Clinton stands by her quote to defend Israel against Iran nuclear attack
JERUSALEM (Press Release)–U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was interviewed in Jerusalem by Israel Channel 10 personality Yaakov Eilon on Sept. 16. The transcript of thier interview was just released.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much for speaking with us at Channel 10. Welcome to Jerusalem.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. It’s wonderful to be back.
QUESTION: With this beautiful backdrop of the Old City, I guess the question is will this city eventually be divided between the Palestinians and Israelis?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We are the beginning of what everyone in Israel knows are very difficult and intense negotiations on all of the core issues. And I’m not going to prejudge or predict what the outcome of those negotiations would be. But clearly, as I’ve watched the two leaders over the last few weeks, they’re not wasting any time. They’re getting right into talking about the most sensitive, most difficult issues. And the outcome is going to be what each thinks and is in the best interests of the Israeli and Palestinian people.
QUESTION: Do they? I mean, according to reports in Israeli media this morning, Netanyahu said yesterday that he would not extend the settlement freeze, and Abbas said that he would not start anything if that doesn’t happen. (Inaudible) still halfway there.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, again, that’s being discussed. I understand the positions of both leaders, and the United States believes that we need to establish an environment that is conducive to negotiations. And from what I’ve seen, it could go on a very fast track to either an agreement or to agreement on certain things, and I hope that it continues.
I think that doing something about the moratorium, which both President Obama and I have said would be an important decision by this government here in Israel, and for President Abbas to stay committed to these talks and stay in them and get into these core issues, as they began to yesterday – that’s the only way that there’s going to be any agreement on security for Israel and a state for the Palestinians.
QUESTION: What is exactly the American position on the settlements right now? Should the moratorium be extended or not? And would you prefer it to be extended, would you insist it to be extended?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have stated that we think that’s in the interest of these negotiations, and our position on settlements has been unchanged going back many years through Republican and Democratic presidents. And —
QUESTION: But now for the first time, it’s the major issue right at the beginning.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well —
QUESTION: Was this possibly a mistake?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that it was – it’s always been a major issue. It’s always been a concern. And it has been one that has proven to be difficult. If we’re going to have an agreement about a territory and we’re going to have a democratic, secure, Jewish state in Israel and an independent, sovereign, viable state for the Palestinians, everybody knows that settlements are going to be discussed. And there are differences in their location and their numbers, but it is something that can’t be put under the rug; it has to be confronted.
QUESTION: When you say Jewish state, you say – does that mean you support Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinians will recognize Israel as a Jewish state?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, of course, again, this is one of the issues to be discussed. But when I visited President Peres yesterday, who has forgotten more about the peace process – (laughter) – going back decades than any of us will ever know, he reminded me that Yasser Arafat had said, “Of course it will be a Jewish state.”
And so these are the kinds of discussions that have to be done only at the leader level. And I have to say I’ve known both men for a long time. I really admire the way they got right into it. As Senator Mitchell said, it took months before, in the Northern Ireland talks, they would even talk to each other. They would talk through him; they wouldn’t even address each other.
These two men know each other. They’ve actually negotiated with each other before. And I think that it was, for me, very impressive to see them both just say, “Look, we got to talk about the core issues.” Not agreements, but very intense discussions.
QUESTION: Finally, on the subject of whether Netanyahu’s position – that for 10 months, he did freeze the settlements and nothing happened; Abbas did not make a move. And now, they want him to restart the whole thing and he says, “Why should I?”
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’s a fair statement by the prime minister. As you might recall, I came to Jerusalem a little more than a year ago and stood with the prime minister, because what he was attempting to do was unprecedented. And I regret, as he does, that we couldn’t get into the talks earlier. It takes time. All of this is complicated.
But where we sit now, it would be useful for some extension. It would be extremely useful. And I don’t think a limited extension would undermine the process going forward if there were a decision agreed to by both parties that, look, this is it; we – this is our last effort to try to do this.
QUESTION: On a different matter, I have a quote here. April 22nd in 2008 when you were on Good Morning America, you said, “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the President, we will attack Iran, if it attacks Israel. In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.”
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am fully and completely committed to the defense and security of Israel. It’s something that I take very personally. It’s something that I felt, that my husband and I believed before he was ever president, before I ever knew I’d be sitting here as Secretary of State.
And I don’t think there’s any doubt in anyone’s mind that Iran’s aggressive support of terrorism, their financing, equipping of Hamas, of Hezbollah, is a threat to Israel. Israel can handle those threats. We know that. But if you look at long-range missiles, if you look at their continuing pursuit of nuclear power and even nuclear weapons, Israel, but so do every other country in the region, have a reason to say, “Wait a minute, we cannot tolerate this,” which is why we’ve worked so hard.
Until President Obama came into office, everybody wrung their hands and everybody pointed fingers, but we really didn’t do very much. And what we’ve done in the last 18 months is to put into place a very tough sanctions regime, which, from every report, is beginning to have a real impact economically and politically. We are committed to the goal that President Obama has stated, that I fully support, that we are doing everything we can to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed country. But at the same time, we’re talking not only with Israel, but we’re talking to other countries in the region who have the same fears that Israel has about this.
QUESTION: So that quote is still relevant?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, for me, it is.
QUESTION: It is. Any hope for the Syria track?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, in fact, Senator Mitchell is on his way to Damascus today. There have been conversations, I know, between the Israelis and us, and us and the Syrians, to try to determine whether there’s a serious effort that could be undertaken.
QUESTION: You know that the Israeli soldier Gilad Sharit —
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: — is held by Hamas in Gaza for four years now.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Four years.
QUESTION: And I know that his family wanted to meet with you. That didn’t happen so far. Would you meet with them?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I would, of course. My heart goes out to them. I can’t even imagine, as a mother, what it would feel like to have my child held in what are described as horrible conditions, insofar as we know. And I think it goes to the heart of what and who Hamas is. The life of the people in Gaza is miserable. This is such a tragedy that this entity sponsored by Iran would not let this young man come home to his family.
QUESTION: So would you meet with them?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Of course I would. Now, this trip, I can’t, but I would.
QUESTION: I understand. Since we are running out of time, we are – here it comes. The Clintons are a celebrity family; you cannot deny that.
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) I’d like to.
QUESTION: So I’m obligated to ask you, how was it to see your daughter getting married?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, you’ve asked me —
QUESTION: You can scoop.
SECRETARY CLINTON: You’ve asked me the best question. It was wonderful. I mean, it was every mother’s dream. When you’re the mother of the bride, as I was, there’s a lot of stress leading up to a wedding. I think probably every mother out there can identify with me. But the day of the wedding was perfect in every way. And they’re so happy and he’s a wonderful young man who we’ve watched grow up, so who would have predicted that they would have fallen in love and had such an incredible ceremony in front of family and friends? So – and they’re very happy, I might add.
QUESTION: So on behalf of our audience, congratulations.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so very much.
QUESTION: And as they say, Mazel Tov.
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) I am delighted by that. And what did you teach me? Sababa?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Sababa.
QUESTION: Great. You made my day. Thank you very much.SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
Preceding provided by U.S. State Department