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Rice Interview With David Hawkins of CBS News

Interview With David Hawkins of CBS News

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
February 7, 2005

QUESTION: You have come half way round the world, this Super Bowl Sunday. You have come this far, why aren't you going to Sharm el-Sheikh for the summit?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I have been in very close contact with, of course, the parties since I am here and also with my counterparts in Egypt and Jordan. But sometimes it is a good thing when the regional parties take the effort to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians together. We need more than anything Egypt and Jordan and other Arab states to really be a part of this process. The United States will be there when needed and we are certainly very actively engaged in helping to get the parties ready for that. But it is a good thing when others are involved.

QUESTION: I suspect you know what is going to come out of this meeting. Can you tell us what is going to happen? Or what do you hope will happen?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I certainly hope that the two leaders will go to the meeting in a spirit of optimism and cooperation. I think that they will. In talking with Prime Minister Sharon last night, I think that he knows that this is a time of opportunity that has to be seized. I hope that they will be quite straightforward about their concerns, get them on the table because we have a long road ahead. Even though we have a new Palestinian leadership, we have the Israeli disengagement plan from Gaza and the four settlements in the West Bank, which, I believe, produces an historic opportunity. Even though we have those new circumstances it, of course, is a long road ahead, and the parties will have to work out many, many difficult issues on the way and it is a good time to get started.

QUESTION: About the new Palestinian leader. Mahmoud Abbas says he opposes terror yet he is working not to fight the Palestinian terrorist but to assimilate them into Palestinian politics. How can the U.S. support a man who refuses to fight terrorism but instead tries to assimilate terrorists?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, he will have to fight terrorism. I don't think that there is any doubt that the Palestinians undertook certain obligations in the Roadmap to fight terrorism. I think without the Palestinians making a strong stand against terrorism, it is going to be very difficult to have permanent progress between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And I suspect that President Abbas understands that and will talk about that when we meet.

It is the case that he faces a difficult situation of just having taken power. He has to reform the security forces. He has to bring about a kind of political dialogue in which parties who are committed to peace and prepared to commit to peace believe that they have a future in the Palestinians territories. But there is no doubt in my mind or in that of U.S. policy that the fight of terrorism is going have to be at the core of what is done here.

QUESTION: How is the United States going to help Mahmoud Abbas fight Palestinian terrorism? What specific things is the U.S. army going to do?

SECRETARY RICE: There are a number of things that we can do to help. We can, for instance, help with the training and equipping of Palestinian security forces. We are prepared to do that

QUESTION: will the CIA again be involved in the training of Palestinian security?

SECRETARY RICE: well, the United States government will be involved in this and I think we will be looking soon to talk about the structures that will be used to help. It is a different time than the '90s and the United States government can probably engage in this in different ways than it did in the '90s.

QUESTION: Does that mean no, not the CIA, or it hasn't been decided yet?

SECRETARY RICE: We are looking at the proper structures, and I think we will be talking about that very soon. But, we can also help with the financial assistance that would help the reconstruction, which in itself helps in the fight on terrorists; it gives to the population a sense of progress. The Israelis can help if they are prepared, as they say they are, to return cities to the Palestinians for their control, to help in the disengagement to do that in a coordinated fashion. There is much to be done that can help in the fight against terror.

QUESTION: I read yesterday-you mention money- it was mentioned yesterday, that fifty million of the three hundred and fifty million dollars that the President promised or talked about in terms of U.S. aid to the Palestinians for reform and reconstruction, that fifty million of it would actually be given to the Israelis to improve checkpoints and so forth. How can that be described as Palestinian aid?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, there are some joint projects that need to be done. And, what is more, not just in the matter of aid, but something that we have recently done for instance is that there are these qualified industrial zones that the Israelis and the Egyptians are doing together. That kind of regional approach is important because these are, you can tell from this geographic location, these people live very close to each other

QUESTION On top of one another, yes .

SECRETARY RICE: literally, and very often what benefits one benefits the other. And so that is the reason that there may be some joint projects.

But, the bulk of this, the overwhelming amount of it will be to help with the Palestinian reconstruction, to help with the projects for Palestinian reconstruction, transparency, development of democratic institutions. And the United States is not alone in that; the European Union has contributed. And the Arab states, many of whom have made pledges to the Palestinians, need to make sure to carry through all those pledges so that the full array of financial resources are at the disposal of the new Palestinian leadership.

QUESTION: Not too long ago your interlocutor in the Israeli government, Prime Minister Sharon's closest, probably closest advisor, essentially said that the disengagement plan was sort of a trick, that it was formaldehyde to embalm the peace process. How can you trust that the Israelis are serious about their disengagement plan after a comment like that?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I am not going to comment on the comment. I just know what the Israelis are doing. And this disengagement plan, if it goes forward, will be of course the first significant return of territory to the Palestinians since 1967. So, for all the peace plans we have had, for all the envoys we've had, for all the attempts we have made, this is going to be the first significant return of territory to the Palestinians, and I think that is what we need to keep our eyes on.

I would note that it is not just the Gaza. There is a deliberate link to four settlements in the West Bank, which means that there is a link between Gaza and the West Bank and I think the Prime Minister has time and time again said that he is committed to the Roadmap as a reliable guide to getting to the President's vision of two states living side by side in peace.

QUESTION: U.S. policy has been to oppose unilateral steps that prejudice final settlement talks and negotiations. What's more unilateral and prejudicial towards final settlement than the route of the fence not the fact that there is a fence than the route of Israel's security fence or the continued expansion of settlements and the building of settlement outposts? What's more unilateral than that?

SECRETARY RICE: Well in fact we have said to the Israelis that the route of the fence should not prejudge final status, and the route of the fence should not look as if it is some kind of political statement about how final status should work. And we indeed have worked with the Israelis on a number of problematic aspects of the fence. Of course in the Middle East that we envision, there won't be a need for a fence, but to the degree that the Israelis feel it necessary to go forward, we have worked very hard with them both to see that the fence does not prejudice the final status but also to try and relieve whatever imposition on Palestinian mobility or livelihood the fence might make.

QUESTION: I want to talk about one of the major themes in the President's State of the Union speech freedom and democracy. What happens if Hamas wins a large number of seats or wins big in a free and fair Palestinian election? Can the United States deal with a group like Hamas if they come into power democratically?

SECRETARY RICE: Well I would just note that while I know that Hamas showed well in some municipal elections, if you look at the platform of President Abbas, it was one that rejected terrorism and violence as the way to a Palestinian state, and that was a national election. I think that you will find that the Palestinian people are not prepared to have a government that is going to sustain the violence that is at the root of the sorrows and the troubles that they have had since the starting of the second intifada. All of the evidence is that the Palestinians want peace; they want to live in peace. Of course they want a just settlement. Of course they want a viable and democratic state. But if you look at what will in fact address the aspirations of the Palestinian people, it is not to declare that Israel should not exist, and it is certainly not to declare that violence is the way to the future.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much.


Released on February 8, 2005

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