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Condoleezza Rice Briefing En Route to Jerusalem

Briefing En Route to Jerusalem

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
November 13, 2005

SECRETARY RICE: Headed to Israel, and tonight I'll have an opportunity to address the Saban Forum. It's a very well known organization that I think does very useful work in bringing together people to discuss issues of importance. And obviously, a lot of the focus is on the tenth anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's death.

And my speech tonight will, first of all, obviously, honor the memory of Yitzhak Rabin, who everyone remembers as an Israeli patriot and a man of peace. I will talk about the changed context in the Middle East since, really, over the last just two years; about the decision of Libya to forego its weapons of mass destruction programs, about the changes that have taken place in Iraq; about the changes that are taking place in Lebanon, where Syria has withdrawn after 30 years of occupation; about the important but still tentative steps toward reform that are being taken in Saudi Arabia, in Egypt, the holding of multiparty elections there and, of course, the granting of the franchise to women in Kuwait.

And the point of going through this litany is to again demonstrate for people that the change in the Middle East is really quite rapid. We're talking about changes, these changes have taken place essentially in the last two years and that's really the blink of an eyelash in historical -- in terms of history.

I'm also going to note that there have been some very important changes in the way that people think about important issues in the Middle East, that it's no longer acceptable to talk about justification for the killing of innocents, no matter what the cause; that there is no longer an attempt to justify terrorism in terms of religious beliefs or in terms of a cause, but rather that terrorism is roundly condemned; that the importance of the discussion of democracy and changes and reform in the Middle East has really taken flight; that obviously there are hard issues but people are -- have a different view of these changes. I think you hear less and less that somehow these things are not right for the Middle East, that somehow the Middle East is a zone that is free of the aspirations of people for democracy and rights.

I look forward to having an opportunity to give this speech. I will obviously touch on, not in great detail, but the importance of the changed environment concerning the Israeli-Palestinian issue as well; that the President in 2002 recognized that the Palestinian people needed to start to build a democratic future; that they are still trying to overcome years of corruption and years of leadership that did not fulfill their democratic aspirations but chose to extend its political power instead, but that they are trying to overcome that; and that it is important for Israel's security, where the conversation is also different about what constitutes Israel's security, recognition that a Palestinian state would indeed enhance Israeli security. And I will, of course, take note of and honor Prime Minister Sharon's vision that led to the disengagement which still gives us a chance to accelerate progress on the roadmap.

So that's the nature of the speech. It really is to remind people how different the Middle East is now than it was two years ago or three years ago and certainly how different it was at the time that Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY RICE: The question was about Labwani in Syria and the fact that charges have been brought against him.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it tells us that Syria is not a place in which freedoms have yet taken hold. It tells us that the Syrian Government is again out of step with the region. And it tells us that this man who came to Europe, came to the United States to talk about a better future for his people, is being punished and accused by the Syrian Government rather than embraced for what change he could bring.

It's why I mentioned yesterday the aspirations of the Syrian people. We were sitting in a room talking about political participation and empowerment of women and freedom of the press and the role of civil society and nongovernmental organizations, and I thought it was very important to say to the Syrian people that they were not forgotten in that discussion.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think I protested in public yesterday and I hope the Syrians were listening.

QUESTION: One more?

SECRETARY RICE: Okay, I'll take (inaudible).

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, can you set up for us a bit your talks? What do you expect from the Israelis? What do you expect from the Palestinians? And just one further question on that. We have heard a lot of talk about the need for the Palestinians to crack down on the militants and end the violence there. We heard a lot less about the need of the Israelis to stop targeted killings. Is that going to be part of your discourse?

SECRETARY RICE: The need to stop the -- to deal with the infrastructure of terrorism is a roadmap obligation, and the reason it's a roadmap obligation is that everybody recognizes that you cannot build a democratic state and a foundation for peace when you have organizations that remain armed and constantly reserve the means to destroy that foundation for peace. And so that's why there is so much focus on the terrorism point. And I might just note that Abu Mazen himself very often talks about one authority and one gun.

With the Israelis we have been very clear that the important thing is to understand and to always be cognizant of the consequences of whatever they do. But the Israelis have very important roadmap obligations and we will talk to them about that, too. Tonight I will use the phrase which I think encompasses all of that, which is that Israel should do nothing to try and prejudge final status or the outlines of a final settlement.

But the parties have been -- have now had the habit of cooperation in the Gaza withdrawal and it's our hope that they're going to continue to build on that.

Anne, you'll get the last question.

QUESTION: Thank you. I wanted to go back to Syria for a minute. How -- you sounded today that you really aren't taking their efforts at this point very seriously. How long do they have until they have to get serious and what is your next step if they don't?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we will take our cues from Mr. Mehlis, the investigator, because the UN Security Council resolution was to assist him in his efforts to get full cooperation for the investigation. And so I assume that if he needs further help or support from the UN Security Council, that he will say so.

In any case, there will be a report by December 15th because that is when the current mandate of the investigating commission runs out. But I think if you read very carefully the Security Council resolution, it made very clear that Syria was to cooperate and that Mr. Mehlis could come back at any time for further help if he needed it.

So, you know, we don't have deadlines. None of us can follow closely enough his discussions with the Syrians to determine how it's going. But I would state that from the outside it looks like the Syrians have a ways to go to cooperate. All right, thank you.




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