the road is clear in front of us in order to reach peace. The road of international law is represented by the National Security Council and the General Assembly of United Nations, the Quartet, and the positions of the European Union, of the Arab Follow-up Committee. And all these position clearly for us represent international unanimity on the references, the bases, and the goals of the negotiations.
Ladies and gentlemen, also we’re not starting from scratch, because we had many rounds of negotiations between the PLO and the Israeli Government, and we studied all horizons and we also defined and determined all the pending issues. We will work on all the final status issues – Jerusalem, the settlements, the borders, security, water, and also releasing the detainees – in order to end the occupation that started 1967, the occupation of the Palestinian territories, and in order to create the state of Palestine that lives side by side with the state of Israel, in order to end the conflict and end the historic demands in the Middle East, and to bring peace and security for the two people and all the peoples of the region.
Once again, we want to state our commitment to follow on all our engagement, including security and ending incitement. And we call on the Israeli Government to move forward with its commitment to end all settlement activities and completely lift the embargo over the Gaza Strip and end all form of incitement.
Also, with respect to security, you do know, ladies and gentlemen, that we have security apparatuses that are still being built, that are still young, but that are doing everything that is expected from them. Yesterday, we condemned the operations that were carried. We did not only condemn them, but we also followed on the perpetrators and we were able to find the car that was used and to arrest those who sold and bought the car. And we will continue all our effort to take security measures in order to find the perpetrators. We consider that security is of essence, is vital for both of us, and we cannot allow for anyone to do anything that would undermine your security and our security. And we therefore do not only condemn, but we keep on working seriously. Security is fundamental and very sensitive.
Ladies and gentlemen, once again, I want to state today what I said at the White House meeting yesterday in front of President Obama, President Mubarak, and King Abdullah. And we do believe that their participation was of essence and was very strong and represented the belief of Jordan and Egypt in peace. These two states alongside with other Arab states do believe that peace is a vital interest not only for the Palestinians and the Israelis, but also for all the peoples in the region and for the United States, as President Obama said when he said that the creation of a Palestinian state, or the two-state vision, is a vital national American interest.
The PLO participates in these negotiations with good intentions and seriousness and is adamant about bringing just peace that guarantees freedom and independence for the Palestinian people who is attached to his land and his rights, the fair solution of the problem of the refugees according to international resolutions. We are attached to the international resolutions. We do not want anything above and we do not want anything under. We want to have a new era in our region, an era that brings peace, justice, security, and prosperity for all.
And let me say here that in 1993, on the 9th
of September of this year, we signed, Mr. Prime Minister, what is called a document of mutual recognition between us and Israel, between former President Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin, and this document was signed. And in this document, we give enough so – to show that our intentions are good, our intentions with respect to recognizing the state of Israel. And you do know, sir, that in Camp David, also commitments were required from us. And when we came back with President Clinton, we carried on with all our commitments because we respect our commitments and our agreements.
Therefore, we stand from here to reach a peace that will end the conflict, that will meet all the demands, and start a new era between the Israeli and the Palestinian people.
Thank you, and peace be among you.SECRETARY CLINTON:
I want to thank both leaders for their statements. And I also want to thank the members of their respective teams who are here in both delegations. The people sitting here have worked very hard, some for many years, and they certainly have traveled a long way to be here and we’re grateful for their commitment as well.
Today, President Obama and I, Senator Mitchell and our entire team, are prepared to do whatever we can to help you succeed. And we believe in you and we support you. So again, let me thank you for being here, and now it’s time to get to work.
Thank you all very much.