Peres and Clinton meet the media
PRESIDENT PERES: Mrs. Secretary of State, ladies and gentlemen, I must admit I knew the Secretary of State a long time when she was called Hillary, and already then I had the highest regard for her – her wisdom, her friendship, her carefulness and caring. And it’s a great pleasure to see you at a very important time in the history of the Middle East, providing us with your experience and knowledge and determination to bring peace.
I heard your comments before the Foreign Affairs in New York. My God, what a list of nations, what a list of problems and it so happened that you are today the traveling ambassador of goodwill all over the world, the most mobile statesman that carries hope and the responsibility. It is in this spirit that we receive you here. It’s a good and (inaudible) and able (inaudible) in our time. The Middle East – new ups and downs. We are not repeating what happened in the past.
There are two important developments that we shouldn’t forget. The nature of the region has changed. It’s less of a conflict between Palestinians and Arabs, and less of a conflict between Muslims and Jews and Christians. It’s more of a conflict of one country that wants to become the hegemon of the Middle East. We used to call it, in the past, an imperial ambition; I’m referring to Iran, which is using terror, and financing terrorists, training them, and building a nuclear threat to the Middle East. I believe all the independent countries in the Middle East feel that they are threatened, no matter to which religion or nation they do belong. It’s also a threat, I believe, to the rest of the world. Nobody would like to see the world living under the double threat of a nuclear bomb and of the terroristic activities. It never happened in history; all this is a new experience and it requires a great deal of courage and wisdom. The second thing is, in spite of (inaudible), there was a progress in our relations with the Arab countries. I think the relations with Egypt and Jordan are of importance as a precedent and an experience. But (inaudible) progress was done between the Palestinians and ourselves, even in the last month. I remember that just a few months ago, people were extremely skeptical, they should be able to go there from proximity talks to direct talks. We have the direct talks. It’s an important step. Until you achieve at something, it’s very important. When you achieve, people forget it.
And the second thing, yesterday, the opening in Sharm el-Sheikh was much better than all the pessimists and skeptics anticipated. I don’t believe that we can solve the problems in one or two or three meetings. But it was an opening. It was a continuation. And my impression is, talking to our own prime minister and some of the other leaders, the sense is, let’s do what can be done for the better and easier and earlier for all parties concerned. I think we have to act with great dynamism and determination.
And I want to say definitely, as an old hand in the Middle East, that nobody has a better alternative. The fact is that upon the invitation of the President of the United States, there were four participants in the previous opening – the President of Egypt, the King of Jordan, the Prime Minister of Israel, and the President of the Palestinian Authority – shows how serious and urgent and profound is the need to find peace.
We have to be serious. The dangers are not simple. But I don’t think that we can solve all the problems just by saying some nice things. But on the other hand, I do believe it can be achieved, it must be achieved, and I do believe that we are the side that carries a message of goodwill and hope for our children. It’s a great advantage. I believe we are on the moral side, on the side of human beings, no matter which nations. And I think no matter what the other side may have in the way of (inaudible), we have in the way of spirit and future and message.
Mrs. Secretary of State, we highly appreciate your efforts. It’s not simple to travel with all those (inaudible) from place to place – suffering from jet lags and hoping for a new way of life for all of us. Thank you so much for coming.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, my friend. It is, as always, a personal pleasure, privilege, and honor to be here with you, to have the opportunity to sit and talk, and to work toward the outcome of a peace that you have been devoted to your entire life. I always look forward to our meetings, and I always look forward to your wisdom and advice. And I know that Israel has no greater champion, and the cause of peace has no better friend.
Once again, it was useful and enlightening to have this opportunity that Senator Mitchell and I did to spend time with you, and we thank you. It is also always a pleasure to be back in Jerusalem, especially on a day like today. This is a city that holds such deep meaning for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and it is a privilege to be here during the high holidays. As I drive through the streets in slightly different circumstances than the first visit that I made, now more – I guess 30 years ago, and look at streets that I once walked down with my husband and with friends, I am heartened by not only the sense of continuity and history, but also the positive energy of the people.
I’m well aware of the obstacles that stand in the way of peace. I know that this long history of conflict and distrust hangs over everything. But I see the future that can deliver on the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians for this city, and which safeguards its meaning forever. And that is why we are here today, because we are convinced that the legitimate aspirations of these two peoples are not incompatible. We are also convinced that peace is both necessary and possible, and that this is a moment of opportunity that must be seized.
President Peres referred to the challenges that confront the people of this region. Those challenges make our task even more urgent. Now, I appreciate the skepticism that many Israelis feel, the doubt and the disappointment over so many failed efforts and continuing conflict. But Shimon has lived long enough to see more than his share of frustrated hopes and dreams deferred, yet he remains an eternal optimist, with his feet firmly planted in the real world. And I take great inspiration from your example.
He understands better than most the fundamental reality facing the State of Israel, that the status quo is unsustainable – now, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be sustained for a year or a decade, or two or three, but fundamentally, the status quo is unsustainable – and that the only path to ensure Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state is through a negotiated two-state solution, and a comprehensive regional peace.
Shimon also understands the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for dignity, self-determination, and a state of their own. And he knows very well, through hard experience, that this effort takes patience, persistence, and leadership. That there will always be obstacles and setbacks is a given. It is always easier to defer or criticize tough decisions than to make them. It is always easier to sit on the sidelines than to roll up your sleeves. It is always easier to doubt than to trust.
President Peres has never been one to sit on the sidelines. And, thankfully, we now have, with Prime Minister Netanyahu, a leader who understands how important it is to move forward. And as he has said, we also have a Palestinian president who shares that determination. I have sat with these two men, individually and together. I have listened to them talk candidly and forcefully. They are getting down to business, and they have begun to grapple with the core issues that can only be resolved through face-to-face negotiations.
I believe they are serious about reaching an agreement that results in two states living side by side in peace and security. That outcome is not only in the interests of both Israelis and Palestinians, it is in the interests of the United States and people everywhere. This is the time and these are the leaders. And the United States will stand by them as they make difficult decisions. We will be an active and sustained partner throughout this effort, and I look forward to continuing our talks today, here in Jerusalem.
So again, let me thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership. You, my friend, were there at Israel’s creation. And may you also be with us and leading us as we see Israel emerge free from conflict, secure in its borders, confident in its future, and at peace with its neighbors. God bless you.
Preceding provided by the U.S. State Department