Thank you very much. It is a pleasure to be back in Egypt, and to be with so many people dedicated to building regional and global peace. I want to thank the Egyptian Government, my colleagues in the Quartet, the Norwegian co-chair, and other sponsors for convening this meeting. Let me also convey special gratitude to President Mubarak for his hospitality and for his personal efforts to bridge divides and end conflict.
I’m proud to be here on behalf of the Obama Administration – and to bring this message from our new President: The United States is committed to a comprehensive peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors and we will pursue it on many fronts. So too will we vigorously pursue a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As a sign of our seriousness, President Obama and I have appointed Special Envoy George Mitchell to lead this effort.
We commend President Abbas for his commitment to move forward with a negotiated solution, and also Prime Minister Fayyad for his work to build institutions to support a Palestinian state. And we take inspiration from the Arab Peace Initiative proposed by His Majesty King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and endorsed by the Arab League.
Time is of the essence. We cannot afford more setbacks and delays, or regrets about what might have been had different decisions been made. And now is not the time for recriminations. It is time to look ahead.
We gather today to address the humanitarian and early recovery needs of the Palestinian people after the recent conflict, and the United States joins with others in generously stepping forward to help. Our pledge of over $900 million, designed in coordination with the Palestinian Authority and to be submitted to the United States Congress, will deliver assistance to the people of Gaza and the West Bank.
All of us recognize that human progress depends on the human spirit. That 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 her head as a child growing up in your country or mine. That a mother and father in the West Bank struggling to fulfill their dreams for their children have the same right as parents anywhere else in the world to a good job, a decent home, and the tools to achieve greater prosperity and peace. That progress toward the goals we seek here today is more likely to grow out of opportunity, than futility; out of hope, than out of misery.
So we will work with our Palestinian partners, President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad, to address critical humanitarian, budgetary, security, and infrastructure needs. We have worked with the Palestinian Authority to install safeguards that will ensure that our funding is only used where, and for whom, it is intended, and does not end up in the wrong hands.
In pledging these funds, we are pursuing both a short- and long-term approach. It is not enough just to respond to the immediate needs of the Palestinian people. Our response to today’s crisis in Gaza cannot be separated from our broader efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace. Only by acting now can we turn this crisis into an opportunity that moves us closer to our shared goals.
By providing humanitarian assistance to Gaza, we also aim to foster conditions in which a Palestinian state can be fully realized – a state that is a responsible partner, is at peace with Israel and its Arab neighbors, and is accountable to its people; a state that Palestinians everywhere can be proud of and is respected worldwide.
This is the Palestinian state we all envision. This is the Palestinian state that we have an obligation to help create.
For the Israelis, that means showing the Palestinians that there are benefits to negotiating if their goal is to control their own destiny and live in peace and dignity in an economically viable state.
For the Arab states, it means signaling through words and deeds that the spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative can begin to govern attitudes toward Israel now. For all of us – the Arab states and the wider international community – it means working with the government of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Authority, to help build a state that can meet international expectations and obligations.
And for the Palestinians, it means that it is time to break the cycle of rejection and resistance, to cut the strings pulled by those who exploit the suffering of innocent people, and show the world what the talent and skills of an exceptional people can build and create.
That is why we’re here today – not only to address Gaza’s urgent needs, but to move ahead toward genuine Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli peace.
Our aid package is meant to accelerate, not hinder, that effort.
Through his commitment to negotiations with neighbors, President Abbas has shown the hallmarks of leadership, as has Prime Minister Fayyad, who has bolstered the credibility of his government by instituting a national budget process that is transparent and serves the needs of the Palestinian people. They are offering their people the option of a peaceful, independent, and more prosperous future, not the violence and false choices of extremists whose tactics – including rocket attacks that continue to this day – only will lead to more hardship and suffering. These attacks must stop.
The positive approaches I’ve outlined offer an opportunity for even greater progress if our Palestinian partners can continue to work with us and abide by the PLO commitments to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist. The Quartet, in adopting its own principles, has agreed with the Arab League that the interests of the Palestinian people are best served under a government that abides by the PLO commitments.
Only a Palestinian Authority that adheres to these principles can fulfill the aspirations of the Palestinian people to be free, independent, prosperous and peaceful, flourishing in a viable state of their own.
As President Obama has said, the United States will engage in this effort with vigor and intensity in pursuit of genuine progress – progress that will improve the lives and the livelihoods of the people of Gaza and the West Bank, the people of Israel, and the neighbors throughout the region.
Assistance for the Palestinians is one step up the ladder to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace. We must be willing to take this step – and many more together – until we fulfill that promise.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)