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Rice At US-Palestinian Public-Private Partnership


Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC

Remarks At The U.S.-palestinian Public-private Partnership Promoting Economic And Educational Opportunities For
the Palestinian People

SECRETARY RICE: Well, thank you very much. I'm going to just say a few words and then I think we should have a little time for discussion. We have little time, because I'm going to take the co-chairs over to meet the President in a little while and so we don't want to be late for the President. But I just wanted to stop by and say a few words.

Thank you, Henrietta, for your work and for the introduction and thanks to Walter for the Aspen Institute's hosting of this event, for agreeing to support this public-private partnership that is going to be very important to our efforts at peace. I want to thank the co-chairs who are seated here and are going to do a lot of the work. It's great to have the public-private partnerships because this is something that, of course, the government cannot do alone.

Last week in Annapolis, the parties, Israelis and Palestinians, agreed to launch negotiations to establish a Palestinian state and to achieve a peace treaty by the end of the year -- by the end of 2008. Now is that ambitious? Yes, of course, that is ambitious. And is the work going to be difficult? Yes, the work is going to be very difficult. But I believe the goal is achievable, President Bush believes that the goal is achievable, and perhaps most importantly, the parties believe that the goal is achievable.

We are all fully invested in this effort. It's a real opportunity to achieve the goal that President Bush first laid out of two democratic states living side by side in peace and security. And in fact, I've been asked, is this really the time for something like this. Well, if you wait for the perfect time in the Middle East, it's never going to come. There are always complications in the Middle East. But I believe that there are a few things that we have going for us.

Most Israelis now believe that a responsible Palestinian state is in the national interest of Israel and that true security will require an end to the occupation that began in 1967. Most Palestinians now believe that Israel will always be its neighbor and that no Palestinian state will be born through violence. And for most Arab states, the question now is not whether Israel is going to exist, but on what terms to make peace with Israel.

Most of the international community is now constructively engaged as well, supporting a two-state solution. These are conditions that have helped to make Annapolis a success and, I believe, conditions that we can carry forward to support the parties as they conclude their negotiations. For the first time in nearly seven years, the parties are discussing the core issues between them, borders and refugees and security and water and settlements and Jerusalem. This is essential for peace, but it's not sufficient. What are also needed are real improvements in conditions on the ground for both parties. Israelis need to see that a future state of Palestine will be a source of their security, not a threat to it. And that means the Palestinian Authority must be able to meet its responsibilities to fight terrorism and to enforce law among Palestinians.

At the same time, Palestinians need to see that the state that they're working toward will bring real opportunity for a better life, for social and economic development, and for security for Palestinians. That means that Israel must meet its obligation to ensure that a Palestinian state will be viable and independent. That is why it is important that the parties recommitted fully to the implementation of the roadmap.

Now to support this decision, the United States is going to play a unique role. The parties have asked us to monitor and judge the progress in meeting their roadmap commitments and we are going to do so. And we're launching a new and comprehensive effort to lay the foundations of security upon which any peace agreement must rest. And last week, I asked General Jones, General Jim Jones to lead this important part of the initiative. So we have a new effort to improve security, we have new political negotiations between the parties to outline the contours of a Palestinian state and a peace agreement. And the third crucial component of this is economic and social development for the Palestinian people.

Last week at Annapolis, Prime Minister Fayyad shared the ambitious reform and development agenda that he is working to advance. He and former Prime Minister Tony Blair -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair are working closely together to illicit the necessary support of the international community. And we will have an upcoming donors conference in Paris that will be essential for getting the Palestinian Government and the Palestinian people the resources that they need.

The United States is making an unprecedented effort to increase opportunity for Palestinians. Last month, as we blocked funds to Hamas, our financial assistance to the Palestinian people actually increased. And for the next fiscal year, we have asked Congress to approve $400 million in economic support for the Palestinian Government and its people. This is all important, but as I said, the government can only do so much. Our reach is only so far. The peace and security that we seek in the Middle East requires the active engagement of private citizens, civil society groups, and the business community. And that is where each and every one of you can make a real impact through this new public-private partnership. Focusing this partnership on projects that reach young Palestinians directly, that prepare them for responsibilities of citizenship and leadership can have an enormous, positive impact.

I want to demonstrate that America writ large, not just the government, but our entire nation and our citizenry will welcome the Palestinian people into the community of nations and will help them to develop a stake in the global economy. Mobilizing investment and generating jobs will be key to the success of this initiative. I know that Walter and the Mid East strategy group have been developing ambitious framework designs to support these goals. I understand that the framework that you've been discussing today is a point of departure designed to elicit your ideas, your assessment of what will work, and what it will take to realize these goals. I look forward to hearing the results of your deliberations and I'm sure that Tony and Walter will keep me well-informed.

And again, I want to appreciate the willingness of Sandy Weill and Jean Case and Lester Crown and Ziad Asali to chair this -- co-chair this initiative. Their ideas and their leadership will obviously be very important to making all of this succeed. I want to thank, especially, Her Excellency Tahana Abu Daka, who I met in -- when I was with the Palestinian Government, for being here today and lending her ideas and her experience to this initiative.

Now I know that many of you have pursued these goals before and I know that sometimes they have vanished into what must have seemed like despair. I know that you're wondering why this time is different. We've all waited a long time to see the peace between Israel and the Palestinians that is long overdue. What I can do is to pledge to you the 100 percent commitment of the President and of myself to helping the parties finally end the conflict, to end the occupation and to make peace.

After all, Palestinians have waited too long for the dignity that will come with their own state and Israelis have waited too long to have a neighbor who can live with them in peace and security. And so with that great and noble cause before us, I hope that we will find the wisdom and the judgment and the courage to put behind us all the failed efforts of the past and to look only to a successful future. Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: So we're going to take a few questions. But first I want to express from all of us the great success at Annapolis. It's been a year and a half, I think, since you and Tzipi Livni and all said, were going to make this work, and it built up. And congratulations because Annapolis is a start of something new. So thank you very much.

Yes, Odey (ph). Or do you want to call on people?

SECRETARY RICE: No, no. Why don't you.

MODERATOR: Okay. Odey (ph). Yeah.

QUESTION: Certainly, Dr. Rice, thank you for your efforts. At the moment and we have to deal with the (inaudible) economics is key, but the thing we can do best to improve the situation is to (inaudible) to the Palestinian refugees. We need to do something right now to give them better homes, to give them better jobs, to create opportunities for them. What are we doing about it?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes.

MODERATOR: That's a good question.

SECRETARY RICE: That's a very good question. And obviously the plight of the refugees is of great concern. I sincerely hope that there will be a Palestinian state that will be an answer in part to this question. But I think in the meantime, we have been very involved with the United Nations in trying to help with the humanitarian needs of refugees. But you're talking about something different. You're talking about giving them the prospect of economic opportunity, of a real life beyond just living in camps. And I think it is something that perhaps should be raised -- I will raise with the Palestinian Government. I think it is something that can be raised with the region in places where refugees actually are.

The Canadian Foreign minister said to me that Canada, of course, has a historic role coming out of Madrid in playing on refugee issues and that Canada is prepared to think about what more the international community might be able to do for refugee support. And I'm going to be in touch with him to do precisely that. But you're right, these are people who've lived under the most extraordinarily trying circumstances -- circumstances that can only breed despair and violence, frankly. And so -- an early effort on refugees is a very good idea.

MODERATOR: Let me have Ziyad (ph) there.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, it's such a pleasure to see you again. And thank you very much for what you've been doing and what you have actually done already. So I know the people in Palestine are watching what you have been doing and admiring it. And we look forward for the unfolding of the events over the course of the next year. One thing that we have over the years been faced with is the continued frustration of hopes -- of aspirations unfulfilled. And this goes now for this present process, the Palestinians come from (inaudible), they just want to be sure. So what I think -- what we need to do is an assurance from you that things are going to change on the ground in the foreseeable future as the political process takes place.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, yes. Well, thank you. And I think you're absolutely right. We have had cycles and cycles of hopelessness and dashed hopes. And it's going to be important to have some early progress. And I see early progress potentially coming in three areas. One is that we're going to have a donors conference on the 17th. This is an opportunity for the international community to signal very strongly that it intends to make sure that the resources are there for the Palestinian Government under Salam Fayyad to provide for the Palestinian people and to begin to provide a framework in which economic development can flourish. It's going to take flat support of budgets for a while because there really isn't a functioning Palestinian economy. And I think we all understand that. And so finding a way to help the government just function for a while has been a very strong preoccupation of mine. We're going to go to Paris and I think that's going to be an important signal. That's the first important step.

The second is I remember speaking to Minister Abu Daka and when I was in Ramallah not too long ago, and we talked about even small projects that are quick acting projects. And I know that Minister Fayyad and the government have put together -- and I believe it's 150 or so -- short-term projects that would show immediately to people. You know, one of the things that's happened, for instance, is the Palestinian Authority's security forces have taken control of security in Nabulus. This is a very good signal that you're going to have a functioning government. Well, if you have some of those on the economic and social development side early, too, then it will start to feel like a government that is really functioning on behalf of the people. So the second is to have some quick acting projects.

The third is -- and this is where you come in. I hope that we will also have -- I know you're thinking about a business development conference and the like. I would love to see very soon and here it will take the help of the Israelis, but I know that Defense Minister Barak and Salam Fayyad are meeting frequently to talk about it, to be able to identify some places that business development is going to take place. And you know, can you imagine a sign that says, you know, we need 500 workers, we need 1,000 workers. And if you have that kind of development early on, it's going to be great when the Palestinian economy is self-sustaining. But right now it needs jobs and it needs the very clear indication that jobs are coming. So in those three areas, I would hope that we would have some early wins.

MODERATOR: I think I just heard you volunteer to be a keynoter at our business development conference to which, thank you.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Secretary Rice, one of the most encouraging things about Annapolis was the (inaudible) commitment to strike an agreement within a year, which (inaudible) brave and courageous leadership. And we're very concerned about trying to not lose that window of opportunity. The red lines from each side are pretty clear both, and what's normally said is that they're not incompatible with the red lines of the other side. So it's just about sitting down and just striking an agreement (inaudible). What can we in the private sector, individual sector and the civil society and the citizens do to make sure that we really do try to accomplish an agreement within that year frame?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, let me start with what I think the broader community can do. And part of that is supporting leaders who have taken this broad -- this bold choice. And I know that there's a lot of skepticism and so forth. But you know, skepticism doesn't get you anything but skepticism. That's what it buys you. (Applause.)

Sometimes you have to, against all odds, be optimistic. And I would say to populations and to citizens and to the international community as a whole, this time let's try and give a sense of optimism to these leaders who have taken these bold steps.

It is going to require, and I see -- I know there are several members of the Diplomatic Corps, but I particularly see the Ambassador of Egypt is here. And Egypt was extremely helpful in the run-up to Annapolis in helping us, as was Jordan and others.

What we need to do is to say to the leaders, if you make difficult choices for peace, you are going to be supported, not criticized. People are not going to nitpick and say, well, you, Ehud Olmert, you gave up a little bit more here than you should have or you, Abu Mazen, you gave up a little bit more here than you should have. If people are willing to make tough choices -- everybody is going to have to compromise. Look, there's a reason that we haven't had an agreement. And some of it has to do with unrealistic aspirations that at the last moment crashed past efforts to make agreements. That's going to require at some point people saying, all right, these leaders have made realistic compromises and we're going to support those realistic compromises.

I do think that the time that President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert spent in their discussions on the so-called political horizon have given them a pretty good sense that there is a place that everybody could land here. And I think that's why they eventually decided to move to actual negotiations. I will tell you that two months ago, maybe even six months ago, I did not think that they were going to actually launch negotiations. I hoped they would, but I didn't think that that's where they were going. I think it's only because they've had these conversations about some of the most difficult issues that they have a feel for where the other side is. But it's going to take persistence and, again, it's going to take the -- it's going to take the international community not nay saying everything that they do. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: Thank you. Sabre (inaudible).

QUESTION: Hi, Madame Secretary. Thank you for a passionate speech (inaudible). I appreciate what you say, but I would like you to consider the case of Gaza closure. It's fighting the people of Gaza. I'm not sure if it's fighting Hamas. Four people -- four cancer cases have died over the last three weeks. Six thousand students have not been able to rejoin their universities. Seven hundred has (inaudible) bus through Rafah crossing today (inaudible). So basically (inaudible). Maybe you ought to push the Israeli cabinet to reconsider its position with regards to (inaudible) and Gaza.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Well, let me just say on Gaza we've been very concerned that the humanitarian circumstances in Gaza be addressed. And I consider humanitarian to be a broad concept of humanitarian, and I think we need to look at that and keep pressing because we don't want innocent people in Gaza to suffer. Hamas did a very, very bad thing, something that is clearly illegal under the Palestinian code. And for that, they have been properly isolated and properly criticized. But we don't want innocent people to be affected and the United States is looking very hard at what it can do. And of course, we're speaking frequently with the Israelis and with others who have responsibilities in and around Gaza.

Yes, maybe last question?

MODERATOR: Last question, please. Oh yes, in the way back. I'm sorry, I couldn't see with that light.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

SECRETARY RICE: I think, look, the complications of trying to deal with the free trade agreement and the QIZs, the Qualified Industrial Zones, related to the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis is, in fact, a very, very complicated one. I am hopeful that there is some more regional solution even that may be possible to deal with some of these questions of movements of goods.

But what we've been trying to do is to give -- by creating the political framework now so that everybody knows that we're moving towards statehood, I do believe that some of the issues that we've been unable to deal with in the context absent a move toward a more normal circumstance, that people may now be willing to address them in that way. I mean, I think part of the problem with not having actual political negotiations has been that we've been trying to solve specific problems on the ground without what I would call a normal context to point to it. And hopefully, the beginnings of political negotiations will begin to establish that we're going toward a normal context, and then people can look at what makes sense in that normal context.

All right, thank you. No, I understand. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Madame Secretary.

(Applause.)

2007/1084
Released on December 3, 2007

ENDS

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