Good morning. I’m sorry to get you all up at this hour. I’m not going to take any questions, but I think a few of the staff will be around to answer a few questions for you, and I’ll just make a brief statement.
This morning, Israel and the Palestinian factions have agreed that they are now prepared to implement a 72-hour unconditional humanitarian cease-fire. So starting later this morning at 8:00 August 1st, the parties are expected to cease all offensive military activities, and neither side will advance beyond its current locations. They will stay where they are in place. Israel will be able to continue its defensive operations for those tunnels that are behind its lines, and the Palestinians will be able to receive food, medicine, and additional humanitarian assistance, as well as to be able to tend to their wounded, bury their dead, be able to in safe areas travel to their homes, and take advantage of the absence – hopefully, hopefully – of violence for these 72 hours.
Then, as soon as the cease-fire is underway tomorrow morning – I talked to the Egyptian foreign minister tonight – Egypt will issue invitations to the parties to come to Cairo immediately in order to engage in serious and focused negotiations with Egypt to address the underlying causes of this conflict. And we hope and we expect both sides to raise all the topics of concern. The parties, obviously, need to find a way to address Israel’s security concerns and to ensure that the people of Gaza can live in safety and in dignity. And for our part, the United States will be sending a small delegation to Cairo to assist and take part in these negotiations.
As I said, this will last for 72 hours – three days – precious time. It is a lull of opportunity, a moment for the sides and the different factions to be able to come together with the state of Israel in an effort to try to address ways to find a sustainable cease-fire and then, obviously, ultimately, over a longer period of time, address the underlying issues. Let me also add that tomorrow morning the United States will also join in the effort to provide humanitarian assistance. President Obama has made available some $47 million to help ensure that some of the relief is able to come in, and many of our international partners have also made commitments over the course of the last weeks.
Now, obviously, while we are grateful that the violence and the bloodshed has the opportunity to stop for more than 24 hours, it is up to the parties – all of them – to take advantage of this moment. There are no guarantees. This is a difficult, complicated issue, years and years in the building, and I think everyone knows it has not been easy to get to this point. And everyone knows that it will not be easy even to get beyond this point, but it is imperative that people make the best effort to try to find common ground and do so.
A lot of folks have been working hard at this effort. I want to thank Prime Minister Netanyahu, who I know wants to see the people of Israel live in security, free from rockets, free from attacks from tunnels. And I know he has worked hard at this. We’ve had many phone calls, sometimes in the middle of the night, and I’m pleased that he thought this moment was an appropriate one to embrace this effort, this cease-fire. I want to thank UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Special Coordinator Serry for their continuous efforts to try to help create a framework as well as the call for a cease-fire, and helping to galvanize the international community. And I’m grateful also to President al-Sisi and to Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who has been consistently on the phone working this, and Egypt will host these talks. And this effort is built on the original Egyptian initiative that began the talk of a cease-fire. So Palestinian President Abbas has been consistently working behind the scenes, sending his emissaries to various places to work effectively, and I appreciate his leadership in this effort.
Now, I want to re-emphasize: This is not a time for congratulations and joy, or anything except a serious determination, a focus by everybody to try to figure out the road ahead. This is a respite. It’s a moment of opportunity, not an end; it’s not a solution. It’s the opportunity to find the solution. And President Obama hopes that all the parties will work diligently to do so. From the moment the President asked me to travel some 12 days or so ago, the President has been consistently on the phone, tracking this, talking with the prime minister and others in an effort to help to move us to this place.
But we have to understand: Both parties have – all the people involved in this have strong demands and strong visions about what the future should look like. Israel has to be able to live in peace and security, without terror attacks, without rockets, without tunnels, without sirens going off in the day. And Palestinians need to be able to live with the opportunity to educate their children and move freely and share in the rest of the world, and to lead a life that is different from the one they have long suffered. So we hope that this moment of opportunity will be grabbed by the parties, but no one can force them to do that, obviously.
So we come at it with sober reflection about the lives lost and the violence suffered; the soldiers killed, the individuals killed; the three kids who were kidnapped and murdered in the beginning of this, and then a retribution killing. There’s been too much of it for most people’s judgment here, and our hope is that reason could possibly prevail to find the road forward. And with that, I’ll leave you to the folks who might give you a little more sort of background and everything else. Thank you all very much.