"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
Last fall, I stood next to Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem 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 Cairo and in Marrakesh and in many places far from Jerusalem to make clear that this was a first step, but it was an important first step. And yes, I underscored the longstanding American policy that does not accept the legitimacy of continued 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.
But 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. But it also 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 that same opportunity to live up to their full God-given potential. (Applause.)
There is another path, a path that leads toward security and prosperity for Israel, the Palestinians, and all the people of the region. But 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 their interests. 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 protection and safety to those who worry every day when their child goes to school, their husband goes to work, their mother goes to market. And there is, I think, a belief among many that the status quo can 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 the Israeli occupation. As Defense Minister Barak and others have observed, the inexorable mathematics of democracy – 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. (Applause.)
Second, we cannot be blind to the political implications of continued conflict. There is today truly a struggle, maybe for the first time, 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 it 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 the 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. It would also allow the Palestinians to have to govern to realize their own legitimate aspirations. And it would undermine the appeal of extremism across the region.
I was very privileged as First Lady to travel the world on behalf of our country. I went from Latin America to Southeast Asia. And during the 1990s, it was rare that people in places far from the Middle East ever mentioned the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now, when I started traveling as Secretary of State and I went to places that were so far from the Middle East, it was the first, second, or third issue that countries raised. We cannot escape the impact of mass communications. We cannot control the images and the messages that are conveyed. We can only change the facts on the ground that refute the claims of the rejectionists and extremists, and in so doing create the circumstances for a safe, secure future for Israel. (Applause.)
And then 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. Hezbollah 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 again last week.
Our message to Hamas is clear: Renounce violence, recognize Israel, and abide by previous signed agreements. (Applause.) That is the only path to participation in negotiations. They do not earn a place at any table absent those changes. (Applause.) And I will repeat today what I have said many times before: Gilad Shalit must be released immediately and returned to his family. (Applause.)
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 of Gaza fall deeper into poverty and despair; that is also not a sustainable position for either Israelis or Palestinians.
Behind these terrorist organizations and their rockets, we see the destabilizing influence of Iran. Now, reaching a two-state solution will not end all these threats – you and I know that – (applause) – but failure to do so gives the 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 Israel make the progress it deserves to ensure that their children are able to see a future of peace, and only by having a partner willing to participate with them will the Palestinians be able to see the same future.
Now, there is for many of us a clear goal: 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. (Applause.) A comprehensive peace that is real, 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. That is the goal that the Obama Administration is determined to help Israel and the Palestinians 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. But ultimately, of course, it will take direct negotiations between the parties to work through all the issues and end the conflict.
The United States stands ready to play an active and sustained role in these talks, and to support the parties as they work to resolve permanent status issues including security, borders, refugees, and Jerusalem. The United States knows we cannot force a solution. We cannot ordain or command the outcome. The parties themselves must resolve their differences.
But, we believe – (applause) – 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. (Applause.)
And the United States recognizes that Jerusalem – Jerusalem is a deeply, profoundly important issue for Israelis and Palestinians, 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.
But 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 over the years in this conflict. (Applause.) 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. (Applause.) 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 finally done. (Applause.)
New construction in East Jerusalem or the West Bank undermines that mutual trust and endangers the proximity talks that are the first step toward the full negotiations that both sides say want and need. And it exposes daylight between Israel and the United States that others in the region hope to exploit. It undermines America’s unique ability to play a role – an essential role – 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 we believe 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 and Arab neighbors, and because we do not want to see the progress that has been made in any way endangered. .
When Prime Minister Netanyahu and I spoke, I suggested a number of concrete steps 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. We’re working hard. We are making it possible for these proximity talks to move ahead. I will be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu later today and President Obama will meet with him tomorrow. (Applause.) 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 encourage the parties to advance the prospects for peace. We commend the government of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad for the reforms they’ve undertaken to strengthen law and order, and the progress that they’ve 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 the rule of law, and ingrain a culture of peace and tolerance among Palestinians. (Applause.)
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. (Applause.) 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, for acting to lift roadblocks and ease movement throughout the West Bank. And we continue to expect Israel to take those concrete steps that will help turn that vision into a reality – build momentum toward a comprehensive peace by demonstrating respect for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians, stopping settlement activity, and addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Now, 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 and Sharon and others have made difficult but clear-eyed choices to pursue peace in the name of Israel’s future. It was Rabin who said, “For Israel there is no path that is without pain. But the path of peace is preferable to the path of war.” And 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 will be to keep moving forward, to stay on what will be a difficult course.