|Briefing En Route Paris, France|
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
En Route Paris, France
December 16, 2007
SECRETARY RICE: Okay, we can just go directly to questions. You know that we're going to Paris for the donors conference, the kind of next event for the international community after Annapolis. And the goal here is to focus on that part of the movement toward a Palestinian state that we consider to be absolutely essential to creating a two-state solution; that is, capacity building for the Palestinian state, the creation of the institutions, the creation of a financial basis for the Palestinians to be able to move forward and economic assistance that will help the Palestinians bridge to the day that they actually can have a functioning economy because it's extremely difficult under current circumstances for them to have a fully functioning economy.
So this is an extremely important effort. This one is led by Tony Blair, of course. He has been in the region several times. He's been working very closely with private partners as well as with the various states in the region. And we're very grateful to the French for their efforts to put this together.
But the political negotiations were launched at Annapolis. This really launches the capacity building phase, which again I just want to underscore is every bit as important as the political track.
QUESTION: A question about the housing tender at Har Homa. Were you entirely blindsided by that after Annapolis? Did you have no idea that the Israelis might issue such a tender? If they didn't tell you in advance, did you not try to forestall actions like that that, you know, for months you've said are unhelpful and undermine confidence?
And then once, you know, the tender was let, why did it take three days or four days perhaps for the Administration to make clear that it felt that this was an unhelpful act? It was Thursday night when I learned that you had -- that the matter had been raised, and it was Friday when you addressed it publicly in Brussels at NATO. And I don't think -- I think it happened either Monday or Tuesday.
SECRETARY RICE: I can't reconstruct the timeline, but it is -- just on that point, it is always wise to know what you're talking about before you go out and say something. And so I do know that Dick Jones, our Ambassador, was in with the Israelis practically the next day. We can get you that timeline. So clarification was being sought from the Israelis virtually immediately. But again, I'll get you the timeline on when he went in.
As to -- no, of course we didn't have prior knowledge of it. And the problem is that the Israelis say that it was part of a longstanding plan and several of them said also that they were not aware that the tender was going to be issued at that particular point in time.
But all of that said, the kind of machinery that has developed around these issues of settlement activity and the tendency for it to produce these outcomes is just ever more reason that it's time to get an agreement. And the point that I've made to the Israelis is that it's going to be very important to have an atmosphere in which an agreement can move forward. And that means that this kind of activity is unhelpful. But no, we of course did not know prior to it.
QUESTION: In recent months, you've been quite eloquent and forthcoming about your own ideas of sort of how your background and your outlook on life affects the way you view the Palestinian situation. I wonder now how you look at what's happening in Gaza and whether you sort of feel shadowed as you are working for economic stability and recovery in one part of the Palestinian territories to see what's happening there now. And do you feel sort of responsible and responsible for getting the Israelis to change the way they are operating there?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the responsibility for what is happening in Gaza should be put directly on the shoulders of Hamas. It is Hamas that launched what the Palestinian Authority has called a coup d'etat against the legitimate Palestinian institutions and legitimate Palestinian leadership. It is Hamas that has brought violence to the streets of Gaza and it is the policies of Hamas that have led to its own isolation, and by implication the Gaza as well.
But that doesn't mean that there is any desire to see the innocent people of Gaza suffer and it certainly is not anyone's intention that that would happen. And so there have been efforts to make certain that humanitarian assistance is getting through. We have worked very diligently with the Israelis and worked with the international community and with the non-governmental organizations that provide relief to try and get humanitarian assistance through.
And yes, I'm concerned about it, very concerned about it. I've asked -- Henrietta Fore, the USAID Administrator, has just been in the West Bank and I hope to get a fuller report from her about the situation as well in Gaza when she has an opportunity to report. But of course we're very concerned, but let's put the blame where it should be, and that's on Hamas.
QUESTION: And are you afraid at all that that situation will undermine or even overshadow the work you're trying to do?
SECRETARY RICE: The legitimate authority of the Palestinians is Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad, and I think every effort should be made to help them, to help them deliver for the Palestinians and to help them show a way forward towards statehood that can be a unifying element for all Palestinians. And Hamas is going to have to make a choice at some point. But I don't want to by any means suggest that we are not concerned about Gaza, that we don't recognize that Gaza is an integral part of the Palestinian territories and will be an integral part of the state, and so it will have to be addressed.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you were the one who convinced Europeans and the whole Quartet to suspend the international aid in the beginning of 2006 after the victory of Hamas. Do you have any regret about that? Do you think you could have done a bit more of humanitarian aid at that time to avoid radicalization of the society?
SECRETARY RICE: In fact, Sylvie, humanitarian assistance went up dramatically after --
SECRETARY RICE: No, but for instance, our own aid; we went through an exercise of reallocating assistance that was going to projects and the like to humanitarian assistance. And I think you'll find that actually the UN reported that the numbers in terms of assistance going to the Palestinians actually rose in that year after the isolation of Hamas.
But I don't have any regrets about a strategy that says that those who are elected have to act responsibly on behalf of those whom they represent. And that was the message to Hamas, that they couldn't get elected and then have one foot in terror and one foot in politics, that they needed to make a break with their terrorist past and do what they had been elected to do, which was deliver for the Palestinian people.
Unfortunately, they haven't made that choice. Now, the people who have made that choice are Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad, and I think you see the international community, including the responsible Arab states, coming together to support the course that they have taken. And Hamas is going to have to make a choice about the destructive course that I think they're on.
David, do you want to (inaudible)?
QUESTION: Let me ask you another question like Arshad's about the credibility of this process among the Palestinians and the Arabs. Immediately after Annapolis, we introduced our -- Ambassador Khalilzad introduced at the UN the draft of a resolution or some ideas toward a resolution that would embody some of the Annapolis ideas. And then, by his account and press reports, that was withdrawn because the Israelis were not happy with that course. And that was played in the Arab world, on Al Jazeera, in the newspapers, as evidence that it was the Israelis who called the shots, not the Americans. It was a big story for them. And I'd like you to just to address it. What happened? Why did it go that way?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, after Annapolis, at the UN there was a desire to do something to welcome Annapolis and there were several options. One was a simple press statement. Another was a presidential statement. Another was a resolution of some kind. And discussions were going on as to what of those -- which of those would be most useful and what it might say. And Zal wanted to get a sense of what anything, any of those, would say and he went in to session with the Council.
It was very clear that there needed to be some more work done -- and by the way, not just with the Israelis but with the Palestinians as well -- about not what would be said -- I don't think anybody was concerned about what would be said -- but about the wisdom of a resolution at that moment.
And so when it went back to capitals, there was just a few that the resolution was not going to be helpful or welcome. You know, frankly, I wish that perhaps the capitals had spoken a little bit more clearly through their representatives. But they didn't, and no one was concerned that there was any walking back from what would have been the text of either a resolution or a presidential statement, but at that point it seemed that frankly the simplest and quickest thing to do was to simply have the Indonesian presidency state what had been stated, rather than continuing to work on something which frankly was not considered to have much force. So that's the story.
QUESTION: It was -- in press reports there was some discussion that on the U.S. side there had not been as much discussion and clearance of this back and forth.
SECRETARY RICE: No, that's absolutely not true. Ambassador Khalilzad was in very close contact with Washington about what he was doing.
QUESTION: One question following up on aid. Are you now in a position to confirm the amount of the U.S. aid pledge tomorrow, which I think most of us reported Friday night anyway?
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, I was going to say. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: But you know, it never hurts to get it on the record.
Two, our reporting says that the Palestinians are going to ask for about $5.5 billion over three years. Is that understanding and do you think they'll actually get that?
And then lastly, going back to the diplomacy, do you wish you had tried prior to Annapolis to talk to the Israelis and the Palestinians more explicitly about things that might go wrong in the weeks afterwards and tried to sort of forestall such things?
SECRETARY RICE: Look, there's an assumption here that there's not going to be turbulence in this process. There is. I don't care how much you talk to people before, I don't care how much work you do; there will be turbulence. This is a very complicated and difficult process that they're launched on. If it had not been complicated and difficult, it would have been completed years ago. And so I don't intend to, and I hope that they don't intend to consider every bump in the road to be, you know, a barrier. It's going to happen.
We were informed by some that the -- for instance, that there was some unhappiness that there continue to be pictures and Palestinians -- on Palestinian television of a map without Israel on it. Yes, well, that's also a bump in the road and doesn't bring confidence. It's going to happen.
Bu there is -- it shouldn't overshadow, I think, the fact that these two leaders want to get this done. And they're going to -- I have never been a part of -- I have never studied -- a negotiation that didn't start out by everybody putting their maximalist positions on the table. And I think that's what you're going to get for a little while and they will work through it. But they want to get it done.
And we should be paying as much attention to other events that are taking place. For instance, I was very interested in the speech that Prime Minister Olmert went back and gave in the Knesset. That says to me that this is somebody who is taking a very clear line inside Israeli in the most difficult circumstances that he's going to try to make this happen. I've been interested in the fact that the Palestinians continue to contest terrorists and militants, sometimes by force, in places like Nablus and other parts of the West
So all that I would ask of everyone is that when you focus on something like Har Homa or focus on a Palestinian map with the absence of Israel on it, focus also on an extraordinary speech by Ehud Olmert to his own Knesset really saying that his own -- the way that his own father had seen the partition was no longer sustainable or what the Palestinians are actually doing now against militants, something that people have talked about trying to get for a long time that the Palestinian Authority would actually confront militants -- and you're seeing it happen. So this is by no means just a set of negative outcomes after Annapolis. There have been some very brave, and I would argue of greater importance than some of the negative steps that have been taken.
QUESTION: And on the aid number?
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, sorry, on the aid number? Are you going to report it three times? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: You said five to six hundred, and I said five to six hundred, and I think you guys said 550 but I'm not sure.
SECRETARY RICE: Let me say you're in the right ballpark. How's that? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: All right, all right. You all have announced 400 million like six times, so we could do the real number now at least twice. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: We'll do it tonight and then we'll do it tomorrow.
SECRETARY RICE: Sure you will. (Laughter.) I'll tell you what. I'll do better. I'll get you the full breakout of what we're doing and let you report it. How's that? Okay? Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay, deal. Will you let us know if it's not new money? Because my sense is it's all money that's already been requested from Congress.
SECRETARY RICE: Money that's requested from Congress is still new money if Congress hasn't appropriated it.
QUESTION: It sounds like it's not going to be (inaudible).
SECRETARY RICE: I mean, you have to get Congress to appropriate money, so --
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, that's right. Exactly. Yeah, that shows that you were an English major.
SECRETARY RICE: But I'm correct in understanding that there was no money (inaudible) beyond that which has already been (inaudible)?
SECRETARY RICE: I will get you a full breakout, okay?
SECRETARY RICE: And as to what the Palestinians are requesting, the Palestinians have given a one-year figure and then I think what's happening is people are sort of extrapolating out from the one-year figure. But I want to let them -- I don't think it's fair to put their figure on the table. But it's in -- you know, you're in the right ballpark -- 1.6, 1.7, someplace in there.
QUESTION: I have one more quick question. General Jones is on the plane with you. And I would be very interested in hearing a little bit more about what it is that you want him to do. And his mission really begins at this conference. What is that mission?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, he will go out to the region shortly here. And we've talked several times about the need for -- I've talked several times about the need for a security concept to undergird the political negotiations as well as the development of Palestinian institutions. It simply has to be the case that when the Palestinian state is formed and brought into being that it has to be a net plus for the security of the region, not a net negative. And it's not going to surprise anyone that a new, fragile state will raise questions about a security vacuum when Israelis leave the West Bank. And this is not an issue just for the Palestinians. It's an issue for the states in the area as well, like Jordan and Egypt.
And so I have long thought that there needed to be a hard look from somebody who is really expert on the military side to look at what the emerging security problems or vacuums could -- vacuum could look like when you create a Palestinian state, and what would you do in terms of the capabilities of the Palestinians, in terms of any elements of security that might need to be agreed between Palestinians and Israelis in their political negotiations -- after all, security is one of the final status issues -- what discussions need to be had with the regional actors like Jordan, Egypt and the like, and what does the international community need to do to provide capability so that when the Palestinian state is established the security picture is both clearer and better.
Is there anything that you can do, for instance, about the rocket threat and the missile threat as it gains range and capability? General Jones is obviously ideal to do this. He as EUCOM/SACEUR, of course, had responsibility for relations with the Israelis but obviously knows the Middle East. He also was Marine Commandant and, you know, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And in some ways, this is a kind of classic joint staff military planning problem. But I want us to be able to really support the negotiations with a very well-developed security concept that all of this can fit into.
If you think about it, we're really developing several parallel tracks. On the one hand, there's the security track which feeds into the capabilities track that Tony Blair is involved in. I mean, they're complementary. There's the political negotiating track. And then, of course, there's the regional support part of this, which is to make certain that Arab states are in on the takeoff as well as the international community, which was one of the two principal reasons for Annapolis. So that's what General Jones is going to do.
QUESTION: Just a quick one. I'm sure you have seen the reports of Turkish bombing inside northern Iraq, including what are reported to be some civilian casualties. I only saw the briefest earlier reports, but it didn't look like something that can be construed as sort of hot pursuit. What comment, if any, do you have on that bombing?
SECRETARY RICE: I've just seen press reports and I really don't have a full readout of what may have happened there. And I just -- I really don't want to comment on the basis of press reports because a lot goes on along that border a lot of the time, frankly, and so I think we have to be able to distinguish what kind of activity this may or may not have been. So I really don't want to comment on press reports.