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Sec. Albright press remarks on Middle East

Office of the Spokesman

For Immediate Release November 22, 2000


State Department Press Briefing Room November 22, 2000 Washington, D.C.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I wanted to come down here today because the President and I are concerned about the situation in the Middle East, and I would like to make the following statement.

Today has been a tragic day of violence in the Middle East. A terrorist bombing in Israel has claimed Israeli lives and wounded many more. We condemn this act of terror and call on the Palestinian Authority to do everything it can to prevent such acts and resume security cooperation.

Israelis were not the only victims today, though. This morning in Gaza a number of Palestinians were killed by the IDF in circumstances that remain unclear. There is a cycle of violence that must be broken.

Over a month ago at the Sharm el Sheikh summit hosted by Egypt's President Mubarak Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat met with President Clinton to try to end the ongoing confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians. Each side undertook commitments to end the violence; create a fact-finding committee, which has now been created; and engage in consultations with the US to find a way forward.

But unless the commitments necessary to end the violence are carried out in a way that is sustainable and mutually reinforcing, it will be difficult for the parties to change the reality on the ground, end the psychology of confrontation and grievance, and create an environment for peacemaking.

For the Palestinian Authority, this means ending shootings against Israelis, creating buffers between demonstrators and the IDF, ending incitement to violence, and arresting those responsible for terrorism regardless of to which organization they belong.

For the Israelis, this means withdrawing their forces to positions prior to the onset of the crisis, ending the economic restrictions against Palestinians, and restraining their use of force.

Breaking the cycle of confrontation of the past six weeks requires each side to act in parallel and in good faith, rather than as the singularly aggrieved party waiting for the other to respond. To allow this cycle to continue risks the continuation of a conflict which has claimed far too many lives and which has produced far too much suffering and grief for both sides. It is a terrible tragedy to see so many people suffering and dying every day, especially when so many of them are young people.

Both Israelis and Palestinians need to accept the reality that there is no place for violence, incitement, and economic pressure in a genuine search for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Whatever their differences on permanent status issues, the only place for the parties to resolve them is around a negotiating table, not through unilateral actions designed to pressure, to intimidate, and create facts on the ground. There is no unilateral answer to this conflict, and there is no way to reconcile violence with negotiations.

Clearly, both Israelis and Palestinians feel they are the aggrieved party, and each feels that the other has failed to live up to its commitments. But now is not the time for trading accusations. Now is the time for both to make good on their commitments to take the practical steps agreed to, and to work to repair the damage to a negotiating process and a partnership that still holds great potential and promise.

Fulfilling commitments and creating a structure of accountability is essential. In this regard, we will be talking to Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat about creating a mechanism which will allow Israelis and Palestinians to carry out these commitments. The United States, for our part, will continue to help Israelis and Palestinians, as they help themselves, to turn the current situation around and to move forward toward an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.


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