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Rice IV With Udi Segal of Israel TV Channel 2

Interview With Udi Segal of Israel TV Channel 2

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
February 6, 2005

QUESTION: Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, shalom, it's good to see you again and thank you for this interview.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. It's good to be with you.

QUESTION: Do you really think that this time there is a chance it will be different? Do you really see the Palestinians dismantling their terror organizations?

SECRETARY RICE: I do think that we have a new opportunity. We have new leadership in the Palestinian territories. We have the very bold, and potentially historic decision of the Prime Minister and the Israeli government to disengage from Gaza and the four settlements in the West Bank. This is a different time. Actions will be important, and we must all fight terror, and the Palestinians, I think, understand their obligations to fight terror and to make certain that they have security forces that are part of the solution, not part of the problem, and that they do everything that they can to make certain that those who would frustrate these efforts cannot do so.

QUESTION: Last time, almost two years ago, you also believed in and supported Mahmoud Abbas, but upon the first crisis, when he resigned, you detached from him and from running the process. Will it be different this time?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the last time we had different circumstances in the Palestinian Authority.

QUESTION: You mean President Arafat?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, of course. This is a new leadership and there are new circumstances now, after the death of Yasser Arafat. And we believe very strongly that the Palestinians want peace, we believe that the Israelis want peace. It is our job and our responsibility as friends of peace to try and bring the parties together back on to the Roadmap in time so that we can move toward the President's vision of two states living side by side. But it requires fundamental steps by both sides, and we are counting on those fundamental steps to make certain that we make progress this time.

QUESTION: Is President Bush going to invite both leaders, especially Abbas, to the White House unconditionally?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the President would like the opportunity to see President Abbas when he has the opportunity. We believe that the key here is to say to the parties, you have responsibilities to help the

Parties discharge those responsibilities. The Palestinians need to build new institutions. They need to build new security forces. They need to lay the foundation for a democratic state, and we need to help them with that. We also should engage with them, as I am doing when I will meet with Mahmoud Abbas tomorrow and look forward to doing that. But while this is a time of tremendous hope, there is still a long road ahead of us, and we need to understand that it is going to take very consistent and vigilant work on all parts to make progress.

QUESTION: How do you intend to monitor this process this time? Are you going to send, maybe a field officer who is going to stay here?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I am looking, having just become Secretary of State, I am looking at the organization of the United States government, of the State Department, for how we will help the process forward, how we will monitor, how we will help with coordination, and we will begin to put some of those pieces in place very soon.

QUESTION: Morally, should Israel release Palestinians who are convicted murderers?

SECRETARY RICE: This is a decision for a democratically elected Israeli government. I do hope that there will be a spirit of recognizing that this is a time of opportunity, of engaging the Palestinians on what needs to be done. Both parties have to exercise their responsibilities. But I would not presume to tell the Israeli government -- an elected, democratic Israeli government -- precisely what prisoners it should release.

QUESTION: Do you think that the evacuation of 8,000 Jews from their home during the disengagement plan can incite civil war in Israel or civil clashes here?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, Israel is a great democracy, and it's been through a long democratic process of coming to terms with the Gaza withdrawal. I know that there are painful choices to be made, but again, the Israeli Prime Minister is elected. He has a government that backs the disengagement. We believe that the disengagement is an historic opportunity to get onto a path to peace, and ultimately, the security and the future of all Israelis and all Palestinians is only going to be assured by two states living side by side in peace. And if this is a step, as we believe that it is, toward that vision, then it is a step that we fully support in the United States. The United States has made some assurances publicly to Israel to help with the disengagement, but the disengagement and those assurances are linked because we fully and completely support this historic step.

QUESTION: [reporter goes live and talks to the camera in Hebrew]

QUESTION: [in English] Dr. Rice, you just finished your meeting with Prime Minister Sharon. Did you hear anything new? What was the main message that you delivered to him?

SECRETARY RICE: It was an opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister with whom I have met many times before and to say to him how committed we are in the United States how committed President Bush is to trying to make progress toward the June 24th vision of two states living side by side; that we are committed to the Roadmap as the way, the reliable guide to getting to that vision.

I wanted also to say to the Prime Minister that we understand we are together in our fight against terrorism and that we will keep that in mind. And just to underscore the tremendous bonds of friendship and values that unite Israel and the United States. It is an important time for all of us, and it was important to come here.

QUESTION: Let me translate [speaks in Hebrew]

QUESTION: According to Prime Minister Sharon, President Bush in April of last year denied any possibility of return of refugees and acknowledged a big settlement block. Is that an accurate description of the United States position, and [is] the practical application of that position that Israel can build now and invest in those settlement blocks and put a fence around them?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the first thing is that the President did give some public assurances to Israel during Prime Minister Sharon's visit in connection with the disengagement plan. He made very clear that everything had to be negotiated, that the final status arrangements would have to be up to the parties. But he simply recognized a couple of realities: that there have been new realities in terms of population and demographics since the 1967 line, and that there also, in the creation of a Palestinian state, that there would be a home for the Palestinians. But of course these are matters that must be negotiated by the parties, and the President made that very clear. The key here is that we have ahead of us a Roadmap; we have ahead of us a way toward the vision of two states living side by side. We have been very clear that we would expect our friends in Israel to do nothing that would somehow prejudge the outcome of a final status agreement in terms of territory, that this is something that really must be negotiated with the Palestinians.

QUESTION: Regarding Vice President Cheney's assessment of Israeli pre-emptive action against Iran, do you really think that Israel might attack if Iran becomes a nuclear power, or was the statement merely a diplomatic threat or a "spin"?

SECRETARY RICE: Well in fact we are all concerned about the potential for an Iranian nuclear weapon. That is why we are working so hard with the IAEA, with the Europeans, indeed with the Russians, to say to the Iranians that they must live up to their obligations, they cannot build nuclear weapons under cover of civilian nuclear power. No one should speculate about what would happen in any such case, but the fact is it would be a destabilizing factor should Iran acquire a nuclear weapon, and I think we have unity of purpose and unity of message internationally to the Iranians that we cannot let that happen.

QUESTION: Finally, how do you feel in your new position as Secretary of State and what would you consider success at the end of your term here in this area?

SECRETARY RICE: Well I am enjoying my ten days, or whatever it is [laughter], as Secretary of State, it's a bit of a whirlwind tour. But this is a special time in history. It is a time when we really do believe that we have the opportunity to make progress on the promotion and support of the spread of liberty and freedom abroad into the Middle East and to places where liberty and freedom have never taken root. How could you not but help be impressed with what happened in the Georgian Rose revolution or the Ukrainian Orange revolution or the Afghans voting in large numbers along dusty roads in Afghanistan or, most especially, what the Iraqi people did on last Sunday in facing down terrorist threats in order to go and exercise their right to vote. And President Bush has made the spread of freedom and liberty, the support of those who have aspirations for liberty the central tenet of American foreign policy, and I am just very honored to have an opportunity to try and help to deliver on that promise.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Are you going to see the Super Bowl tonight?

SECRETARY RICE: Well I'm going to see if I can stay awake that long. I would really like to. I've never missed a Super Bowl since they began, so I'm going to try to do that.

QUESTION: Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice, thank you very much for your time.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.


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