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Statements by Obama, Clinton, Netanyahu and Abbas on the Two-State Solution

Statements on the Two-State Solution by:

President Obama
Secretary of State Clinton
Prime Minister Netanyahu
President Abbas

President Obama's Statement at State Department 1-22-09

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/22/AR2009012202550.html

Quote:

It will be the policy of my administration to actively and aggressively seek a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as Israel and its Arab neighbors. To help us pursue these goals, Secretary Clinton and I have asked George Mitchell to serve as special envoy for Middle East peace.

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President Obama's speech to the UN General Assembly

September 23, 2009

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-President-to-the-United-Nations-General-Assembly

Quote:

I will also continue to seek a just and lasting peace between Israel, Palestine, and the Arab world. (Applause.) We will continue to work on that issue. Yesterday, I had a constructive meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas. We have made some progress. Palestinians have strengthened their efforts on security. Israelis have facilitated greater freedom of movement for the Palestinians. As a result of these efforts on both sides, the economy in the West Bank has begun to grow. But more progress is needed. We continue to call on Palestinians to end incitement against Israel, and we continue to emphasize that America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. (Applause.)

The time has come -- the time has come to re-launch negotiations without preconditions that address the permanent status issues: security for Israelis and Palestinians, borders, refugees, and Jerusalem. And the goal is clear: Two states living side by side in peace and security -- a Jewish state of Israel, with true security for all Israelis; and a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967, and realizes the potential of the Palestinian people. (Applause.)

As we pursue this goal, we will also pursue peace between Israel and Lebanon, Israel and Syria, and a broader peace between Israel and its many neighbors. In pursuit of that goal, we will develop regional initiatives with multilateral participation, alongside bilateral negotiations.

Now, I am not naive. I know this will be difficult. But all of us -- not just the Israelis and the Palestinians, but all of us -- must decide whether we are serious about peace, or whether we will only lend it lip service. To break the old patterns, to break the cycle of insecurity and despair, all of us must say publicly what we would acknowledge in private. The United States does Israel no favors when we fail to couple an unwavering commitment to its security with an insistence that Israel respect the legitimate claims and rights of the Palestinians. (Applause.) And -- and nations within this body do the Palestinians no favors when they choose vitriolic attacks against Israel over constructive willingness to recognize Israel's legitimacy and its right to exist in peace and security. (Applause.)

We must remember that the greatest price of this conflict is not paid by us. It's not paid by politicians. It's paid by the Israeli girl in Sderot who closes her eyes in fear that a rocket will take her life in the middle of the night. It's paid for by the Palestinian boy in Gaza who has no clean water and no country to call his own. These are all God's children. And after all the politics and all the posturing, this is about the right of every human being to live with dignity and security. That is a lesson embedded in the three great faiths that call one small slice of Earth the Holy Land. And that is why, even though there will be setbacks and false starts and tough days, I will not waver in my pursuit of peace. (Applause.)

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Time Magazine Interview with President Obama
(excerpt)

http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1955072-1,00.html

January 21, 2010

Question: Why is that? My sense of it is that [U.S. special envoy to the Middle East George] Mitchell spent a number of months negotiating a settlement deal and saw some progress from the Israelis and kind of got blinded by that, because he didn't see that it wasn't sufficient progress for the Palestinians.

Answer: I'll be honest with you. A) This is just really hard. Even for a guy like George Mitchell, who helped bring about the peace in Northern Ireland. This is as intractable a problem as you get. B) Both sides -- the Israelis and the Palestinians -- have found that the political environment, the nature of their coalitions or the divisions within their societies, were such that it was very hard for them to start engaging in a meaningful conversation. And I think that we overestimated our ability to persuade them to do so when their politics ran contrary to that. From [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas' perspective, he's got Hamas looking over his shoulder and, I think, an environment generally within the Arab world that feels impatient with any process.

And on the Israeli front -- although the Israelis, I think, after a lot of time showed a willingness to make some modifications in their policies, they still found it very hard to move with any bold gestures. And so what we're going to have to do -- I think it is absolutely true that what we did this year didn't produce the kind of breakthrough that we wanted, and if we had anticipated some of these political problems on both sides earlier, we might not have raised expectations as high. Moving forward, though, we are going to continue to work with both parties to recognize what I think is ultimately their deep-seated interest in a two-state solution in which Israel is secure and the Palestinians have sovereignty and can start focusing on developing their economy and improving the lives of their children and grandchildren.

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President Obama News Conference in Germany

6-5-09

http://thepage.time.com/obama-remarks-at-presser-with-merkel/#


PRESIDENT OBAMA: With respect to confidence-building measures or next steps, again, I'm going to be sending George Mitchell back into the region next week. He's going to be meeting with all the various parties involved. I think I've said publicly and I repeated in the speech some things that are going to have to be done.

You know, a lot of attention has been given to my statement that the Israelis need to stop settlement construction, and I recognize that it's received a lot of attention in Israel, as well. Keep in mind that all I've done there is reaffirm commitments that the Israelis themselves had already made in the road map. And I recognize the very difficult politics within Israel of getting that done, and I'm very sympathetic to how hard it will be.

But as Israel's friend, the United States I think has an obligation to just be honest with that friend about how important it is to achieve a two-state solution -- for Israel's national security interests, as well as ours, as well as the Palestinians. And that's an area where steps can be taken.

They're not the only steps, by the way, that Israel can take and will need to take in order to advance movement towards peace. And I mentioned some of the other issues that I've discussed with Prime Minister Netanyahu's office, for example, increasing freedom of movement within the West Bank, dealing with the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and allowing reconstruction to proceed more aggressively.

What's been interesting is that less attention has been focused on the insistence on my part that the Palestinians and the Arab states have to take very concrete actions. When it comes to the Palestinians, we know what they're supposed to be doing. They have to continue to make progress on security in the West Bank.

They have to deal with incitement issues. There's still a tendency, even within -- among Palestinians who say they are interested in peace with Israel, to engage in statements that are -- that incite a hatred of Israel or are not constructive to the peace process. Now I think, to his credit, President Abbas has made progress on this issue -- but not enough.

We still have not seen a firm commitment from the Palestinian Authority that they can control some of the border areas that Israel is going to be very concerned about if there were to be a two-state solution. There are still problems of corruption and mismanagement within the Authority that have to be addressed.

So there are going to be a whole set of things having to do with the Palestinians' ability to govern effectively and maintain security. And if they're not solved, Israelis are going to have trouble moving forward.

And the Arab states, what I'd like to see is indicators that they are willing, if Israel makes tough commitments, to also make some hard choices that will allow for an opening of commerce, diplomatic exchanges between Israel and its neighbors.

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Israeli Settlement Growth Must Stop, Clinton Says

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/28/world/middleeast/28mideast.html

New York Times
May 28, 2009

By MARK LANDLER and ISABEL KERSHNER

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration reiterated emphatically on Wednesday that it viewed a complete freeze of construction in settlements on the West Bank as a critical step toward a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians.

Speaking of President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, "He wants to see a stop to settlements -- not some settlements, not outposts, not 'natural growth' exceptions." Talking to reporters after a meeting with the Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, she said: "That is our position. That is what we have communicated very clearly."

Mrs. Clinton's remarks, the administration's strongest to date on the matter, came as an Israeli official said Wednesday that the Israeli government wanted to reach an understanding with the Obama administration that would allow some new construction in West Bank settlements.


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US denies dropping demand for Israel settlement freeze

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1149956.html

Haaretz

Last update - 20:42 15/02/2010

By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent and Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday dismissed Palestinian claims that the Obama administration had rescinded on its demand for Israel to halt activity in West Bank settlements.

"Our position is that settlement activity is illegitimate, and that the final resolution of borders has to be worked out that will give both sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, the secure borders that they deserve to have," Clinton told Al Jazeera during a visit to Doha.

"It will be based, as I have said many times, on the 1967 lines, with the agreed swaps, and taking into account subsequent developments," she said. "Those are the very clear parameters that the United States believes that the parties should negotiate over.

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http://www.pmo.gov.il/PMOEng/Communication/EventsDiary/eventfreeze251109.htm


Statement by PM Netanyahu on the Cabinet Decision to Suspend New Construction in Judea and Samaria

Today, my cabinet authorized a policy of restraint regarding settlements which will include a suspension of new permits and new construction in Judea and Samaria for a period of ten months.

This is a far reaching and painful step. We authorized it because of our deep desire to move forward towards peace.

We hope that this decision will help launch meaningful negotiations to reach an historic peace agreement that will finally end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

We are committed to work closely with the United States to advance peace and security in our region.

We have been told by many of our friends that once Israel takes the first meaningful step towards peace, the Palestinians and the Arab world would respond in a positive virtual cycle for peace; it would be a cycle of goodwill.

Well, the government of Israel is taking a very big step towards peace today.

I hope that the Palestinians and the Arab world will seize this opportunity to work with us to forge a new beginning and a new future for our peoples, for our children and for theirs.

We have been calling to do this from the day that my government was sworn in eight months ago. I have called for direct negotiations with the Palestinians, and during that time, we have taken many concrete actions to improve the daily life of Palestinians and to create a climate in which political negotiations can proceed and have the best chance to succeed.

We have dismantled hundreds of roadblocks and checkpoints, extended the hours of operation on the Allenby Bridge and removed bureaucratic obstacles to Palestinian economic development.

There has a result to these actions. It is a surge, a boom, in the Palestinian economy. At the same time, the security environment has improved thanks to the Israeli Army and to our security forces, but also and importantly thanks to the efforts of the Palestinian security forces.

So we have an improvement of the economy, an improvement in security, and now we wish to add a movement towards peace. If we have this triangle: economy, security and peace, then peace can succeed.

I have already said that we will not build new settlements and that we would not expropriate additional land for existing settlements.

I said we would restrain settlement activity. That's exactly what we decided to do today.

I promised to enable normal life for the three hundred thousand Israeli citizens, our brothers and sisters, who live in Judea and Samaria.

That is why this suspension will not affect the construction already underway.

It will not include the schools, the kindergartens, the synagogues and public buildings necessary for the continuation of normal life over the period of the suspension.

Obviously, any infrastructure that may be needed to protect our national security or to safeguard the lives of our citizens will also be provided during this time.

Regarding Jerusalem, our sovereign capital, our position is well known. We do not put any restrictions on building in our sovereign capital.

As always, we are committed to protect the freedom of worship for all faiths and to ensure equal and fair treatment for all the city's residents, Jews and Arabs alike.

When the suspension ends, my government will revert to the policies of previous governments in relation to construction.

I want to say clearly to the Palestinians: Now is the time to begin negotiations. Now is the time to move forward towards peace. There is no more time to waste.

Israel today has taken a far reaching step towards peace. It's time for the Palestinians to do the same.

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http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1116884.html

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to the UN General Assembly 9-24-09

In 1947, this body voted to establish two states for two peoples -- a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews accepted that resolution. The Arabs rejected it.

We ask the Palestinians to finally do what they have refused to do for 62 years: Say yes to a Jewish state. Just as we are asked to recognize a nation-state for the Palestinian people, the Palestinians must be asked to recognize the nation state of the Jewish people. The Jewish people are not foreign conquerors in the Land of Israel. This is the land of our forefathers.

Inscribed on the walls outside this building is the great Biblical vision of peace: "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation. They shall learn war no more." These words were spoken by the Jewish prophet Isaiah 2,800 years ago as he walked in my country, in my city, in the hills of Judea and in the streets of Jerusalem.

We are not strangers to this land. It is our homeland. As deeply connected as we are to this land, we recognize that the Palestinians also live there and want a home of their own. We want to live side by side with them, two free peoples living in peace, prosperity and dignity.

But we must have security. The Palestinians should have all the powers to govern themselves except those handful of powers that could endanger Israel.

That is why a Palestinian state must be effectively demilitarized. We don't want another Gaza, another Iranian backed terror base abutting Jerusalem and perched on the hills a few kilometers from Tel Aviv.

We want peace.

I believe such a peace can be achieved. But only if we roll back the forces of terror, led by Iran, that seek to destroy peace, eliminate Israel and overthrow the world order. The question facing the international community is whether it is prepared to confront those forces or accommodate them.
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http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1092810.html


Excerpt of Netanyahu's foreign policy speech at Bar Ilan

6-14-09

I appeal to you, our Palestinian neighbors, and to the leadership of the Palestinian Authority. Let us begin peace negotiations immediately without prior conditions. Israel is committed to international agreements, and expects all sides to fulfill their obligations.

I say to the Palestinians: We want to live with you in peace, quiet, and good neighborly relations. We want our children and your children to 'know war no more.'

We do not want parents and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, to know the sorrow of bereavement. We want our children to dream of a better future for humankind. We want us and our neighbors to devote our efforts to 'plowshares and pruning hooks' and not to swords and spears. I know the terror of war, I participated in battles, I lost good friends who fell [in battle], I lost a brother. I saw the pain of bereaved families from up close -- very many times. I do not want war. No one in Israel wants war. (Applause)

Let us join hands and work together in peace, together with our neighbors. There is no limit to the flourishing growth that we can achieve for both peoples - in the economy, in agriculture, in commerce, tourism, education - but, above all, in the ability to give our younger generation hope to live in a place that's good to live in, a life of creative work, a peaceful life with much of interest, with opportunity and hope.

Friends, with the advantages of peace so clear, so obvious, we must ask ourselves why is peace still so far from us, even though our hands are extended for peace? Why has the conflict going on for over 60 years? To bring an end to it, there must be a sincere, genuine answer to the question: what is the root of the conflict? In his speech at the Zionist Congress in Basel, in speaking of his grand vision of a Jewish homeland for the Jewish People, Theodor Herzl, the visionary of the State of Israel, said: This is so big, we must talk about it only in the simplest words possible.

I now am asking that when we speak of the huge challenge of peace, we must use the simplest words possible, using person to person terms. Even with our eyes on the horizon, we must have our feet on the ground, firmly rooted in truth. The simple truth is that the root of the conflict has been -- and remains -- the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish People to its own state in its historical homeland.

In 1947 when the United Nations proposed the Partition Plan for a Jewish state and an Arab state, the entire Arab world rejected the proposal, while the Jewish community accepted it with great rejoicing and dancing. The Arabs refused any Jewish state whatsoever, with any borders whatsoever.

Whoever thinks that the continued hostility to Israel is a result of our forces in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is confusing cause and effect. The attacks on us began in the 1920s, became an overall attack in 1948 when the state was declared, continued in the 1950s with the fedaayyin attacks, and reached their climax in 1967 on the eve of the Six-Day War, with the attempt to strangle Israel. All this happened nearly 50 years before a single Israeli soldier went into Judea and Samaria.

To our joy, Egypt and Jordan left this circle of hostility. They signed peace agreements with us which ended their hostility to Israel. It brought about peace.

To our deep regret, this is not happening with the Palestinians. The closer we get to a peace agreement with them, the more they are distancing themselves from peace. They raise new demands. They are not showing us that they want to end the conflict.

A great many people are telling us that withdrawal is the key to peace with the Palestinians. But the fact is that all our withdrawals were met by huge waves of suicide bombers.

We tried withdrawal by agreement, withdrawal without an agreement, we tried partial withdrawal and full withdrawal. In 2000, and once again last year, the government of Israel, based on good will, tried a nearly complete withdrawal, in exchange for the end of the conflict, and were twice refused.

We withdrew from the Gaza Strip to the last centimeter, we uprooted dozens of settlements and turned thousands of Israelis out of their homes. In exchange, what we received were missiles raining down on our cities, our towns and our children. The argument that withdrawal would bring peace closer did not stand up to the test of reality.

With Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north, they keep on saying that they want to 'liberate' Ashkelon in the south and Haifa and Tiberias.

Even the moderates among the Palestinians are not ready to say the most simplest things: The State of Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish People and will remain so. (Applause)

Friends, in order to achieve peace, we need courage and integrity on the part of the leaders of both sides. I am speaking today with courage and honesty. We need courage and sincerity not only on the Israeli side: we need the Palestinian leadership to rise and say, simply "We have had enough of this conflict. We recognize the right of the Jewish People to a state its own in this Land. We will live side by side in true peace." I am looking forward to this moment.

We want them to say the simplest things, to our people and to their people. This will then open the door to solving other problems, no matter how difficult. The fundamental condition for ending the conflict is the public, binding and sincere Palestinian recognition of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish People. (Applause)

For this to have practical meaning, we need a clear agreement to solve the Palestinian refugee problem outside of the borders of the State of Israel. For it is clear to all that the demand to settle the Palestinian refugees inside of Israel, contradicts the continued existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish People. We must solve the problem of the Arab refugees. And I believe that it is possible to solve it. Because we have proven that we ourselves solved a similar problem. Tiny Israel took in the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab countries who were uprooted from their homes.

Therefore, justice and logic dictates that the problem of the Palestinian refugees must be solved outside the borders of the State of Israel. There is broad national agreement on this. (Applause)

I believe that with good will and international investment of we can solve this humanitarian problem once and for all.

Friends, up to now, I have been talking about the need for the Palestinians to recognize our rights. Now I will talk about the need for us to recognize their rights.

The connection of the Jewish People to the Land has been in existence for more than 3,500 years. Judea and Samaria, the places where our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob walked, our forefathers David, Solomon, Isaiah and Jeremiah -- this is not a foreign land, this is the Land of our Forefathers. (Applause)

The right of the Jewish People to a state in the Land of Israel does not arise from the series of disasters that befell the Jewish People over 2,000 years -- persecutions, expulsions, pogroms, blood libels, murders, which reached its climax in the Holocaust, an unprecedented tragedy in the history of nations. There are those who say that without the Holocaust the State would not have been established, but I say that if the State of Israel had been established in time, the Holocaust would not have taken place. (Applause) The tragedies that arose from the Jewish People's helplessness show very sharply that we need a protective state.

The right to establish our sovereign state here, in the Land of Israel, arises from one simple fact: Eretz Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish People. (Applause)

As the first PM David Ben Gurion in the declaration of the State, the State of Israel was established here in Eretz Israel, where the People of Israel created the Book of Books, and gave it to the world.

But, friends, we must state the whole truth here. The truth is that in the area of our homeland, in the heart of our Jewish Homeland, now lives a large population of Palestinians. We do not want to rule over them. We do not want to run their lives. We do not want to force our flag and our culture on them. In my vision of peace, there are two free peoples living side by side in this small land, with good neighborly relations and mutual respect, each with its flag, anthem and government, with neither one threatening its neighbor's security and existence.

These two facts -- our link to the Land of Israel, and the Palestinian population who live here, have created deep disagreements within Israeli society. But the truth is that we have much more unity than disagreement.

I came here tonight to talk about the agreement and security that are broad consensus within Israeli society. This is what guides our policy. This policy must take into account the international situation. We have to recognize international agreements but also principles important to the State of Israel. I spoke tonight about the first principle - recognition. Palestinians must truly recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. The second principle is demilitarization. Any area in Palestinian hands has to be demilitarization, with solid security measures. Without this condition, there is a real fear that there will be an armed Palestinian state which will become a terrorist base against Israel, as happened in Gaza. We do not want missiles on Petah Tikva, or Grads on the Ben-Gurion international airport. We want peace. (Applause)

And, to ensure peace we don't want them to bring in missiles or rockets or have an army, or control of airspace, or make treaties with countries like Iran, or Hizbullah. There is broad agreement on this in Israel. We cannot be expected to agree to a Palestinian state without ensuring that it is demilitarized. This is crucial to the existence of Israel -- we must provide for our security needs.

This is why we are now asking our friends in the international community, headed by the USA, for what is necessary for our security, that in any peace agreement, the Palestinian area must be demilitarized. No army, no control of air space. Real effective measures to prevent arms coming in, not what's going on now in Gaza. The Palestinians cannot make military treaties.

Without this, sooner or later, we will have another Hamastan. We can't agree to this. Israel must govern its own fate and security. I told President Obama in Washington, if we get a guarantee of demilitarization, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, we are ready to agree to a real peace agreement, a demilitarized Palestinian state side by side with the Jewish state. (Applause)

Whenever we discuss a permanent arrangement, Israel needs defensible borders with Jerusalem remaining the united capital of Israel. (Applause)

The territorial issues will be discussed in a permanent agreement. Till then we have no intention to build new settlements or set aside land for new settlements. But there is a need to have people live normal lives and let mothers and fathers raise their children like everyone in the world. The settlers are not enemies of peace. They are our brothers and sisters. (Applause)

Friends, unity among us is, to my view, vital, and unity will help with reconciliation with our neighbors. Reconciliation must begin now. A strong Palestinian government will strengthen peace. If they truly want peace, and educate their children for peace and stop incitement, we for our part will make every effort, allow them freedom of movement and accessibility, making their lives easier and this will help bring peace.

But above all, they must decide: the Palestinians must decide between path of peace and path of Hamas. They must overcome Hamas. Israel will not sit down at conference table with terrorist who seek to destroy it. (Applause)

Hamas are not willing to even let the Red Cross visit our abducted soldier Gilad Shalit who has been in captivity three years, cut off from his family and his country. We want to bring him back whole and well.

With help of the international community, there is no reason why we can't have peace. With help of USA, we can do we can do the unbelievable. In 61 years, with constant threats to our existence we have achieved so much. Our microchips power the worlds computers unbelievable, we have found cures for incurable diseases. Israeli drip irrigation waters barren lands throughout the world. Israeli researchers are making worldwide breakthroughs. If our neighbors only work for peace, we can achieve peace. (Applause)

I call upon Arab leaders and Palestinian leaders: Let's go in the path of Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein. Let's go in the path of Prophet Isaiah, who spoke thousands of years ago, they shall beat their swords into plowshares and know war no more.

Let us know war no more. Let us know peace
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http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/03/119991.htm

President Abbas and Secretary of State Clinton
Press Conference
Ramallah, West Bank
March 4, 2009

PRESIDENT ABBAS: (Via interpreter) In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, we welcome Mrs. Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of State, in her first visit to the Palestinian territories, and we thank her for the positions, the supporting positions towards the Palestinian question, and for what His Excellency President Obama has expressed and demonstrated in terms of such positions, particularly what happened during the Sharm el-Sheikh conference, which -- and the support to this vital conference for the reconstruction of the Palestinian territories in Gaza Strip.

And we also thank President Obama for this dynamism and for this vitality, and pushing the peace process forward, whether during the visit of Mrs. Clinton or during the visits of Mr. Mitchell to the region. And we have reiterated to Mrs. Clinton our insistence to move forward with the peace process according to the international legitimacy and the Roadmap plan and the two-state vision and our firm commitment towards that.

And we have also discussed the Palestinian national dialogue that has been taking place and continues to take place in Cairo, and about the formation of a Palestinian unity that abides by our obligations fully and works towards overseeing presidential and legislative elections in -- within -- no longer than the 24th of January 2010.

I believe that the time has become opportune now to put all the final status issues on the negotiation table, and also to conclude and finalize them and reach a final solution. And I'm talking about Jerusalem, the borders, refugees, water, security, and other issues, as well as the issue of prisoners, that we believe it is very important to release them all at the end of this process.

As we have also discussed, the Israeli Government -- the new Israeli Government -- and we have reiterated that we respect the choice of the Israeli people, and we respect the elections that took place in Israel. But we demand that the Israeli Government also commits itself to the Roadmap plan and the two-state vision and solution, and for the Israeli Government to work towards ending all settlement activities and lifting the checkpoints and end the settlement projects, particularly what is happening these days in E1 area, and the displacement that was decided in C1 area. These are issues that we cannot accept or tolerate. We have also stressed that we are waiting -- awaiting from President Obama's Administration and from the Quartet to work to push the two parties towards abiding by these commitments.

There's also another important issue that has taken place at Sharm el-Sheikh conference regarding the aid, the assistance that is going to be provided to the Palestinian people. But we have talked with Mrs. Clinton about the need to open the crossing points and the borders, and to lift the siege that is imposed upon our people in Gaza Strip and allow the humanitarian and basic needs to flow into Gaza Strip, because the Palestinian people are suffering a lot. And the time is passing by and people are suffering and in need, and that is not tolerated.

We reiterate again that we are committed to the complete and comprehensive and final solution that was described in the Roadmap plan, and we hope that peace can be concluded at all other tracks -- the Syrian track and the Lebanese track -- so that we have a comprehensive peace and genuine and just peace in the region. We also reiterate here that the Arab Peace Initiative that was endorsed by more than one Arab and Islamic summit would be ready for implementation, but we hope that no longer time passes by before we can implement it. And I -- we think that it is a sure opportunity and only opportunity for a peace to be achieved in the Middle East region and in the whole world.

Again, I'd like to welcome you, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, and I thank you for your visit.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, President Abbas. It is a pleasure and an honor to be back here and to have the opportunity to meet with you, a leader of courage and dedication to the Palestinian people. And I am very proud to stand beside President Abbas to deliver a message from my country and our President.


The United States supports the Palestinian Authority as the only legitimate government of the Palestinian people. And as a partner on the road to a comprehensive peace, which includes a two-state solution, our support comes with more than words. As I pledged in Sharm el-Sheikh, we will work with President Abbas, Prime Minister Fayyad, and the government of the Palestinian Authority to address critical humanitarian, budgetary, security, and infrastructure needs, both in Gaza and in the West Bank.

As I said in Sharm el-Sheikh, a child growing up in Gaza without shelter, healthcare or an education, has the same right to go to school, see a doctor, and live with a roof over her head as a child growing up in any country. That a mother and a father here in the West Bank, struggling to fulfill their dreams for their children, have the same right as parents anywhere else to have a good job, a decent home, and the tools to achieve greater prosperity.

The United States aims to foster conditions in which a Palestinian state can be fully realized, a state that can provide these opportunities, a state that is a responsible partner, is at peace with Israel and its Arab neighbors, and is accountable to its people. That is the state that this government is attempting to build.

I met with Prime Minister Fayyad this morning and I expressed to him the appreciation we had for his presentation at Sharm el-Sheikh, which outlined the specific needs of the people in Gaza.

I also believe that it is imperative we continue to do the reform work that the president is leading in order to bolster the credibility of the government and to serve the needs of the people.

I'm very grateful that President Abbas has remained firm in his commitment to move forward on a comprehensive peace and a two-state solution. President Abbas is offering the Palestinian people the chance, finally, to fulfill the aspirations to be free, independent, prosperous, and peaceful, flourishing in a state of your own. And the only way to achieve that goal is through negotiations. So all who believe in this comprehensive peace, we urge you to work with the Palestinian Authority and with us, because we are determined to move forward.

Time is of the essence. We cannot afford more delays or regrets about what might have been had different decisions been made in the past. The Obama Administration will be vigorously engaged in efforts to forge a lasting peace between Israel, the Palestinians, and all of the Arab neighbors. I will remain personally engaged. As I said in Sharm el-Sheikh, this is a commitment that I carry in my heart, not just in my portfolio as Secretary of State.

And Senator George Mitchell is the President's and my Special Envoy. As you know, he has been here already. He is here today. And he will return soon. We all know and respect that in the end, it is up to the parties themselves to make peace. We offer you our support, not just today, but for all the tomorrows to come until the goal is realized. We believe that you have begun to establish the base on which the comprehensive peace can be built. And we will encourage and support you as you continue to advance the cause of the Palestinian people.

Earlier today, I met with some young Palestinians, young men and women who are furthering their education, and I was very impressed. We talked about women, because it's Women's History Month, and then I answered questions. And they asked about what I admired when I was growing up and what their dreams were, and then I was interviewed by two young Palestinian broadcasters. And they asked me what I would say to a young woman living in a village outside of Ramallah who might be losing hope, who might believe that there is no future.

And what I would say to her is what I have said and will say to young people everywhere. There is never reason to give up hope. There are many obstacles and challenges that lie in the way of realizing dreams, whether it's individual dreams or the dreams of a people. But persevering, rethinking, regrouping, being committed will eventually result in the goal that we are seeking together.

So perhaps even more than the wonderful meeting that I had with President Abbas and the prior meeting with Prime Minister Fayyad, my meeting with those young Palestinians, Mr. President, made it very clear what is at stake and how important it is that we complete the journey we have begun. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Mr. President Abu Mazen, did Mrs. Clinton convey a letter or a message to you from President Obama about their strategy for ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? And did they -- did she convey a message from you -- from Olmert to you that -- or Netanyahu that you -- they are ready to solve the problem?

Mrs. Clinton, the peace process had started since the presidency of Bush, Sr. And are you going -- are you ready to do something tangible on the ground to end this conflict? The second part of this question: Netanyahu refuses a Palestinian state and he will have Lieberman on his government, and he was a member of Kach, a group that was considered at one time as a terrorist group. Are you going to deal with this government, this new Israeli Government?

PRESIDENT ABBAS: The message that we received and we received today from His Excellency President Obama is that he is committed fully to the peace process, and that he will exert all efforts in order to realize peace, and that he supports the Palestinian National Authority in all its efforts and provide support at all levels, and that he supports the Roadmap plan and the Arab Peace Initiative. This is what we've heard, yet every time we met, last time we heard that also from President Obama himself.

As for the Israeli prime minister, I believe that he is in a situation where he is forming his government. And so we might hear from him something that is clearer and straightforward after he forms this government and after he presents his program to -- for his people for their approval and after he presents his plans and his electoral program.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the president is right. The United States, through President Obama, is committed to a comprehensive peace, including a two-state solution. I have said that publicly. I have said that privately. There is no difference in any message that I am delivering in public or in private.

As the president also said, the Prime Minister-designate Netanyahu is forming his government. As soon as that government is formed, Senator Mitchell will return to begin meeting with that government. We are not waiting. We are moving forward. And we believe that there will be very constructive talks with the new Netanyahu government.

MR. WOOD: The next question is Glenn Kessler from The Washington Post.

QUESTION: Yes. Madame Secretary, Israel last week approved the demolition of 88 Palestinian homes in Jerusalem and, as you arrived, another 55 homes were slated for demolition, the largest number in one area since 1967. Will you, as James Baker did in 1991, urge a halt to such unilateral actions?

And President Abbas, what do you think of these demolitions, and has the U.S. been too silent on this issue?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Glenn, clearly, this kind of activity is unhelpful and not in keeping with the obligations entered into under the roadmap. It is an issue that we intend to raise with the government of Israel and the Government at the municipal level in Jerusalem, because it is clearly a matter of deep concern to those who are directly affected. But the ramifications go far beyond the individuals and the families that have received the notices you referenced. So yes, this will be taken up with the Israeli government.

PRESIDENT ABBAS: (Via interpreter) These measures that the Israeli Government has decided to go forward with are completely rejected and at all levels. And we believe that it is a clear message to us that whoever is undertaking these measures does not want peace. And therefore, the Israeli measures, we have told everyone and we've sent messages to everyone, to all concerned parties, that such measures are clear signals to us that they do not want peace.

And I've mentioned earlier in my speech that the Israeli Government -- the new Israeli Government -- should abide by the Roadmap obligations and the two-state solution and to end all activities related to settlement and activities and demolition of homes. Otherwise, we cannot consider -- they cannot consider themselves as partners in the peace process

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Mr. President, first of all, how do you view this attack launched against you by Iran, and particularly, the latest statements by the -- one of the senior spiritual leaders of Iran?

Mrs. Secretary of State, as we've heard from President Abbas, settlement is one of the main obstacles, but the American administrations in the past have promised but was unable to end the settlement activities. Are there new tools for the new American Administration to end these settlement activities?

PRESIDENT ABBAS: (Via interpreter) We tell the Iranians and all others that they should keep off our internal affairs and not interfere with our affairs. All these interferences are negative and do not serve the best interest of the Palestinian people or the Arab world. They should stop and refrain from all these kinds of interferences. But we even consider that such interferences are to obstruct and to put obstacles in the Palestinian national reconciliation process. And Iran nor Khamenei have the right to say such -- to make such statements, and we reject it utterly and completely.

Iran has to see its own affairs and manage its own affairs and stay away from interfering into the Palestinian affairs. They are interfering only to deepen the Palestinian divisions. And since their interference began, they have always tried to deepen the intra-Palestinian divisions and not to help the Palestinians to reach their goals and objectives.

SECRETARY CLINTON: We will certainly be raising that issue. We will be looking for a way to put it on the table, along with all the other issues that need to be discussed and resolved. And at this time, I think we should wait until we have a new Israeli government. That will be soon, and then we will look at whatever tools are available.

MR. WOOD: The last question (inaudible).

QUESTION: Thank you. Madame Secretary, the newspaper Al Haaretz reported today that you told Defense Minister Barak that Israel needed to do more to open border crossings, and that you told Prime Minister-designate Netanyahu that his plan to offer economic peace to the Palestinians would not work without a political track. Can you confirm now that you -- now that your meetings are over, that you made those points to the Israelis?

And for President Abbas, do you have concerns with the U.S. sending envoys to Syria and also, focused on Iran, that the Palestinian track will not receive the attention it deserves going forward? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me say that I have not said anything differently in private that I've said in public. We have obviously expressed concerns about the border crossings. We want humanitarian aid to get into Gaza in sufficient amounts to be able to alleviate the suffering of the people in Gaza. That's been a public and a private message that I have carried with me in numerous different settings.

On each of these matters, we are expressing the view of the United States Government in a way that we hope proves helpful. Obviously, we are trying to express constructive ideas that we think will, on the one hand, alleviate the immediate crisis in Gaza, and on the other, give us an opportunity to set the table for a constructive and eventually successful resolution of the issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians and reach the goal of two states living in peace and security side by side.

PRESIDENT ABBAS: (Via interpreter) We are not concerned at all about sending envoys -- American envoys to Syria, but we feel comfortable about that. Yes, we are comfortable about that, that an American delegation has visited Damascus. And at the same time, we are saying that if we want a comprehensive and a fair peace, just peace, then all the tracks need to be resolved -- the Palestinian, the Syrian, and the Lebanese tracks.


And we also believe that it would not be possible for any track to be -- to move forward on the account of the Palestinian track or vice versa. We know clearly that the Palestinian track is moving on, as well as the Syrian tracks and they run in parallel, and they will not be taking away from the progress in one against the other.

____________________________

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,676374,00.html

Der Spiegel

02/07/2010

Interview with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
'I Will Not Back Down'

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, 74, discusses peace negotiations with Israel and his disappointment with United States President Barack Obama in an exclusive SPIEGEL interview.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, the whole world is waiting for you to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for talks. When is this finally going to happen?

Abbas: That depends on Israel. We Palestinians have always said that we are willing to negotiate, but only if Israel stops settlement construction completely and recognizes the 1967 borders.

SPIEGEL: Why are you standing in the way of talks by setting these preconditions?

Abbas: They aren't preconditions, but steps that are overdue after the first phase of the international roadmap for peace. Unlike Israel, we have met our obligations: We have recognized Israel's right to exist, and we are combating violent Palestinian groups. The Americans, the Europeans and even the Israelis have acknowledged this.

SPIEGEL: At least Netanyahu has ordered a 10-month freeze on settlements, something no other Israeli prime minister has done. Wouldn't it be your turn now to take a step in his direction?

Abbas: It isn't a real moratorium, because a few thousand housing units are still being built in the West Bank, and Jerusalem is completely exempted from the settlement freeze.

SPIEGEL: You negotiated with Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert, even though settlement construction was continuing without restrictions at the time. Aren't you applying a double standard here?

Abbas: In a way, yes. But I have asked Olmert to freeze settlement construction every time we met. Besides, Barack Obama was elected president of the United States in the interim. In his speech to the Islamic world in Cairo, he called for a complete freeze on settlements. When the American president does this, I cannot accept anything less.

SPIEGEL: But now Obama is only talking about Israeli "restraint" in building settlements. At his request, you even agreed to a symbolic handshake with Netanyahu in New York.

Abbas: I was initially very optimistic after Obama won the election. His Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, kept coming to us and promised to urge the Israelis to stop settlement construction completely. Mitchell said that the negotiations would only resume after a moratorium. The American government suddenly backed away from this position in September.

SPIEGEL: Are you saying that it's the Americans' fault that things aren't progressing?

Abbas: Naturally, I'm not pleased with the Americans' change of course. But I will not back down.

SPIEGEL: What do you expect from Obama?

Abbas: I still hope that he will revive the peace process. At least he has to convince the Israelis to announce a complete freeze on construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem for a few months.

SPIEGEL: Apparently the pressure Obama has exerted on Israel until now hasn't been very effective.

Abbas: It isn't my job to tell the Americans how to deal with Israel. But they have options. They are, after all, the most powerful country in the world. Obama said that a Palestinian state constitutes a vital American interest. The president is under an obligation to apply all of his energy to achieving peace and the vision of a Palestinian state.

SPIEGEL: Could it be that the real reason for the current standstill is that you don't trust Netanyahu?

Abbas: What he has said so far, at any rate, leads me to question whether he really wants a solution. He has not expressly accepted the two-state solution.

SPIEGEL: In a speech at Bar-Ilan University in June 2009, Netanyahu said: "If the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, we are ready to agree to a real peace agreement, a demilitarized Palestinian state side by side with the Jewish state."

Abbas: You see, he's the one who is setting preconditions. He declares Jerusalem as the "undivided and eternal capital of the State of Israel." He refuses to discuss the question of Palestinian refugees. And he insists that we accept Israel in advance as a Jewish state.

SPIEGEL: But the principle of the two-state solution must mean that the one state is for the Palestinians and the other is for the Jews. Why do you have a problem with recognizing Israel as a Jewish state?

Abbas: We recognized the State of Israel within the 1967 borders. Whether it defines itself as a Jewish state, a Hebrew state or a Zionist state is its business. As far as I'm concerned, it can call itself what it pleases. But he cannot force me to agree with this definition.

SPIEGEL: Israel wouldn't be Israel without a Jewish majority.

Abbas: It is a fact that the majority of the citizens of the State of Israel are Jews. But it isn't within my power to define Israel's character.

SPIEGEL: But with such remarks, you create the suspicion among Israelis that you actually hope to eventually overcome this Jewish majority, particularly when you continue to insist that all Palestinians expelled in 1948 have the right of return.

Abbas: I understand these concerns. Today, there are 5 million Palestinian refugees. I'm not saying that they all have to return, but we need a fair solution. United Nations Resolution 194 ...

SPIEGEL: ... of Dec. 11, 1948 ...

Abbas: ... states that those who relinquish their right of return must receive appropriate financial compensation for doing so. In other words, the solution has been on the table for 60 years, so what's the problem?

'I Will Not Back Down'

Part 2: 'Palestinians Never Miss an Ppportunity to Miss an Opportunity'

SPIEGEL: Netanyahu's predecessor Ehud Olmert made you the best offer: The establishment of a Palestinian state on far more than 90 percent of the West Bank, a division of Jerusalem and the return of a few thousand refugees to Israel. Why did you reject it?

Abbas: I didn't reject it. Olmert resigned from office because of his personal problems.

SPIEGEL: You waited too long. If you had accepted, most Israelis would probably have been willing to ignore the corruption charges against Olmert. Former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban once said that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity ...

Abbas: ... to miss an opportunity. Yes, I'm familiar with the quote. But we did seize the opportunity when Olmert was in office. We negotiated very seriously with him. We exchanged maps showing the locations of the borders. Then he left office. His successor Tzipi Livni lost the subsequent election. So where is the opportunity that we missed?

SPIEGEL: If you had accepted Olmert's offer early enough, it would have strengthened those who support the peace process. Instead, you now have to make do with Messrs. Netanyahu and Lieberman.

Abbas: That's right. We were in a race against time to reach a solution. But I wasn't the one who thwarted an agreement. Olmert resigned from office shortly before the finish line.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, the Palestinian camp is deeply divided. Your Fatah movement was unable to prevent Hamas's violent takeover in the Gaza Strip in 2007. How do you intend to guarantee that the same thing won't happen in the West Bank?

Abbas: We have complete control over the security apparatus in the West Bank. The situation is 100 percent stabile. We will not allow the same thing to happen in the West Bank that happened in Gaza.

SPIEGEL: As long as Hamas controls Gaza, Israel will never agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Abbas: We spent two-and-a-half years conducting a dialogue sponsored by Egypt to seek reconciliation. It culminated in a document that we, representing Fatah, signed on Oct. 15, 2009. To this day, Hamas refuses to sign this document.

SPIEGEL: How can reconciliation be possible between the secular outlook of your Fatah movement and the Islamist worldview of Hamas?

Abbas: We are a people with different religious and political sentiments. Some are extremely religious, some are strictly secular and others are moderate. But we have been accustomed to living together for the past 60 years. All of these movements exist within the PLO.

SPIEGEL: Would Marwan Barghuti, the hero of the second Intifada, who is imprisoned in Israel, be someone who could bring about reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas?

Abbas: Marwan Barghuti is part of the leadership of Fatah. He is a member of the central committee of our movement. If he were released, it would be very advantageous for us. But not even Barghuti will be able to bring about reconciliation on his own. There is an external reason why Hamas isn't signing the document.

SPIEGEL: You are referring to Iran.

Abbas: That's what you said.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, you have announced that you will not run again for the office of president of the Autonomous Authority. Is this an admission that you will no longer be able to make the Palestinian dream of a sovereign state a reality?

Abbas: That's absolutely correct. The road to a political solution is blocked. For that reason, I see no purpose in remaining president of the Autonomous Authority. And I also have a warning for the world: Do not drive the Palestinians to the point of total hopelessness.

Interview conducted by Hans Hoyng and Christoph Schult. Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan.

___________________________

http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2010/03/138722.htm


SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON

REMARKS TO AIPAC

WASHINGTON, DC
MARCH 22, 2010

Thank you for that welcome. It is wonderful to be back at AIPAC and back with so many good friends. I want to thank Lee Rosenberg for that introduction -- and congratulations, Rosy, you're going to be a terrific president. I also want to thank David Victor, Howard Kohr, Lonny Kaplan, JB Pritzker and all of AIPAC's directors and staff for your leadership and hard work. I'm also pleased that my friend Congressman Jim Langevin, a great champion for Israel, is here.

To all of AIPAC's members, thank you for your example of citizen activism. Petitioning your government, expressing your views, speaking up in the arena -- this is what democracy is all about. I am particularly pleased to see so many young people here today. You recognize that your future and the future of our country are bound up with the future of Israel. And your engagement today will help make that future more secure.

Given the shared challenges we face, the relationship between the United States and Israel has never been more important. The United States has long recognized that a strong and secure Israel is vital to our own strategic interests. We know that the forces that threaten Israel also threaten the United States. And we firmly believe that when we strengthen Israel's security, we strengthen America's security.

So from its first day, the Obama administration has worked to promote Israel's security and long-term success. As Vice President Biden said in Israel, we know that to make progress in this region, there must be no gap between the United States and Israel on security. And there will not be. For President Obama, for me, and for this entire administration, our commitment to Israel's security and Israel's future is rock solid.

OUR COMMITMENT TO ISRAEL

Our countries and peoples are bound together by our shared values of freedom, equality, democracy, the right to live free from fear, and our common aspirations for a future of peace, security, and prosperity.

Americans honor Israel as a homeland for a people too long oppressed and a democracy that has had to defend itself at every turn. A dream nurtured for generations and made real by men and women who refused to bow to the toughest of odds. In Israel's story we see our own. We see the story of all people who struggle for freedom and the right to chart their own destinies.

It took President Harry Truman only 11 minutes to recognize the new nation of Israel in 1948. And, ever since, our two countries have stood in solidarity.

Guaranteeing Israel's security is more than a policy position for me. It is a personal commitment that will never waiver.

Since my first visit to Israel nearly thirty years ago, I have returned many times and made many friends. I have had the privilege of working with some of Israel's great leaders, and have benefited from their wise counsel. (And I may have sometimes caused them consternation -- I don't think Yitzhak Rabin ever forgave me for banishing him to the White House balcony when he wanted to smoke). Over the years, I have shared your pride in seeing the desert bloom, the economy thrive, and the country flourish. But I have also seen the struggles and the sorrow. I will never forget the heart-rending words of Noa Ben Artzi-Pelossof at her grandfather's funeral, or the sight of a bombed-out pizzeria in Jerusalem, or the look on the faces of Israeli families who knew a rocket could fall at any moment.

On one of my visits, in 2002, I met a young man named Yochai Porat. At only 26, he was a senior medic with Magen David and oversaw a program to train foreign volunteers as first responders for MDA. I attended one of the program's graduation ceremonies and I saw the pride in his face as another group of young people set off to do good in the world. Yochai was also a reservist with the IDF. A week after we met, he was killed by a sniper near a roadblock, along with a number of other soldiers and civilians. MDA renamed the overseas volunteer program in Yochai's memory and it has continued to flourish. In 2005, I visited with Yochai's family. His parents were committed to continuing Yochai's support for the MDA and its mission -- and so was I. I spent years urging the International Red Cross to admit MDA as a full voting member. And in 2006, we finally succeeded.

As a Senator from New York, I was proud to be a strong voice for Israel in the Congress and around the world. And I am proud that I can continue to be that strong voice as Secretary of State.

Last fall, I stood next to Prime Minister Netanyahu and praised his government's decision to place a moratorium on new residential construction in the West Bank. And then I praised it again in Marrakesh and Cairo. We also made clear that this was just a first step and, like every administration for decades, underscored that the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. As Israel's friend, it is our responsibility to give credit when it is due and to tell the truth when it is needed.

In 2008, I told this conference that Barack Obama would be a good friend to Israel as president. That he would have a special appreciation of Israel because of his own personal history. A grandfather who fought the Nazis in Patton's Army. A great-uncle who helped liberate Buchenwald. President Obama and his family have lived the Diaspora experience. And as he told you himself, he understands that, "there is always a homeland at the center of our story." As a Senator, he visited Israel and met families whose houses were destroyed by rockets. And as President he has supported Israel in word and deed.

Under President Obama's leadership, we have reinvigorated defense consultations, redoubled our efforts to ensure Israel's qualitative military edge, and provided nearly $3 billion in annual military assistance. In fact, that assistance increased in 2010 and we have requested another increase for 2011. More than 1,000 U.S. troops participated in Juniper Cobra ballistic missile defense exercises last fall, the largest such drill to date. And President Obama has made achieving peace and recognized borders for Israel a top administration priority.

The United States has also led the fight in international institutions against anti-Semitism and efforts to challenge Israel's legitimacy. We led the boycott of the Durban Conference and repeatedly voted against the deeply flawed Goldstone Report. This administration will always stand up for Israel's right to defend itself.

IRAN

For Israel, there is no greater strategic threat than the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. Elements in Iran's government have become a menace, both to their own people and in the region. Iran's president foments anti-Semitism, denies the Holocaust, and threatens to destroy Israel. The Iranian leadership funds and arms terrorists who have murdered Americans and Israelis alike. And it has waged a campaign of intimidation and persecution against its own people. Last June, Iranians marching silently were beaten with batons; political prisoners were rounded up and abused; and absurd and false accusations were leveled against the United States, Israel, and the West. People everywhere were horrified by the video of a young woman killed in the street. The Iranian leadership is denying its people rights that are universal to all human beings -- including the right to speak freely, to assemble without fear; the right to the equal administration of justice, and to express your views without facing retribution.

In addition to threatening Israel, a nuclear-armed Iran would embolden its terrorist clientele and would spark an arms race that could destabilize the region. This is unacceptable. Unacceptable to the United States. Unacceptable to Israel. And unacceptable to the region and the international community.

So let me be very clear: The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

For most of the past decade, the United States declined to engage with Iran. And Iran grew more, not less, dangerous. It built thousands of centrifuges and spurned the international community. But it faced few consequences.

President Obama has been trying a different course designed to present Iran's leaders with a clear choice. We have made extensive efforts to reengage with Iran, both through direct communication and working with other partners multilaterally, to send an unmistakable message: uphold your international obligations and reap the benefits of normal relations, or face increased isolation and the painful consequences.

We took this course with the understanding that the very effort of seeking engagement would strengthen our hand if Iran rejected our initiative. And over the last year, Iran's leaders have been stripped of their usual excuses. The world has seen that Iran, and not the United States, is responsible for the impasse. With secret nuclear facilities, increasing violations of its obligations under the nonproliferation regime, and unjustified expansion of its enrichment activities, more and more nations are expressing deep concerns about Iran's intentions. There is growing international consensus on taking steps to pressure Iran's leaders to change course. Europe is in agreement. Russia has moved in this direction. And although there is still work to be done, China has said it supports the dual track approach of applying pressure if engagement does not produce results. This stronger consensus has also led to increased cooperation on stopping arms shipments and financial transactions that aid terrorists, threaten Israel, and destabilize the region.

We are working with our partners in the United Nations on new Security Council sanctions that will show Iran's leaders that there are real consequences for their intransigence, that the only choice is to live up to their international obligations. Our aim is not incremental sanctions, but sanctions that will bite. It is taking time to produce these sanctions, and we believe that time is a worthwhile investment for winning the broadest possible support for our efforts. But we will not compromise our commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring these weapons.

THE STATUS QUO IS UNSUSTAINABLE

Iran is not the only threat on the horizon. Israel today is confronting some of the toughest challenges in her history. The conflict with the Palestinians and with Israel's Arab neighbors is an obstacle to prosperity and opportunity for Israelis, Palestinians, and people across the region. And it threatens Israel's long-term future as a secure and democratic Jewish state.

The status quo is unsustainable for all sides. It promises only more violence and unrealized aspirations. Staying on this course means continuing a conflict that carries tragic human costs. Israeli and Palestinian children alike deserve to grow up free from fear and to have the opportunity to live up to their full God-given potential.

There is another path. A path that leads toward security and prosperity for all the people of the region. It will require all parties -- including Israel -- to make difficult but necessary choices.

Both sides must confront the reality that the status quo of the last decade has not produced long-term security or served the interests of Israelis, Palestinians, or the people of the region. Nor has it served the interests of the United States. It is true that heightened security measures have reduced the number of suicide bombings and given some in Israel the hope that the status quo could be sustained. But the dynamics of demography, ideology, and technology make this impossible.

First, we cannot ignore the long-term population trends that result from Israeli occupation. As Defense Minister Barak and others have observed, the inexorable mathematics of demography are hastening the hour at which Israelis may have to choose between preserving their democracy and staying true to the dream of a Jewish homeland. Given this reality, a two-state solution is the only viable path for Israel to remain both a democracy and a Jewish state.

Second, we cannot be blind to the political implications of continued conflict. There is a struggle between those in the region who accept peace and coexistence with Israel, and those who reject it and seek only continued violence. The status quo strengthens the rejectionists who claim peace is impossible and weakens those who would accept coexistence. That does not serve Israel's interests or our own. Those willing to negotiate need to be able to show results for their efforts. And those who preach violence must be proven wrong. All of our regional challenges -- confronting the threat posed by Iran, combating violent extremism, promoting democracy and economic opportunity -- become harder if rejectionists grow in power and influence.

Conversely, a two state solution would allow Israel's contributions to the world, and to our greater humanity, to get the recognition they deserve; would allow the Palestinians to realize their own legitimate aspirations; and would undermine the appeal of extremism across the region.

Finally, we must recognize that the ever-evolving technology of war is making it harder to guarantee Israel's security. For six decades, Israelis have guarded their borders vigilantly. But advances in rocket technology mean that Israeli families are now at risk far from those borders. Despite efforts at containment, rockets with better guidance systems, longer range, and more destructive power are spreading across the region. Hizbollah has amassed tens of thousands of rockets on Israel's northern border. Hamas has a substantial number in Gaza. And even if some of these are still crude, they all pose a serious danger, as we saw last week.

Our message to Hamas is clear: renounce violence, recognize Israel, and abide by previous signed agreements. And I will repeat today what I have said many times before: Gilad Shalit must be released immediately and reunited with his family.

Unfortunately, neither military action nor restricting access into and out of Gaza has significantly stemmed the flow of rockets to Hamas. They appear content to add to their stockpile and grow rich off the tunnel trade, while the people living in Gaza fall deeper into poverty and despair. This path is not sustainable for either Israelis or Palestinians.

Behind these terrorist organizations and their rockets, we see the destabilizing influence of Iran. Reaching a two-state solution will not end all these threats, but failure to do so gives our extremist foes a pretext to spread violence, instability, and hatred.

In the face of these unforgiving dynamics of demography, ideology, and technology, it becomes impossible to entrust our hopes for Israel's future in today's status quo. These challenges cannot be ignored or wished away. Only by choosing a new path can the Israelis, Palestinians, and all the people of the region ensure their children inherit the future of opportunity and security they deserve.

A COMPREHENSIVE PEACE

The way forward is clear: two states for two peoples living side by side in peace and security, with peace between Israel and Syria, and Israel and Lebanon, and normal relations between Israel and all the Arab states. A comprehensive peace that is real and not a slogan, that is rooted in genuine recognition of Israel's right to exist in peace and security, and that offers the best way to ensure Israel's enduring survival and well-being. And, it is a goal that the Obama administration is determined to achieve.

George Mitchell has worked tirelessly with the parties to prepare the ground for the resumption of direct negotiations, beginning with the proximity talks both sides have accepted. These proximity talks are a hopeful first step, and they should be serious and substantive. Ultimately, of course, it will take direct negotiations to work through all the issues and end the conflict.

The United States stands ready to play an active and sustained role in Israeli-Palestinian talks, and to support the parties as they work to resolve all permanent status issues including security, borders, refugees, and Jerusalem. The United States cannot force a solution. The parties themselves must resolve their differences through direct negotiations.

But, we believe that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree to an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the '67 lines, with agreed swaps, and Israel's goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israel's security requirements.

The United States recognizes that Jerusalem is a deeply important issue for Israelis and Palestinians, and for Jews, Muslims, and Christians. We believe that through good faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem, and safeguards its status for people around the world.

For negotiations to be successful, they must be built on a foundation of mutual trust and confidence. That is why both Israelis and Palestinians must refrain from unilateral statements and actions that undermine the process or prejudice the outcome of talks.

When a Hamas-controlled municipality glorifies violence and renames a square after a terrorist who murdered innocent Israelis, it insults the families on both sides who have lost loves ones in this conflict. And when instigators deliberately mischaracterize the rededication of a synagogue in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem's old city and call upon their brethren to "defend" nearby Muslim holy sites from so-called "attacks," it is purely and simply an act of incitement. These provocations are wrong and must be condemned for needlessly inflaming tensions and imperiling prospects for a comprehensive peace.

It is our devotion to this outcome -- two states for two peoples, secure and at peace -- that led us to condemn the announcement of plans for new construction in East Jerusalem. This was not about wounded pride. Nor is it a judgment on the final status of Jerusalem, which is an issue to be settled at the negotiating table. This is about getting to the table, creating and protecting an atmosphere of trust around it -- and staying there until the job is done.

New construction in East Jerusalem or the West Bank undermines mutual trust and endangers the proximity talks that are the first step toward the full negotiations that both sides want and need. It exposes daylight between Israel and the United States that others in the region could hope to exploit. And it undermines America's unique ability to play a role -- an essential role, I might add -- in the peace process. Our credibility in this process depends in part on our willingness to praise both sides when they are courageous, and when we don't agree, to say so, and say so unequivocally.

We objected to this announcement because we are committed to Israel and its security, which depends on a comprehensive peace. Because we are determined to keep moving forward along a path that ensures Israel's future as a secure and democratic Jewish state living in peace with its Palestinian neighbors, who can realize their own legitimate aspirations. And because we do not want to see that progress jeopardized.

When Prime Minister Netanyahu and I spoke, I suggested a number of concrete steps that Israel could take to improve the atmosphere and rebuild confidence. The Prime Minister responded with specific actions Israel is prepared to take toward this end, and we discussed a range of other mutual-confidence building measures. Senator Mitchell continued this discussion in Israel over the weekend, and is meeting with President Abbas today. We are making progress and we are working hard to keep the proximity talks moving ahead. I am looking forward to meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu today in Washington and President Obama will see him tomorrow. We will follow up on these discussions and seek a common understanding about the most productive way forward.

Neither our commitment nor our goal has changed. The United States will continue to encourage all parties to take steps that advance the prospects for peace.

We commend the government of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad for the reforms they have undertaken to strengthen law and order, and the progress they have made in improving the quality of life in the West Bank. But we encourage them to redouble their efforts to put an end to incitement and violence, continue to ensure security and rule of law, and ingrain a culture of peace and tolerance among Palestinians.

We applaud Israel's neighbors for their support of the Arab Peace Initiative and the proximity talks. But their rhetoric must now be backed up by action. They should make it easier to pursue negotiations and an agreement. That is their responsibility.

And we commend Prime Minister Netanyahu for embracing the vision of the two-state solution and for acting to lift road-blocks and ease movement throughout the West Bank. But we also expect Israel to continue taking concrete steps that will help turn that vision into reality -- building trust and momentum toward comprehensive peace by demonstrating respect for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians, stopping settlement activity, and addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

From the time of David Ben-Gurion, who accepted the UN proposal to divide the land into two nations, Israel and Palestine, leaders like Begin and Rabin have made difficult but clear-eyed choices to pursue peace in the name of Israel's future. It was Rabin himself who said, "For Israel there is no path that is without pain. But the path of peace is preferable to the path of war." Last June at Bar-Ilan University, Prime Minister Netanyahu put his country on the path to peace. President Abbas has put the Palestinians on that path as well. The challenge for both will be to keep moving forward -- and to stay on course.

Peace brings with it a future of promise and possibility. Ultimately, this is the vision that drives us. We see a future for Israel and for our relationship that is finally freed from the shackles of this conflict. Families no longer afraid of rockets in the night. Israelis traveling and trading freely in the region. Palestinians able to pursue their dreams in a state of their own. Former adversaries working together on issues of common concern like water, infrastructure, and development that builds broadly shared prosperity in the region. And a global strategic partnership between Israel and the United States that taps the talent and innovation of our societies to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of the 21st century.

From addressing climate change and energy to hunger, poverty and disease, Israel has so much to offer. Look at the spread of high-tech start-ups, the influx of venture capital, the number of Nobel laureates. Israel has the potential to be a major force for progress on the world stage. We are already working as partners, just imagine how much more we could achieve together if the dream of peace can be realized.

We are entering the season of Passover. The story of Moses resonates for people of all faiths. It teaches us many lessons, including that we must take risks, even a leap of faith, to reach the promised land. When Moses urged the Jews to follow him out of Egypt, many objected. They said it was too dangerous, too hard, too risky. And later, in the desert, some thought it would be better to return to Egypt. It was too dangerous, too hard, too risky. And when they came to the very edge of the promised land, there were still some who refused to enter because it was too dangerous, too hard, and too risky.

Israel's history is the story of brave men and women who took risks and did the hard thing because they knew it was right. Theodor Herzl championing a dream many said was impossible. Pioneers who found a desert and made it bloom. Warriors who offered their adversaries a hand of peace because they knew it would make Israel stronger. Who understood, as the rabbis teach, that the strongest among us is the one who turns an enemy into a friend. Israel has shed more than its share of bitter tears. But for the dream to survive, for the state to flourish, this generation of Israelis must take up the tradition and do what may seem too dangerous, too hard, and too risky. And of this they can be sure: the United States will stand with them, sharing the risks and shouldering the burdens, as we face the future together.

 
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