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Rice Interview on Israeli TV2 with Udi Segal

Interview on Israeli TV2 with Udi Segal

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
June 19, 2005

QUESTION: Madame Secretary Rice, nice to see you here again in Jerusalem.

SECRETARY RICE: Nice to see you.

QUESTION: And thank you for this interview.

Madame Secretary, there are people here in Israel calling for rethinking of disengagement. Are you confident that the disengagement planned will be executed as planned? Is that a done deal?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the disengagement is a historic opportunity, and a historic opportunity for the Israeli people that I think Prime Minister Sharon has quite courageously taken on.

I was impressed here with the amount of planning, with the intensity of the planning that is going on in the Israeli Government and also in the Palestinian Authority. And we are beginning now to see coordination between them. And because of that, I think we can be confident that people are doing everything humanly possible to make this disengagement a success. And by "success," I mean a disengagement which will be peaceful and orderly.

QUESTION: Today, there were two terror attacks in the Philadelphia route. In the last few weeks, there are terror attacks almost every day. Many high-ranking Israeli officials like former Prime Minister Netanyahu and former Chief General Mr. Yaalon claims that this disengagement from Palestinians is perceived as running away from terror and it would therefore actually increase terror attacks. What do you think?

SECRETARY RICE: The terror attacks that are taking place -- and, by the way, there needs to be more done to fight terror, and I made this very clear to the Palestinian leadership, but these terror attacks are being taken -- are being taken because these are people who don't want to see peace between Israelis and Palestinians. They don't want to see a better life for the Palestinian people. They don't want to see the emergence of two states living side by side. And so that's why they are engaging in these terror attacks.

And Israel needs a partner in peace. And there's a chance that the Palestinians could be that partner. This disengagement is well worth trying now to see if we can use this moment to push the process forward and to give the chance for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

QUESTION: Do you think the disengagement will decrease terror?

SECRETARY RICE: The disengagement has the absolute -- the opportunity to get the parties into a -- into a relationship of trust and confidence where the Palestinians are more empowered, where their institutions are better, where their security forces are better, where they themselves can fight terror. Because as the Gaza becomes their responsibility and as they build those institutions, the Palestinian people can see hope in the Gaza, then I do think you have a chance. And I'm quite convinced that the Israeli Government and the Israeli Defense Forces are doing everything they can to protect Israelis. Because we understand that the Israeli Government takes very seriously its obligation to protect its own people.

QUESTION: Do you think there might be a risk that President Mahmoud Abbas will lose his control or support among Palestinians by Hamas -- even that his regime might be collapsing?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it seems to me that you have a fairly young government in the Palestinian territories. This is a big change from the former Palestinian leadership, which did not take seriously democracy or transparency or accountability or fighting terror. And you do now have a government that I think is trying to do those things.

But like any young government that's just developing the institutions, it's hard. It's why it's important for Israel to do everything that it can to support these developments, to give a chance to a leader who went to the polls, went to the Palestinian people and said, elect me on a platform that says I want a peace with Israel. And 60-plus percent of the Palestinian people responded positively to that.

I don't believe that any Palestinian parent really wants the future of his or her children to be to strap on a suicide bomb and blow up innocent Israelis. I don't think that's the future that people see for their children.

QUESTION: Madame, you yourself stated a few times that Hamas is a terror organization. But is it logical that such an armed organization that fired Kassam rockets on Israel, that called for the dismantling of the State of Israel, will participate in Palestinian elections? Is this the type of democracy that you are trying to promote in this region?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, our policies towards Hamas have not changed and we continue to say it's a terrorist organization, to work on that basis. As to what happens in the elections, the Palestinians have to decide the rules for their own elections.

But again, because I believe the Palestinian people will respond to a platform that is against corruption, that is in favor of economic development, that is in favor of a peaceful environment with Israel in which that can take place, I believe that you'll find those are the candidates that will be most attractive to the Palestinian people.

But the Palestinian Authority has to do a lot to fight corruption. It did not have a reputation for being against corruption. And that is in the minds of the Palestinian people. So it is ever more important, even more important, for the Palestinians to fight corruption and show that they can lead in a different way.

QUESTION: I know that the American position is that the Palestinian Authority should disarm terror groups. Is there a reason that you didn't focus on that demand on your trip?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we've talked about that repeatedly with the Palestinian leadership. And, in fact, I've said it again this time.

But this trip was to focus on the very important process of disengagement. If disengagement can work well, it really does have a chance to build some confidence and trust in the parties and then to be able to perhaps even accelerate progress on the roadmap, which, after all, both sides agree is a reliable guide to getting to a two-state solution. So this trip was very specially and specifically focused on the Gaza disengagement.

QUESTION: You know that the Foreign Minister of China is supposed to come here. Maybe this is an opportunity to solve the bitter crisis between the Pentagon and the Defense Ministry?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I know that the Defense Ministry and the Pentagon are working to resolve this issue. We've made our concerns known to the Israeli Government. In fact, I talked with Defense Minister Mofaz last night. He assures me that Israel fundamentally understands why military buildup of the Chinese is of concern to us. After all, we defend in the Pacific. Why we are particularly concerned when there are -- might be transfers of sensitive equipment, when we have a close defense cooperation, as we do with Israel.

And so I am quite certain that, with effort and good will, we can resolve this issue.

QUESTION: Is it personal? Did you really demand that Israel will fire two official (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: The issue is to deal with the problem and to deal with our concerns. And I'm quite certain we'll find a way to deal with those.

QUESTION: There is not such an American demand?

SECRETARY RICE: The issue for us is to get a solution to this problem.

QUESTION: Did you ask Israel to give weapons to the Palestinians?

SECRETARY RICE: No. We did talk about the fact that General Ward is putting together a plan based on his assessment of what the Palestinians need. When he has made an assessment of what the Palestinians need, then I think he will go both to the Palestinians and to the Israelis and to the Egyptians and to others and to say, here is how we move forward on equipping the Palestinian forces. Because everybody needs to have capable Palestinian forces that are professional, that are under one command, and that can do the job of securing Palestinians as well as helping in the security of Israel.

QUESTION: With your permission, last question. How do you view the days following the disengagement from Gaza? What does the American Administration expect from Gaza following disengagement? Is there an expectation that it will become a mini-democratic Palestine, Palestinian state there?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, what we hope after Gaza is done is that several conditions will have been met. First of all, that there would be greater trust and confidence between the parties, because they will have worked together on this project. And if goes as we hope it will, peacefully, orderly, then you have a much different relationship between the parties.

Secondly, that you will have more capable Palestinian security forces that have demonstrated that they can work in a coordinated fashion with Israel.

Third, that you will have stronger political and economic institutions, as well as a viable economic future for the Palestinian people, so the Palestinian people can begin to see that their own authorities can govern and give them a better life.

And, finally, with that renewed confidence, we can look again at how to move forward on the roadmap which, after all, is the way -- is the horizon for how we get to a two-state solution.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary Rice, thank you very much for this interview.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.


Released on June 19, 2005

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