Interview: Rice With Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
November 13, 2007
Interview With the Jewish Telegraphic Agency
QUESTION: We've seen reports that it looks like now the Annapolis meeting is going to be a day. That's what's being reported.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, let's wait to -- first, to call it; and secondly, to invite people; and then to schedule it.
QUESTION: So it's not even safe to say that it's definitely happening?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, it's going to happen.
SECRETARY RICE: But look, we'll look at the scheduling for it. I don't expect it to be going on for several days, most certainly.
SECRETARY RICE: It's, after all, an opportunity to launch a process, not to try and conclude it at Annapolis.
QUESTION: So now, (inaudible). How -- do you have a sense of now what you're hoping to get out of it?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that when Prime Minister Olmert spoke to the Saban Forum a couple of days -- a couple of weeks ago, a week ago -- it only seems like longer -- that he made the clearest indication of how that meeting can be used, which is to -- I think he said use it as a springboard to launch continuous, ongoing negotiations toward the establishment of a two-state solution. And so that's what I expect it to do.
QUESTION: What would be the implications if the Saudis do not participate?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, again, I don't want to speculate about participation. It's obviously very important that all key actors at this point look at what they can do to support the bilateral track that Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas have undertaken.
QUESTION: So you said it would definitely happen. It's not definite yet that the Saudis will be there?
SECRETARY RICE: We haven't sent any invitations, so we haven't expected any answers.
QUESTION: Okay. Iran is obviously an issue you spend a lot of time on (inaudible) great deal of importance. There is a debate in the international community to some degree about whether there's a red line of Iranian nuclear know-how versus capability. We noticed at JTA last month that the President had a quote where he said, "So I told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." Does the President believe that nuclear know-how is the red line with Iran?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, let's not take the President's remarks out of context. I think what the President was speaking to here is the kind of instability one would face if you had an Iran capable at any time that it wished of making a nuclear weapon. And that's the issue. The issue is not what is a red line for us or what is a red line for someone else. The issue is what kind of Middle East do you want to see. And an Iran that has reached the kind of capability that would allow it to make a nuclear weapon would certainly make it a very unstable Middle East.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on his quote, does the President think that know-how is the line that some --
SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me just speak to what the international community has told Iran, which is that it needs to stop enriching and reprocessing, and start negotiations. Now, why is it focused on stopping enrichment and reprocessing? Because you can have a civil nuclear program and not enrich and reprocess yourself. The Russians have offered the Iranians a deal about how to do a fuel take-back, fuel provision to a reactor and take it back. The President has talked about this. Mohamed ElBaradei has talked about this. So you can have a civil nuclear program and not enrich and reprocess. That's what the international community is saying to Iran.
Now, if you have enrichment and reprocessing capability, at some point you get to the point -- and it's, by the way, a complicated process, not so easy. When you get to the point that you can enrich and enrich and enrich to the point that you can get to high enough grades of material fuel to have a nuclear weapon. And so, in effect, the international community's strategy has been to prevent Iran from getting to that stage.
QUESTION: I would say even amongst people who are inclined to support a two-state solution in the Jewish community, the biggest criticism we've been hearing, or concern about the upcoming conference, is that given the large gap between Israeli and Palestinians' positions and expectations that there's a real fear that, like in 2000, some sort of -- the perception of a failed meeting actually runs a risk of launching a new wave of violence that would create a situation that's worse than the current status quo. What do you say to those people?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, first, I've been out there. I've been talking to the parties a lot. I think their views of what Annapolis can do are converging. And I think this focuses much more now on the day after, as Foreign Minister Livni had called it, because the day after is really when you have to get down to the business of trying to come to an agreement.
They're not going to create the Palestinian state at Annapolis. They're not going to create it four days after Annapolis. That is work that has to be done in detailed, ongoing, continuous negotiations. And so Annapolis is for the parties to come together, to have the international community launch them, to have an opportunity for Prime Minister Blair to talk about what he is doing to build the capacity of Palestinians so that they could govern a state, I would hope for the Arabs to make clear that they are prepared to both support the Palestinians and to reach out to the Israelis, and to have some confidence-building measures that are based on phase one obligations of the roadmap to show that this is all serious. I think that's where we are converging.
Now, there was an earlier time when there was a question about whether their joint document was going to try to have the basics of the deal. I think it's not surprising that when people recognize that there's going to be a day after, they start to focus on the day after, not the day of.
QUESTION: But do you -- but in terms specifically of the concern that some sort of perception of failure could actually trigger violence, do you think that that's -- or destabilize the situation for President Abbas? I mean, do you think that is a legitimate concern?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, no one can afford failure here. I've said failure isn't an option. But not acting is failure in these circumstances because not acting when you have a Palestinian partner who is dedicated against violence and against terrorism and who's struggling against an alternative view for the Palestinians, not acting I think has much, much more significant risk than acting.
QUESTION: Right. You've mentioned pretty firmly Israeli perspectives during this discussion, but also saying there's a convergence. Is your sense that the Arab parties and the Palestinians are now accepting Olmert's view of what this conference needs to be?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I heard President Abbas talking about the launch of negotiations. I think we still have some work to do in terms of how do you characterize those negotiations. But it's no secret to anyone that the key here at Annapolis is that once Annapolis is over they need -- the parties need to have the sense from the international community that they are going to be supported through what is going to be a difficult process of coming to a two-state solution. They're going to have to resolve a lot of issues that are historic, a lot of issues that have not ever been resolved before, a lot of issues about which they have barely talked for the last six years. And so I think people know that that's going to be hard.
I do think that there is some hope on both sides that there will be some fulfillment of roadmap phase one obligations so that the parties know that they're both serious.
QUESTION: One of those obligations is on -- the Palestinians cite often as the settlement issue. And I wanted to know if -- have you -- what kind of efforts from the Israelis have you gotten on that issue and are you satisfied with Israel's cooperation?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, American -- the American position on this is clear, which is the roadmap position that settlement activity is not consistent with the roadmap. And what I've heard the -- but I -- but there are a lot of other elements of the roadmap as well, including for the Palestinians to dismantle the infrastructure of terror.
Now, frankly, some of the things that they've done recently in terms of the closing down of charities, the freezing of bank accounts -- this is a very good start. The security operations that are going on in Nablus are a good start. So both sides are going to need to carry out their obligations, and the United States will be pressing both.
QUESTION: Okay. One question sort of off the foreign policy situation. For our community, the AIPAC trial, the trial of the two foreign AIPAC staffers, is of great interest for a variety of reasons. And I guess my question for you is do you plan to resist the subpoena to testify at their trial or to cooperate and appear?
SECRETARY RICE: Look, I'm not going to comment on a legal matter. Obviously, I always cooperate with our legal system, but I'm not going to comment on the specifics of the case.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you, Madame Secretary.
SECRETARY RICE: Great, thank you.