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Remarks at Solo Press Availability
Secretary of State
David Citadel Hotel
January 5, 2014
SECRETARY KERRY: Good morning to everybody. This has been a productive couple of days with very, very intensive talks. And though we’re not done yet obviously, I want to catch you up on the most recent negotiations to give you a sense of where we are.
Obviously, it is this effort to try to make peace that has brought back here again to Israel, to Jerusalem. And I want to thank Prime Minister Netanyahu and I want to thank President Abbas for the significant amount of time and for the effort and energy that they have expended in order to engage in very serious conversations about the way forward.
Over the past few days, I’ve had two lengthy rounds with each leader and with their teams, and we have had very positive, but I have to say very serious, very intensive conversations. These issues are not easy. As I’ve said before, if this was easy, this would have been resolved a long time ago. It is not easy. These are complicated issues that involve the survival and the future of peoples. And this is a conflict that has gone on for too long, so positions are hardened. Mistrust obviously exists at a very high level. And so you have to work through that and around that and over that, and every step is a step that is to try to point to the path forward and the ways in which each side can build a relationship and trust over a period of time.
Today, I am leaving Jerusalem in order to go to Jordan and consult with His Majesty King Abdullah and his team, and from there I will leave to go to Saudi Arabia to consult with His Majesty King Abdullah of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, who is, of course, the author of the Arab Peace Initiative and has a very significant interest and stake in this process. I will then return here to Jerusalem tonight.
We will continue discussions at staff level for a period of time, and at some point I do need to go back to Washington, obviously, this week for the work that we have there. But as our teams flesh out some of the concepts that are on the table, as necessary, I will return.
I want to be very clear about something that I have said before, but it bears repeating at this juncture: both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas have already made important decisions and courageous decisions, difficult decisions. You can see in the press and you see in the public debate that the choices they’re making elicit strong responses from their people. And I understand that very, very well.
We’re at the table today because of the determination to try to resolve this issue, and both of them have made the tough choices to stay at that table. We are now at a point where the choices narrow down and the choices are obviously real and difficult. And so we – the United States, President Obama, myself – will do everything in our power to help the parties be able to see the road ahead in ways that will meet the interests of both of their peoples.
The security of Israel is always paramount – in my mind, in our mind. For 29 years I had the privilege of serving in the United States Senate, and I am proud to say I had a 100 percent voting record with respect to those issues of concern to Israel, and I don’t intend to change that now. Israel’s security is critical, and the United States relationship is ironclad.
But so is our concern for the people of Palestine and for the Palestinians and their future. And I can guarantee all parties that President Obama and I are committed to putting forward ideas that are fair, that are balanced, and that improve the security of all of the people of this region.
Now, obviously, I can’t go into the details. I’m not going to start breaking now the agreements that I made with the parties and that I set forth as the rules here. We are not going to negotiate this in public. We are not going to lay out the substance of these core issues. But I can tell everybody all of the core issues are on the table. The difficult issues of security, of territory, borders, the future of the refugee issue, the status ultimately of the city of Jerusalem, and the end of conflict and of claims. How you arrive at a fair resolution of all of these complicated issues is obviously at the core of what we are talking about.
I want to share something that I shared with both of the leaders in my meetings, and that is now is not the time to get trapped in the sort of up and down of the day-to-day challenges. This does not lend itself to a daily tick-tock. We don’t have the luxury of dwelling on the obstacles that we all know could distract us from our goal. What we need to do is lift our sights and look ahead and keep in mind the vision of what can come if we can move forward.
I want to reiterate – we are not working on an interim agreement. We are working on a framework for negotiations that will guide and create the clear, detailed, accepted roadmap for the guidelines for the permanent status negotiations, and can help those negotiations move faster and more effectively.
The agreed framework will address all of the core issues that we’ve been discussing, and I think that’s the most that I would like to say about that at this point in time.
I do want to be clear: I know there are those out there who on both sides question whether or not peace is possible. I know there is a high level of cynicism, reservation about the possibilities. But it is clear to me that we can work to bride the remaining gaps that do exist and we can achieve a final status agreement that results in two states for two peoples if we stay focused and if we keep in mind the benefits of our doing so.
The benefits for both sides are really enormous, and people don’t talk about it enough or think about it enough. One of the reasons I’m going to Saudi Arabia is that Saudi Arabia’s initiative holds out the prospect that if the parties could arrive at a peaceful resolution, you could instantaneously have peace between the 22 Arab nations and 35 Muslim nations, all of whom have said they will recognize Israel if peace is achieved.
Imagine how that changes the dynamics of travel, of business, of education, of opportunity in this region, of stability. Imagine what peace could mean for trade and tourism, what it could mean for developing technology and talent, for job opportunities for the younger generation, for generations in all of these countries.
Imagine what peace could mean for an Israel where schoolchildren, some of whom I’ve seen in the course of my many visits here, so that they could actually run around a playground without the threat that a rocket might come from Gaza or from Lebanon and have to seek shelter during the course of the day.
Imagine what peace could mean for Palestinian children, who could grow up living in the dignity of their own sovereign country with an understanding that they can do what anybody in the world might be able to aspire to do, free from hatred and free from the fear that accompanies their daily existence, and obviously free to embrace all of the opportunities of young people anywhere else in the world.
The ancient and historic city of Jerusalem where long ago the words were written that have great meaning today: the scripture tells us that “the Lord will give strength to His people; and the Lord will bless His people with peace.” And as men and women of peace I think in this region, we continue to believe in that possibility.
So we stand behind these negotiations that can lead not just to two states for two peoples, but a shared prosperity that benefits the peoples of all of this region. The stakes here are much bigger than just Israel and Palestine. This is a conflict that is felt around the world. It is a conflict that has implications with every leader I have met anywhere in the world as Secretary of State or a senator. They all ask about the conflict of the Middle East and whether or not it can be resolved.
So these are high stakes, high stakes for the leaders and high stakes for everybody else. And President Obama is determined that the United States of America and his Administration will do everything in our power to exhaust the possibilities of finding that peace.
On that note, I’d be happy to open it up to any questions.
QUESTION: There have been 20 rounds of negotiations for the --
SECRETARY KERRY: Who’s counting?
QUESTION: Who’s counting, yes. The negotiations seem to be hung up on some pretty serious roadblocks. I mean, Israel, for example, is balking at the ‘67 lines, and that’s a pretty big hurdle.
SECRETARY KERRY: Israel is doing what?
QUESTION: Balking at the ’67 lines.
SECRETARY KERRY: You’re telling me things that I don’t know that I’m not commenting on. So I mean, I don’t know where you – honestly, I don’t know where you know that from. I’m not going to talk about who’s balking, not balking. But don’t believe what you hear.
SECRETARY KERRY: What we’re doing right now is working through those issues.
QUESTION: Okay. I know you don’t want to talk about specifics, but can you give the American public, the Israelis, the Palestinians even one example of something even generally in terms of progress that you’ve been able to make in your 10 trips here?
And when the framework is agreed upon, if it’s agreed upon, how detailed will it be? Will it include some sort of a deadline or framework – frame – timeframe for finishing a final status agreement?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me share with you as best I can sort of how this is working and why I am not going to go into the details. I have shared with you that we are talking about all of the core issues, and you know that. You all have traveled out here many times. And you know that the core issues involve territory and the core issues involve security, and they involve refugees and they involve the question of recognition for both peoples and involves, obviously, ultimately, questions about Jerusalem and how you resolve all claims and the conflict itself.
Now, this is deeply steeped in history, and each side has a narrative about their rights and their journey and the conflict itself. And in the end, all of these different core issues actually fit together like a mosaic. It’s a puzzle, and you can’t separate out one piece or another. Because what a leader might be willing to do with respect to a compromise on one particular piece is dependent on what the other leader might be willing to do with respect to a different particular piece. And there’s always a tension as to when you put your card on the table as to which piece you’re willing to do, when, and how. So it has to move with its particular pace and its particular privacy, frankly. And that’s why it’s so important not to be laying out any one particular component of it at any given moment of time, because it actually makes it more difficult for those decisions to be made or for those compromises to be arrived at, or for one of the leaders to have the freedom to be able to do what they need to do in order to figure out the political path ahead, which is obviously real for both.
So the answer is I’m not going to lay out one particular example or another, except to say to you that the path is becoming clearer, the puzzle is becoming more defined, and it is becoming much more apparent to everybody what the remaining tough choices are and what the options are with respect to those choices.
But it takes time to work through these things, and that’s why I have refused to ever set a particular timetable. But I feel comfortable that those major choices are now on the table and that the leaders are grappling with these options, otherwise I wouldn’t be going to talk to other stakeholders in this process the way I am today. But I cannot tell you when particularly the last pieces may decide to fall into place or may fall on the floor and leave the puzzle unfinished. That’s exactly what makes this such a challenge, and also so interesting at the same time.
With respect to – I think you had --
QUESTION: What about the – how detailed will the framework be if it’s --
SECRETARY KERRY: I’m not going to go into – again, we’ll let the framework speak for itself when and if it is achieved and --
QUESTION: But are you seeking some sort of deadline? In other words, it does become kind of --`
SECRETARY KERRY: Am I thinking of some sort of deadline?
QUESTION: Is --
SECRETARY KERRY: Sure I am.
QUESTION: Is there a discussion about a deadline so that it doesn’t just (inaudible) a long and --
SECRETARY KERRY: Yes. The answer is yes.
SECRETARY KERRY: I have a deadline in mind.
MODERATOR: Thanks, everyone.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all. Appreciate it.