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Condoleezza Rice Jerusalem Press Availability

Press Availability

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Jerusalem
June 19, 2005

SECRETARY RICE: As you know, the United States and President Bush are committed to advancing a peaceful two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. The challenge at hand is a successful disengagement, on schedule.

Therefore, in my meetings with Prime Minister Sharon, President Abbas, Quartet Special Envoy Wolfensohn, and our Security Coordinator, General Ward, we have worked on ways to advance the disengagement effort and support this week's summit meeting between President Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon. Together we have developed some principles for disengagement, and the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority have agreed to them.

All agree that Israel's plan to disengage from Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank can be an important step to progress on the roadmap toward realizing the vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.

Accordingly, Israel and the Palestinian Authority share a commitment to ensure that disengagement proceeds smoothly, without violence, and in a way that will also best help the Palestinian economy. To be specific:

One, Israel and the Palestinian Authority recognize that Israeli withdrawal must proceed peacefully and without violence directed toward withdrawing settlers or IDF forces. Both Israel and the PA will take the necessary actions, and will coordinate such actions, where appropriate, to ensure a peaceful disengagement and create the conditions for economic viability and hope.

Two, Israel and the Palestinian Authority agree that the appropriate result is the complete removal of all settler homes in Gaza. Israel will undertake the dismantling of the dwellings. Special Envoy Wolfensohn and his team will work with the PA, Israel, and appropriate partners in the international community to clean up the site. The PA is reviewing a master plan so that future land use and housing in former settlement areas are economically suitable for the Palestinian people in Gaza. The international community will help. The public facilities and commercial assets will be important elements of Palestinian economic recovery, and will be discussed between the parties and with the Special Envoy.

Three, Israel and the Palestinian Authority agree that Palestinian goods and people should flow in and out of Gaza at a level that will allow for economic revival to begin immediately. In this regard, Israel will, consistent with its security needs, evaluate the way it manages the crossings. The donor community, guided by Special Envoy Wolfensohn, will provide technical and financial support to this effort.

This addresses some of the issues. Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas will address other critical topics at their very important meeting on Tuesday. Much more work will still be needed to be done in coming months for the disengagement to succeed, and the United States will remain actively involved in every step of the way. But let me say that I found the leaders on both sides to be focused, their governments to be focused on what must be done, and I think that there is a good spirit of cooperation between them. They understand fully that this effort needs to be cooperative and coordinated so that it can succeed in building trust and confidence between the parties that can then give us a foundation for accelerated progress on the roadmap once the disengagement is done.

Thank you and I'll take questions now.

QUESTION: Two questions, Madame Secretary. Did you discuss anything specific yesterday with the Israelis to make any immediate terms specifically on prisoners, to improve the goodwill? And the second question is, do you have any reaction to the remarks by Foreign Minister Shalom basically apologizing for the sale of military hardware to China?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, on the second matter, I have had discussions with Israeli leaders, not just here but in Washington, about the issue of arms sales. I think everybody knows our concerns about arms sales to China, particularly arms sales to China with countries with which we have strong defense cooperation relationships, which we do with Israel. I appreciate that the Israeli government have -- has been working on this issue. I discussed it also with Defense Minister Mofaz last night and I believe that the Israelis now understand our concerns and I'm certain that, as good partners can, that we can come to some resolution to allow us to proceed.

On the first issue, the Prime Minister and President Abbas will be meeting on Tuesday. I know that they have a large agenda. I do believe that they have already, of course, a joint committee to review prisoner issues, and I do know that they have agreed that there should be a very active role for that committee and that committee needs to continue its very important work in a very active way.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary. Can you tell us a little more about the plans for these assets that were agreed to today? Why are -- why are the houses being destroyed? What will happen to the remains? And what is your expectation on the other assets, the greenhouses and the public facilities?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that the second issue, the commercial assets, there's much more work to be done. And what the parties agree is that they have to work this in a cooperative way so that there can be a contribution to the Palestinian economy going forward, recognizing that these could be very important assets to that economy. But that requires a good deal more work.

Just on the housing, I think it's just a statement of principle that really underscores what's a fairly observable fact. You have 1,200 plus houses, you have a population of 1.3 million Palestinians. And I think that the view is that there are better land use opportunities for the Palestinians that can better address their housing needs.

The most important thing is that the parties want to work at this together. This is not an issue of a kind of unilateral decision to do this or that; it is a recognition that when the Israelis leave the Gaza, that it ought to be a place that is viable for the Palestinians, that it's a place that's hopeful for the Palestinians that addresses their needs. And so I didn't get into here and I don't expect to be able to get into the details of how precisely they're going to do this. Jim Wolfensohn does have a series of meetings coming up to talk to them.

One thing that I can do, since they are developing a master plan for the land use in the Gaza, is I can go to the international community, since I'll be with them at the G8 ministerial in London, and talk about how we can support some of these -- some of these concerns for the master plan. I can also, when I'm in the Arab world, talk to the Egyptians and certainly to the Saudis and others about how they might be able to contribute. Because housing for the Palestinian people is going to be one of the most hopeful things that could be done. And I know that, for instance, Abu Dhabi is already engaged in some housing activity. And so I think we want to make this a centerpiece of what could be really good for the Palestinian people. But we'll have to leave the details of how they work this out to the parties.

Israeli press? Yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) your conversations in Ramallah and Jerusalem, what would you see as the most critical issue between the parties? What do you think, or for example put some obstacles on the withdrawal from Gaza (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, to my mind, the most important issue is the issue that has been there all along, which is to try and provide a peaceful atmosphere in which this can take place. That is, to be very attentive to the security conditions and for the Palestinians to do everything that they can on the security side to fulfill the desire that the Israeli settlers be able to leave peacefully, disengage peacefully. That the armed forces of Israel, who will be helping with the disengagement, are treated peacefully. I think obviously the security situation is the most important issue.

But it is also very important that both parties find cooperative means by which to leave a Gaza behind that is viable and hopeful for the Palestinian people. And I found the most hopeful part of these discussions that both of those items are really firmly on the agendas of both parties -- the security situation and the need to leave the Gaza as a hopeful place for the Palestinians.

There is much detailed coordination and planning that needs to go on. There is obviously much planning that needs to go on on the side of the Palestinians and on the side of the Israelis, and much planning and cooperation that they need -- coordination that they need to do together. But I think those two principles, security so that it's peaceful, and leave it hopeful for the Palestinians, those are the two most important principles. And General Ward and Mr. Wolfensohn are going to be here actively helping the parties to do that.

QUESTION: Two of the issues that President Abbas raised with you yesterday, one having to do with the Philadelphia corridor and who monitors that after the Israelis leave, and also the reopening of the Palestinian airport, I noticed those were not addressed in your statement. Does that indicate there is no agreement on those matters and what needs to be done on that?

SECRETARY RICE: Glenn, as I said, there are a number of complicated issues that they have to continue to work on. I think the issue of economic viability and how goods will move and the like is probably one of the most important that they're going to work on. But Jim Wolfensohn has been working with them on that issue. General Ward is engaged with them on that issue. I'm sure that they will come to some solutions. And the Prime Minister, of course, and the President will have a chance to talk directly about that when they meet on Tuesday in terms of the, you know, the seaport and the airport and passage from the Gaza into the West Bank.

You had another part to that, though?

QUESTION: Yes, the Philadelphia corridor.

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, yes. That is a matter that, again, General Ward has been discussing with parties. But also the Egyptians and Israelis are in very intensive discussions about how that might be resolved.

Israeli press again?

QUESTION: Many people in Israel, maybe even including the Prime Minister himself (inaudible) mainly after the disengagement plan, Israel should not make any more steps and more withdraws from the West Bank. What do you expect from Israel to do after the disengagement plan? Do you expect Israel to withdraw also from the West Bank?

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Well, first of all, I want to underscore how much the President and I believe that this is an historic step that is being taken in the withdrawal from the Gaza. And it's a courageous step by the Prime Minister and by the Israeli people. This is not easy, and the next several months ahead of us are complicated and consequential to the future. So I have really focused while I've been here on the next several months.

I've been saying -- our press is probably tired of hearing it -- but I've been saying that one of the problems I think with the Middle East is that there's a tendency always to look out there and not to do what's right in front of you. And if we do this well, if the parties do this well, then I'm quite certain that the level of confidence and the level of trust between them, and the capacity of the Palestinians to do certain things will be enhanced.

Now, we have a roadmap that everybody remains committed to. The United States remains committed to it, the Quartet, the international community and, most especially, the Palestinians and the Prime Minister have said that he remains committed to the roadmap. And so it's not as if we don't know what other steps are necessary to try and move toward a two-state solution and the eventual establishment of two states living side by side. So the roadmap is there, but let's get through this disengagement and get through it in a way that enhances the possibilities for further progress.

Two more --

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I'd like to ask you are you (inaudible) Hamas organization is considered the most influential political element in the Gaza strip. Can this go ahead despite the strength of Hamas?

SECRETARY RICE: I am mostly considering the fact that the Palestinian people as a whole elected Mahmoud Abbas to be their president. And they elected him on a platform that said, it's time for Palestinians -- the armed intifada has not resulted in peace, security or prosperity for the Palestinian people, and it's now time to go to a negotiated solution.

I find President Abbas a figure who is deeply concerned about the future of his people. This is not someone -- with all due respect -- who is doing this for the Israelis; he is doing this for the Palestinian people. And it's a very strong commitment that this way forward is the best way for the Palestinians.

We're going to deal with the elected government of the Palestinian people. Our policies toward Hamas are well known. We consider it a terrorist organization. And our view is that the Palestinian people, given a chance, are most likely to pick a course that allows their children to be educated and to prosper and to grow in peace.

Last question.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary? On the back.

SECRETARY RICE: Pardon me?

QUESTION: On the back. From Channel 2 News in Israel. I'd like to ask you on two different issues. One, please, it seems that the only determined date now is mid-August when Israel starts the disengagement. And I wonder about your perspective on the timetable. Is there a new timetable for the implementation of the roadmap? And if it is, what is it exactly?

And the other is -- sorry -- the other issue is regarding the -- our ambassador in Washington. You have to work with an Israeli ambassador who his boss, our Foreign Minister, said he lost faith with, in him. And he is, in fact (inaudible) Prime Minister. And I wonder how do you maneuver between the two of them?

SECRETARY RICE: I deal with the Israeli Ambassador as the Israeli Ambassador and we have long and good relations and he is an ambassador who has done a lot for U.S.-Israeli relations. In fact, we've known each other since he was foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Sharon. And so we continue to have a very good working relationship. These issues are, of course, for the Israeli government to decide.

In terms of timetables, again, I look at our press and I know that their eyes are glazing over because I say I don't like timetables. I don't like to talk in those terms. Diplomacy has a certain rhythm to it. And we are now about to go through an historic step that could accelerate what is possible for us to do. And maybe it's because I'm a veteran of, you know, the end of the Cold War when if you had set timetables, you would have been embarrassed by how quickly things moved, but I also recognize that sometimes things don't move very quickly but, when they do, they move in a very positive direction.

And so there is a lot happening not just between the Israelis and Palestinians, but also in this region as a whole. And what we have to try to do is to get up every day and make as much progress as we can. But we have better conditions now in terms of the fundamentals than we've had for a long time for a possible peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Sorry -- are we -- all right. I'll take one more American and then we have to go.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, it's now 10 years since the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 was passed in Congress, which called for the United States to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Last Thursday, the White House announced that the transfer will be delayed for yet another six months in order to, and I quote, protect the national security interests of the United States.

Do you think that relocating the embassy to Jerusalem would be a greater threat to U.S. security than, let's say, some other current actions that the United States is involved in, perhaps Iraq, to mention just one?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, obviously I think the involvement of the United States in Iraq is the involvement of a country that recognizes that without a fundamentally different kind of Middle East, it is going to be very difficult to protect American security interests. We learned that the hard way on September 11th. And the changes that are coming in the Middle East, the changes that are happening in places like Iraq, whatever you wish to think about the American decision along with several coalition members like Great Britain and Australia and others and Poland, to finally deal with Saddam Hussein, whatever you think about that decision, I think there are very few people in the world who think the world was better off with Saddam Hussein in power.

And so we have given the Iraqi people now, through their liberation, an opportunity to build a strong, democratic, unified, peaceful state in the midst of the Arab world, and that could be a fundamental change in the way that the Middle East proceeds in the future.

As to the issue -- the Jerusalem issue that you raised, you know, we continue to review it. But, again, we are very focused right now on what needs to be done with the historic opportunity that is before us, which is to try and help the parties make this disengagement work. And I want to be very clear: The United States can't make the disengagement work; only Israelis and Palestinians can make the disengagement work.

But what the United States can do, what General Ward can do, what Mr. Wolfensohn can do, what the international community can do is to offer all the support that we possibly can, recognizing the consequential several months into which we are about to pass.

Ann, you have the last question.

QUESTION: You said just a moment ago you don't like to talk about timetables. But you've also said that you're focusing very heavily on the next few months. From what you've seen in the last two days, are you personally convinced that the disengagement will happen when the Israelis say it will happen in mid-August, and what would be the consequences if it didn't?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm not someone who can predict coming events. But I do know that I saw a commitment on the part of the Israeli government to make this disengagement work, to make it work with their Palestinian partners to do what is ever necessary to move this along. Because having made the historic and strategic decision to do this, the key now is that a lot is at stake for the state of Israel, a lot is at stake for the Palestinians, and a lot is at stake for the international community.

I saw committed parties on both sides that are doing the necessary planning. The people who are engaged in this planning are working harder than you could possibly imagine to try and make it work. That's all human beings can do; they can put their absolute best efforts and their commitment to work in trying to deal with something this complex. And that's all that human beings can do. And I do believe people are doing everything that they can.

Now, the course ahead is one that is going to require even greater coordination. There need to be no surprises between the two sides in terms of what's going to happen in the Gaza. And that's why General Ward is going to be out here so much working with the parties, it's why Mr. Wolfensohn is going to be working with the parties. But we just need to step back for a moment and recognize that this is a courageous and difficult step for the Israeli Prime Minister and his government, a consequential step for the Israeli people, and a consequential step for the Palestinian people that could leave a foundation -- leave conditions for the emergence of a democratic and independent and viable Palestinian state.

And just like an Iraq in the center of the Arab world that will be a pillar of a fundamentally different Middle East, a Middle East in which there is tolerance and moderation and willingness to live together, so too would be a two-state solution of two democratic states living in peace and freedom.

Thank you very much.

2005/T10-4

Released on June 19, 2005

ENDS


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