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Remarks With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Before Their Meeting
Secretary of State
Prime Minister's Office
January 2, 2014
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Welcome back to Jerusalem, John. I want to use this opportunity to express once again my personal appreciation and the appreciation of the people of Israel for your unremitting personal efforts to advance peace between us and the Palestinians. I know that you’re committed to peace, I know that I’m committed to peace, but unfortunately, given the actions and words of Palestinian leaders, there’s growing doubt in Israel that the Palestinians are committed to peace.
A few days ago in Ramallah, President Abbas embraced terrorists as heroes. To glorify the murders of innocent women and men as heroes is an outrage. How can President Abbas says – how can he say that he stands against terrorism when he embraces the perpetrators of terrorism and glorifies them as heroes? He can’t stand against terrorists and stand with the terrorists. And I’m wondering what a young Palestinian would think when he sees the leader of the Palestinian people embrace people who axed innocent men and women – axed their heads or blew them up or riddled them with bullets – what’s a young Palestinian supposed to think about the future? What’s he supposed to think about what he should do vis-a-vis Israelis and vis-a-vis the state of Israel? So it’s not surprising that in recent weeks Israel has been subjected to a growing wave of terrorist attacks. President Abbas didn’t see fit to condemn these attacks, even after we learned that at least in one case – I stress, at least in one case – those who served and are serving in the Palestinian security forces took part in them.
In the six months since the start of peace negotiations, the Palestinian Authority continues its unabated incitement against the state of Israel. This Palestinian Government incitement is rampant. You see it in the state-controlled media – the government-controlled media – in the schools, in textbooks, in kindergartens. You see it at every part of Palestinian society. So instead of preparing Palestinians for peace, Palestinian leaders are teaching them to hate Israel. This is not the way to achieve peace. President Abbas must lead his people away from terror and incitement, towards reconciliation and peace.
John, the people of Israel and I are prepared to make such an historic peace, but we must have a Palestinian partner who’s equally prepared to make this peace. Peace means ending incitement; it means fighting terrorism and condemning terrorism; it means recognizing Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people; it means meeting Israel’s security needs; and it means being prepared to truly end the conflict once and for all. If we’re to succeed in our joint effort, President Abbas must reject terror and embrace peace. I hope he doesn’t miss again the opportunity to give Israelis and Palestinians a better future.
Mr. Secretary, John, I look forward to continuing our discussions. I hope that together we can forge a way to a genuine and lasting peace, a secure peace, because the only peace that will endure in the Middle East as it really is, is a peace that Israel can defend. I’m determined above all else to defend my people and my state, and I will never compromise on the security of Israel and its citizens and on the vital interests that protect our future. I think you know, John, more than most, how important it is to ensure the security of Israel. And I hope that despite the shifting sands in the Middle East, together we can build a rock-solid foundation for security and for a secure peace. And that’s the job we’re going to do in the coming days and weeks.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, sir. Thank you, Bibi. Thank you. Well, thank you very much Mr. Prime Minister, my friend Bibi.
And let me begin by saying to all the people of Israel that our thoughts, my thoughts, are with the Sharon family as they sit in vigil with the former prime minister of Israel, Arik Sharon. We remember his contributions, sacrifices he made to ensure the survival and the well-being of Israel, and I have many personal thoughts about my meetings with him on many different occasions – always robust and strong and clear about his positions. And so we all join – all Americans are thinking of Israel and their leader, former leader, and of the vigil that is taking place now at a very personal level with his family.
It is always a great pleasure for me to be back in Jerusalem. When I arrived at the hotel and I looked out, the sun was shining brightly on the walls of the great Old City, and it’s always a privilege to be able to see that site and to think of all of the history that is wrapped up for so many different people, and particularly, obviously, for Israelis today witnessing the difficulties that the prime minister has just referred to, and dealing with the possibilities of peace, but a possibility of peace that is always challenged by day-to-day contradictions and day-to-day realities.
I’m particularly grateful to Bibi for his hospitality. He always makes significant time available to me when I come here. We have intense and productive rounds of discussions. And we have been at this now for five months solid into six months. I think it’s safe to say that we know what the issues are. We know the parameters and the possibilities of peace. And as I said not so many months ago at Ben Gurion Airport as I left, the time is soon arriving where leaders are going to have to make difficult decisions. We are close to that time, if not at it, and I think we understand the circumstances within which we are working.
I know – I come here with no illusions – I know that there are many who are skeptical of whether or not the two parties can achieve peace. But I will tell you that I have personally learned something about the power of reconciliation. And whether or not Israelis think about it every day, so have you. In 1967, there was a war, and Jordan was on the other side of that war, and land very close to the hotel I stay in was the dividing line, and Jordan was on the other side of that line. Today, Jordan has made peace and is a partner in an effort to try to change things and move forward and be constructive.
On a personal level, last month I traveled to Vietnam on my first visit there as Secretary of State. And the transformation in our relationship – I was a young soldier who fought there – the transformation in our relationship is proof that as painful as the past can be, through hard work of diplomacy history’s adversaries can actually become partners for a new day and history’s challenges can become opportunities for a new age.
Those of us who were lucky enough to come back from the war in Vietnam had a simple saying: Every day is extra. And I have always thought that’s a beautiful expression. It’s a way of saying that we honor those who we lost by continuing their work and helping others and trying to achieve what they fought for. And so it is true here and can be true here. My many visits to Israel have shown me how this same sense prevails among some of the world’s, if not the world’s strongest survivors – the Jewish people.
This is my tenth trip to Israel as Secretary of State. And every time I visit, Israel’s security concerns are uppermost in my mind. I understand the nature of the security threat here. I know what it’s like to live in Israel with, once upon a time, Katyusha rockets coming to Kiryat Shmona, or rockets from Gaza coming into Sderot. I understand it. Every time I visit, those concerns are part of my consideration, and that is why President Obama and I remain deeply committed to ensuring that as a result of peace, Israel and Israelis feel more secure, not less. That’s our objective. And that’s why the United States will continue to play a leading role in building both Israeli capacity for Israel to defend itself by itself, but also Palestinian capabilities to address their security needs in the context of statehood.
The commitment of the United States to Israel is ironclad. We know that Israel has to be strong to make peace. And we also know that peace will make Israel stronger not just with its near neighbors, but throughout the world.
So I come here today to continue this ongoing conversation about how to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We are now five full months into this negotiation. We have always known that achieving peace is a long and complicated process. It’s a tough road. But this is not mission impossible. I would note the recent poll by Hebrew University and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research which shows the majorities of Israelis and Palestinians back two-state solution, though both remain suspicious of the other side. Despite the fact that we are discussing really difficult, complicated issues, I am encouraged that the parties remain engaged and substantive discussions are taking place on the core issues.
The United States has remained in close contact with both sides, and we are committed to working with both parties to reach a permanent status agreement that will end conflict and all claims. I particularly want to thank Prime Minister Netanyahu’s very difficult decision. Believe me, I know how difficult the decision was, and I know that in some quarters here that decision is not accepted – not only not easily, but not at all. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister stuck by his guns and I commend him for his courage and his willingness to follow through with something that we believe can keep us on track and help us bring a peace to Israel and to the Palestinians. I commend him, and I commend President Abbas, who also has been under pressure – there are many on his side who say break away, don’t bother, don’t – this isn’t going to go anywhere, and who argue with him that he is on an illusory path.
So I plan to work with both sides more intensely in these next days to narrow the differences on a framework that will provide the agreed guidelines for permanent status negotiations. This will take time and it will take compromise from both sides, but an agreed framework would be a significant breakthrough. It would address all of the core issues. It would create the fixed, defined parameters by which the parties would then know where they are going and what the end result can be. It would address all of the core issues that we have been addressing since day one, including borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem, mutual recognition, and the end of conflict and of all claims.
Now, I want to emphasize that the discussion of an agreed framework has emerged from the ideas that both parties have put on the table. My role is not to impose American ideas on either side but to facilitate the parties’ own efforts. An agreed framework would clarify and bridge the gaps between the parties so that they can move towards a final peace treaty that would resolve all of those core issues.
President Obama and I are deeply committed to this process. President Obama came here in March, and at that time he committed the United States and me particularly to this effort, with an understanding that the possibilities provided by peace are dramatic and they are worth struggling for: Two states for two peoples living side-by-side in peace and stability and security. Peace is possible today, I believe, because the leaders – Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas – have both each taken significant steps for peace notwithstanding the difficulties that the Prime Minister has cited – and they are real. But still we are on this track, and I believe that they are both willing to take more.
In the weeks and months ahead, both sides are going to need to make tough choices to ensure that peace is not just a possibility but is a reality for Israelis and Palestinians for now and for future generations. So that’s what lies ahead of us. It is hard work, but with a determined effort, I’m convinced that we can get there. I’m happy to wish all the folks here a Happy New Year – at least by our calendar. I’m working on three calendars now, so I get to do three times a Happy New Year during the year, but I wish you from us, on our calendar, a very Happy New Year. And may we be successful in these efforts. Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Thank you, John.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thanks.