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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR)
31 August 1997
DEVELOPMENTS RELATED TO THE MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS



Issue 11 * February - August 1997



Excerpts from remarks by the United States Consul General in Jerusalem at the ceremony of signing a statement of understanding between USAID and the Palestinian Council
Gaza City, 4 February 1997 (p.1)

United States Department of State press statement on the establishment of a United States-Palestinian Joint Committee
Washington, D.C., 3 March 1997 (p.2)

Statement on the peace process by the Israeli Foreign Minister Levy
Jerusalem, 12 March 1997 (p.2)

Text of letters from Pope John Paul II to Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority President Arafat
The Vatican, 16 June 1997 (p.6)

Text of the European Union Call for Peace in the Middle East
Amsterdam, 17 June 1997 (p.8)

Remarks by the United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process
Washington, D.C., 6 August 1997 (p.9)

Notes (p.17)




UNITED NATIONS
New York, September 1997







NOTE

Since April 1991, at the request of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the Division for Palestinian Rights of the United Nations Secretariat has prepared a compilation of statements, declarations, documents and other material regarding the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, including the question of Palestine, and the Middle East peace process, entitled "Approaches towards the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the question of Palestine".

In January 1994, the bulletin was renamed "Developments related to the Middle East peace process". It includes information material related to the bilateral Arab-Israeli peace negotiations, the multilateral negotiations on Middle East regional issues, and other aspects of the Middle East peace process.

This issue covers the period from February to August 1997.





Excerpts from remarks by the United States Consul General in Jerusalem at the ceremony of signing a statement of understanding between USAID and the Palestinian Council
Gaza City, 4 February 1997

The following are excerpts from the text of the remarks by the United States Consul General in Jerusalem Edward Abington made on 4 February 1997 in Gaza City during the ceremony of signing a statement of understanding between USAID and the Palestinian Council:



From the earliest days of the Council, the United States has worked closely with your leadership to provide support for the new institution. As the experience of the Council and its staff has increased, we have responded by widening and deepening American support activities. Our USIS office at the Consulate arranged the first visit of a group of Council members to the US Congress last August. Under the auspices of USAID, we have mobilized the resources of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Association for Rural Development (ARD) to provide support to the new council. Today's signing does not set into motion a new relationship, but marks, in a formal way, the already existing commitment of the Council and the United States to work together.

Most, if not all, of the media attention on the US-Palestinian relationship is focused on the peace process. But no one should underestimate our commitment to the process of democracy building in Palestinian society. The United States strongly supports the establishment of strong Palestinian democratic institutions and sees them as key elements in a successful peace process. Indeed, I have repeatedly told Chairman Arafat that one of his greatest legacies for his daughter Zahwa and all Palestinian children will be the strength of the institutions he builds during his lifetime. And one of the most critical institutions is the Palestinian Legislative Council. I strongly believe this because the foundation for peace between Palestinians and Israelis cannot be made by diplomats and politicians alone. It must represent the will of the people in both societies. At times this will complicate matters since democracies rarely speak with one voice. However, this is the imperfect nature of democracy - a political system which has been aptly described as the worst possible system of government, except for all the rest. It is the price we pay for providing a voice to all members of society.

Mr. Speaker, you, your fellow Council members and staff have accomplished a great deal since the Council met in its first session in Gaza on 7 March 1996, a meeting I was proud to attend. Unfortunately, public opinion polls reveal that many Palestinians are not adequately informed of the efforts of the Council. This is not surprising given the level of coverage of the Council's deliberations in most of the local media. This needs to change. Without an open media, free from censorship and intimidation against reporters and editors, citizens cannot make informed choices, elected officials are not held accountable and representative Government cannot possibly function properly. While the daily work of the Council may pale in face of the intense international and local attention on the peace process, its work is almost always more relevant to the daily lives of Palestinians than the atmospherics and minutia of diplomatic dialogue.

Over the past several months, our attention has been taken up with the negotiations over Hebron. No one was more glad than I was to see the agreement on Hebron concluded. Part of this was my desire to get a good night's sleep and to spend more time with my family. Most of all, however, it was the worry that the peace process was eclipsing important issues of governance, and taking attention away from the pressing need to build strong Palestinian democratic institutions.

I would like to take a moment to focus on this issue. Now is the time to rededicate our efforts in democracy building. Creating a democratic Government is not like constructing a building where the job is done when the workmen set the last stone in place. Democracy is an on-going process that requires continuous work. Having been here for over three and a half years now, I am convinced more than ever that Palestinians are deeply committed to making democracy work. Chairman Arafat has led you through an extraordinary journey to this time of hope and promise. God willing, a lasting and comprehensive peace will be his legacy. But an equally important and lasting inheritance for the Palestinian people will be a Government with strong democratic institutions. These institutions must include a strong and effective legislature that represents the will of the people, an independent judiciary that protects all citizens, a vibrant and free economic system without corruption and favouritism, and an open media where the people's voices can be heard.1/

United States Department of State press statement on the establishment of a United States-Palestinian Joint Committee
Washington, D.C., 3 March 1997

The following is the text of the press statement on the establishment of a United States-Palestinian Joint Committee, issued at Washington, D.C., on 3 March 1997,
United States-Palestinian Joint Committee

Secretary Albright and Chairman Arafat met today at the Department of State for discussions on a variety of issues relating to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the broader Arab-Israeli peace process, economic issues, and the general situation in the region. They also reviewed the emerging relationship that has developed between the United States and the Palestinians. In an effort to enhance this working partnership, Secretary Albright and Chairman Arafat agreed to the formation of a US-Palestinian Joint Committee. The Joint Committee will constitute a structured forum for dialogue between US and Palestinian representatives on a regular basis. It will better enable the two sides to discuss issues of mutual concern, to strengthen existing ties, and to identify new areas for enhanced cooperation. Indeed, the Joint Committee reflects the importance both sides attach to strengthening their partnership in the period ahead.2/


Statement on the peace process by the Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy
Jerusalem, 12 March 1997


On 12 March 1997, in Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy addressed the Knesset on the Middle East peace process. The following are his remarks:

Mr. Speaker, Members of the Knesset,

From this rostrum, in my first address to the Knesset upon my entry into office, I said as follows:

The Government, by virtue of its guidelines, accepts the binding democratic principle of continuity in the Government's commitment to the agreements signed by the previous Government. It accepts a process to which it was previously opposed, and this is a clear expression, to the whole world, of our adherence to democratic values. At the same time, the fate of this agreement, of this process, will be determined by reciprocity. It must be upheld not by one side, but by both.

I said that this process would be difficult. We have much hard work before us. There will be ups and downs; there will undoubtedly by crises, as the two sides do not see eye to eye on the final outcome of this process - the permanent status arrangements. However, if there will not be a strict rejection of incitement and violence, this process will wither of its own accord. Because peace cannot be achieved under threat, there can be no progress towards reconciliation under incitement, and there can be no confidence in peace along a mine-strewn path of fear.

Peace is a matter of free choice. The supreme value which we attach to peace dictates this choice. With all the questions and evident dangers, the Government decided to adopt this path, accepting the democratic principle behind this decision - a path, which constitutes the best hope for both peoples - and was attacked by right and left, just one week after taking office.

Just one week - and already it had enemies, to a certain degree, in Cairo, where harsh statements were made. It is in Cairo that the anti-Israeli line was defined, it is from there that threats were issued, saying: If Israel will not act in accordance with the expectations of certain elements, we will take action against Israel everywhere, on the international arena. We will put a halt to normalization and cause unrest within Israel as well.

What kind of reception is this for a Government which announces that it accepts the course of peace, that it will honour the agreements? What kind of message is this? What kind of encouragement?

We understood then that an anti-Israeli strategy had been adopted, regardless of what action was taken. This was subsequently confirmed from every international podium in the adoption of anti-Israeli resolutions, anti-Israeli actions, pressure on those States, which had begun to normalize relations with us, to halt this normalization.

On the Palestinian side, from the first meetings, we discerned a strong desire to engage in dialogue. I was the first Israeli minister of this Government to meet with Yasser Arafat, and the conversation, which began with a certain tension - not of words, but of feelings - soon thawed, and we had a serious talk, placing matters on the table. We rejected violence. Violence will solve nothing; violence and incitement must not be viewed as a means to resolve any issue. We agreed that any future disagreements would be resolved in face-to-face negotiations. We have the agreement before us; both sides must rigorously uphold it.

Since that time, and despite unwelcome developments, we succeeded in establishing a mechanism to work together in an orderly manner. We achieved the agreement on Hebron. We set up two delegations - one headed by Abu Mazen and the other by myself. We held an orderly working meeting of the plenum, we adopted decisions, and we are fulfilling them. The two chairmen meet and discuss every issue. They do not need the approval or decision of any higher authority. They contact one another and set meeting to discuss specific issues.

We set up nine committee, each of which, with the agreement of the respective chairmen, is to deal with a specific issue. For example, we have a security committee to deal with issues, which arise on a day-to-day basis. Among the other committees are a committee to discuss the Gaza port; a committee to discuss the airport in Dahania; a committee to resolve the issue of safe passage for goods and persons; a committee to discuss economic issues, which has already convened and resolved all outstanding issues and claims.

We decided that the plenum would convene once a month to receive reports from the committee heads, and if needed, call on the two chairmen to resolve unsettled matters. If they, too, should fail to resolve the issue, both sides agreed that it would be brought before the Israeli Prime Minister and the head of the Palestinian Authority for decision. This was the modus operandi agreed upon.

What has happened now? Why the panic? Why this international drama? Who has created it? For what reason? All attempts to present Israel as failing to abide by the agreement, ostensibly ignoring its partner, not fulfilling its commitment, are unfounded. To the contrary, let us examine these issues. I can tell you that in no article of any agreement, in no meeting, was there even a hint as to the scope of the further redeployment. Moreover, with the signing of the Hebron Protocol, there was an unequivocal statement by the United States, conveyed to the head of the Palestinian Authority, stating that under the terms of the agreement it is understood that it is Israel and Israel alone, which will determine the scope of the further redeployment. Thus, no further discussion of this issue is required. This is Israel's authority under the agreement, and we acted in accordance with this authority.

True, the Americans expected a redeployment of 10 per cent - they said so. The Government, following a prolonged, careful and serious discussion, based on its consideration and responsibility for security and other issues, decided on a figure of 9.1 per cent. This is an area larger than the entire Gaza Strip - 200,000 Palestinians being transferred to their own self-government. This should not be underestimated.

This the decision adopted by the Government was very favourably received by the US Government, as well as by many European States. The decision was within Israel's authority. There is no deviation from the agreement here. In a meeting I had with Mr. Abu Mazen as head of the Palestinian delegation, I asked: What did you expect? While he did not say so, some of his colleagues expected that the first phase of further redeployment would be 30 per cent, and likewise the second and third phases, so that the final negotiation would be over the remaining 10 per cent. I asked: On what basis? - On the basis of expectations; that is what they want. I asked: Does our decision constitute a violation of any promise made to you? He admitted: No promise was given - and I quote.

Failing to find a violation here, they go on to the issue of Har Homa. As I have said from every rostrum, including this one - not to arouse anger, not as justification, but as a direct statement: Israel's right to build in Jerusalem is not subject to question or to appeal. There is no Israeli commitment to refrain from building in Jerusalem. This has been verified by the best jurists and legal advisers. Where authority is vested in Israel under the agreement, Israel is entitled to build.

Moreover, there was no commitment, even orally, by the previous Government not to build in Jerusalem. This decision derives from Israel's unassailable right to build in its capital, and is also reflected in the agreement itself. Let no one be misled, and say: In order to prevent violence and unrest, refrain from building in Jerusalem or change the government decision. I wish to state the one and only truth, even if there are those who may find it unpleasant: Israel has the right to build in Jerusalem. The government decision is firm and abiding, and will not be altered - even in the face of daily threats. Progress towards peace will not be achieved with threats; to the contrary.

We will, of course, build for Arabs as well. I am glad to have been one of those who initiated the government decision to build in Jerusalem for Arabs as well. Is this a good decision? I say that to build for the Arab population in Jerusalem is a good decision, a necessary decision. The Government will carry out the decision on both levels, building in Har Homa and for the Arab population of Jerusalem.

We now hear about a decision to convene what some are calling an international forum, others an international conference, and yet others a briefing, in Gaza. When we chose the course of peace, we accepted the obligation of resolving our differences. If an outside party should try to introduce itself into this process, it will become deadlocked. The appeal to international forums runs counter to the letter of commitment given by Chairman Yasser Arafat to the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on 9 September 1993, that in choosing this course, every problem or difference that arises in the future will be resolved directly by us, without recourse to international forums. This is contrary to the agreement itself.

There is therefore no reason for such a gathering. What will such a gathering achieve? What is it, a tribunal? Does anyone believe that Israel, which has chosen the course of peace, will agree to stand accused? Will this serve as an encouragement to pursue the course of peace? Will it have a positive effect on the prevailing atmosphere, or rather a negative, deleterious and dangerous effect?

Once we have chosen the course of peace, there is no need for pressure. Any pressure will only bring the Israeli Government and many others in Israel to say: We will not pursue peace on account of pressure. We will not accept anything that others want, in their own interests, and abandon our own interests, only because of pressure. Pressure is not an incentive for peace.

There is yet another area of activity, of which we are aware, which poses a serious danger. The Palestinian Authority is now co-opting to its discussions organizations, which only yesterday it itself pointed to as a dangerous opposition seeking to undermine the peace process. They are now partners in the talks. There is today also encouragement to begin to foment unrest - not yet violence, against which we admonish, but unrest which is liable to deteriorate into violence, to which HAMAS is a party. Yes, HAMAS is involved in this too. And if it is given a green light, it will destroy this process with its own hands.

I would like to believe that there is still a sense of responsibility, and that reason will determine whether such a breach will be created, and whether it will be exploited by those elements which seek to destroy the peace process. The situation will then be very grave; this will deal a mortal blow to hope.

This is why I call for responsibility, not extremism - neither on the right nor on the left. Responsibility obliges us to take the middle course, the responsible and courageous course, and to make every effort to prevent violence, to uphold agreements, to advance the peace process and to make it succeed.

From this rostrum, I call upon the Palestinian Authority and its head: Look at the course this Government has chosen and, though you have not received all that you hoped, this Government is following a courageous and correct course, fulfilling its commitments, and moving forward to resolve all issues on the agenda until we achieve the longed-for peace. Violence, incitement and ferment will meet with the severest response, because this is not the course that will advance us to our desired goal: peace.

This is a time for maturity, a time for responsibility, a time for reason. It is a time to return to negotiations, not to seek solutions outside the region and outside the committees we have established. It is a time to return to the negotiating table, which is the only place and the only way to advance peace and to remove dangers.3/

Text of letters from Pope John Paul II to Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority President Arafat
The Vatican, 16 June 1997

On 16 June 1997, the Holy See Press Office published two letters from Pope John Paul II addressed to Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. The following are the texts of the letters:
Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II
to Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of the State of Israel

In recent months I have been nurturing a hope, which every day is renewed: that the word ‘peace’ in the Middle East - and above all in the Holy Land - will once again become the principal point of reference of political activity and of the commitment of everyone, both in the region itself and in the international community. I know that much effort has been expanded and that many people have offered their help, but I have seen that, unfortunately, difficulties of various kinds have so far appeared insurmountable. It must be admitted that the much hoped-for dialogue between the parties, and in particular between the Government, over which you preside and the leaders of the Palestinian people, is practically at a standstill.

This fact has prompted me to write you, confident of the friendship, which exists between the Apostolic See and the State of Israel and in the spirit of candour and cordiality, which marked our meeting last February. I am writing also to President Yasser Arafat, as I wish to express to both of you my very great concern at the present time and for the short-term and long-term prospects, if this situation should continue.

You will understand, Mr. Prime Minister, that this intervention of mine is not motivated by concerns of a political nature nor is it aimed at proposing practical solutions, but rather springs from my profound sense of suffering, which I believe certainly corresponds to the sadness and perhaps even the frustration of the majority of Israelis and Palestinians. The Israeli and Palestinian leaders know how many people have been waiting for peace and wait for it still, hoping for a future that will be effectively better. I join them in the desire to be able to look ahead to new horizons where the sufferings, fears and uncertainties of the past and present will be replaced by understanding, trust and peaceful coexistence. This appeal of mine is, above all, a moral one. I address it confidently to all those who are committed to the search for the good of their peoples. In the name of God and of the faith in Him, which unites us all, let everyone avoid increasing the levels of tension and frustration: history, above all in the Holy Land, teaches us that great hopes, if unfulfilled over a long period of time, can cause further unforeseen provocations and uncontrollable situations of violence. The Israeli and Palestinian peoples are already shouldering a burden of suffering, which is too heavy: this burden must not be increased; instead it deserves the utmost commitment to finding the paths of necessary and courageous compromises. Efforts in this regard will certainly earn you the gratitude of coming generations and of all humanity. For only a Holy Land at peace will be able to welcome in a worthy manner the thousands of pilgrims who during the Grand Jubilee of the Year 2000 will wish to come to pray there.

Confident that these words will not go unheeded, I cordially greet you and assure you, Mr. Prime Minister, that this Apostolic See is always open to the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and to all who, in sincerity and good will, wish to offer their support in the quest for peace. Upon the resolve and efforts of all parties in the pursuit of the well-being of your peoples I invoke abundant divine blessings and assistance.4/

Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II
to Mr. Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian Authority


The present state of the Middle East peace process and in particular the de facto interruption of dialogue between the Palestinian representatives and the Israeli Government induce me to write to you and, simultaneously, to Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel. I write to you, Mr. President, mindful of the mutual esteem and openness which have always marked our many meetings. I am also moved by my constant concern for the well-being of the Palestinian people. In recent months, I have truly hoped, and every day I have prayed, that peace in the Holy Land would continue to be the foremost objective of an open and constructive dialogue between the parties and the goal of a lasting and reasoned commitment on the part of the international community. I know that efforts and attempts have not been lacking, but unfortunately it appears that so far they have been in vain. My fear is that if this situation continues it will become increasingly difficult to revive the quest for the trust that is essential to every negotiation. I am deeply worried, and I share the pain of those, especially Palestinians and Israelis, who feel let down and frustrated, and yet do not give in to the terrible temptation to rekindle the conflict and carry it to greater levels of hatred and violence. You know, Mr. President, that in sharing my deep concern with you and the Prime Minister of Israel I am moved solely by reasons of the moral order and in the certainty of being understood and, I dare hope, listened to in the name of humanity and of the Faith in God the Creator, which we have in common. In the name of God I appeal to the Palestinian and Israeli leaders to consider above all the good of their peoples and the future of the younger generations. Those generations must not continue to experience the already excessive suffering, which has affected these two peoples. They must be able to look ahead with confidence, in the hope of a better future, in which provocation, tension and violence will give way to a coexistence that is productive for all. The painful history of the past must not prove vain and useless, and this will be possible only through the foresight of today's leaders, which will enable them to restore, at whatever cost, the necessary trust and willingness to compromise. I am not unaware of the practical and technical difficulties involved, and which will arise at every step of the way, but I believe that they can and must be met with courage and determination, virtues proper to those who work for peace in a land that is Holy for the peoples who live there and for the whole of humanity. Millions of believers, Jews, Christians and Muslims from all over the world look to that land. Many of them wish to go there on pilgrimage. Also and especially for this reason there should be peace, so that the meaning of the approaching Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 may be complete.

I greet you warmly, Mr. President, and I reaffirm my closeness to you and to the Palestinian people, assuring you that the Holy See will always be ready to welcome the Palestinian and Israeli representatives seeking to build peace in good will and trust. The Holy See will have the same openness to all who sincerely wish to offer their necessary contribution. May Almighty God bless those who sow peace and seek the good of all peoples.4/


Text of the European Union Call for Peace in the Middle East
Amsterdam, 17 June 1997


The European Council met in Amsterdam on 16 and 17 June for its Intergovernmental Conference convened at the level of Heads of State or Government. The following is the text of the European Union Call for Peace in the Middle East adopted at the conclusion of the Conference, on 17 June 1997:

European Union Call for Peace in the Middle East

The Heads of State or Government of the European Union call on the peoples and Governments of the Middle East to renew the spirit of mutual confidence, which, in Madrid in 1991 and in Oslo in 1993, raised hopes of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace. The peoples of Europe and the Middle East are linked by a common destiny, which was affirmed in 1995 at the Euro-Mediterranean Conference in Barcelona. In the knowledge of our common history, we invite the peoples of the Middle East to join the peoples of Europe in building a future of harmony, founded on shared principles. Peace is possible, necessary and a matter of urgency in the Middle East.

Stagnation on the Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese tracks is a permanent threat to the security of all.

The foundations of peace are widely known: the right of all States and peoples in the region to live in peace within safe, recognized borders; respect for the legitimate aspiration of the Palestinian people to decide their own future; the exchange of land for peace; the non-acceptability of the annexation of territory by force; respect for human rights; the rejection of terrorism of all kinds; good relations between neighbours; and compliance with existing agreements and the rejection of counter-productive unilateral initiatives. In this context, the Union recalls its opposition to settlements and attachment to security cooperation.

Four years ago, the mutual recognition of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples in Oslo opened up the path to their peaceful coexistence on the land they share. It is time to take concrete steps towards a lasting peace.

We call upon the Israeli and Palestinian leadership to continue the negotiations to further the implementation of the Interim and Hebron Agreements and to resume talks on the permanent status. It is vital to abstain from unilateral actions prejudging the permanent status issues and to resume and maintain full security cooperation with the aim of fighting terrorism.

We call on the people of Israel to recognize the right of the Palestinians to exercise self-determination, without excluding the option of a State.

The creation of a viable and peaceful sovereign Palestinian entity is the best guarantee of Israel's security. At the same time we call upon the Palestinian people to reaffirm their commitment to the legitimate right of Israel to live within safe, recognized borders.

The Union stresses its commitment to human rights, democracy and the fostering of civil society in the Arab-Israeli context. It condemns all breaches of those rights, whether it be abuses by security authorities, torture, suppression of freedom of speech and media, land confiscations, extra-judicial killings, the deprivation of the right of residence or incitement to violence.

The European Union will continue through the efforts of its Special Envoy for the Middle East peace process, through its diplomatic relations and economic involvement, and through its relations of friendship and trust with the various parties, to work together with the United States, Russia and the relevant parties in the region and to ensure that the work of the peace builders is completed. The European Council asks the Council to continue its efforts together with the Special Envoy to move forward the peace process. It calls upon all the participants in the peace process to renew their efforts towards this end, specifically by supporting the recent initiative launched by President Mubarak.5/


Remarks by the United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process
Washington, D.C., 6 August 1997


Speaking at the National Press Club at Washington, D.C., on 6 August 1997, the United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright addressed the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The following are her remarks:

The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process

Members of the National Press Club, distinguished guests, colleagues and friends, good afternoon. It is gratifying that, with President Clinton's leadership, we have made progress during the six months I have served as Secretary of State in a number of areas of importance to the security, prosperity and values of the American people.

The United States has become party to the Chemical Weapons Convention. NATO has invited three of central Europe's new democracies to join and has forged historic partnerships with Russia and Ukraine. Congress has approved an increase in funding for international affairs, and devised a plan to spur United Nations reform while paying back arrears. We are moving ahead on implementing Dayton and backing the War Crimes Tribunal. We have renewed normal trade relations with China while being forthright about our concerns on proliferation and our support for human rights.

We have forged new guidelines for our security cooperation with Japan, made progress towards four-party talks on Korea, strengthened our working relationships with Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean and unveiled a plan to increase trade and investment in Africa. Overall, this has been a remarkable period. Unfortunately, progress achieved between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East, an area vital to our interests, is now threatened. Today, I would like to discuss the reasons why progress towards peace in this region has stalled and offer some suggestions for restoring positive momentum.

The urgency of that goal was underlined one week ago, when bombs exploded in the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, killing 13 Israelis - one of whom was also an American citizen - and wounding 168. Behind those numbers are the faces of mothers, fathers, grandparents and children killed not for anything they had done, but simply for who and where they were. Sadly and tragically, the Israeli people - almost fifty years into the history of their State - are still the targets of a murderous campaign of terror. No people should have to live this way.

At the same time, it says something very good and very right about the Israeli people that they will never grow used to such events. They will never fail to respond with outrage and grief, never fail to mourn the individual lives that have been cut short, never cease to comfort the families, never cease to demand an end to terrorist attacks - and never give in to them.

It also says something hopeful about the future of the Middle East that, as we speak, 162 Arab, Israeli and Palestinian teenagers are in a summer camp in the woods of Maine - a camp sponsored by the Seeds of Peace programme - and that this tragic bombing has brought those young people closer together in shock, sorrow and determination to end the cycle of violence in their region.

Americans share each of these feelings and reactions. Our thoughts are with those who knew and loved the persons killed or injured last week. We stand by Israel in its fight against terror. We maintain our unshakable commitment to Israeli security. And we join Governments and peoples from every part of the globe who have condemned last week's savage attack.

Our convictions are clear. Terrorism is evil. It can never be justified. It is the instrument of cowards. It kills the innocent not by accident, but by design. And its design in the Middle East is to murder the peace process by shredding security and destroying the hope for peace.

We do not yet know the identities of the bombers at Mahane Yehuda. But we can be sure this crime was not a random event. Terrorists often strike when they believe the parties are poised to make progress. It may be more than coincidence that this latest attack occurred shortly after the announcement that negotiations of the interim committees set up by the Hebron agreement would resume, and on the eve of an American effort to share ideas on how to break the current impasse.

We have come too far in the process of Arab-Israeli peacemaking to allow the vultures of violence to shape the region's future. The stakes are too high; past sacrifices have been too great; and the peoples of the region have been burdened for too long by bloodshed and strife.

We must respond to those who have declared war on peace by waging war on terror - understanding that forging peace and fighting terrorism are not separate struggles, but rather two halves of the same struggle. We cannot succeed in one if we do not prevail in both. The path ahead is difficult, but so was the journey already made.

Over the years, the quest for peace in the Middle East has suffered multiple shocks, setbacks and traumas. We have watched in horror as buses and markets have been bombed, schoolchildren attacked, great leaders such as President Sadat and Prime Minister Rabin assassinated and innocent people gunned down even while in a house of worship.

Nevertheless, in Madrid, Oslo, Washington, Cairo and in the Arava, we have seen historic enemies come together, speaking the language of peace. We have seen ties between Arabs and Israelis expand and a process of regional cooperation begin to tackle tough issues such as water, the environment and refugees. We have seen a series of economic summits bring Arab and Israeli business people together to lay the groundwork for increased trade, investment and prosperity.

We have seen extensive progress towards ending the secondary and tertiary boycotts of Israel, thereby opening Israel's products to the world and the world's products to Israel. We have seen substantive negotiations aimed at a comprehensive settlement between Israel and all her Arab neighbours. And we have seen many nations that are outside the region but affected by it - nations such as Russia, Norway, Japan and members of the European Union - lend their diplomatic, political and financial support to peace. We must ask ourselves why this process has survived all the traumas and how it has endured despite bitterness, sorrow, suffering and anger.

The answer is that the vast majority of the people of the region - Israelis, Arabs and Palestinians - have come to believe that the status quo is unacceptable, that the costs of conflict are too high, and that the effort to achieve peace holds at least the promise of a better future. They understand that without peace, their societies will remain shackled by the preoccupations of the past; their region will fall further behind in the global marketplace; and their children will grow up in an environment of uncertainty, danger and fear.

The popular desire for peace is durable, resilient and strong. This is what extremists and terrorists fear most. And this is why, despite the bombing this past week, and despite threats of further violence, the process of peacemaking has survived and will continue to survive.

When the Israelis and Palestinians came together in Oslo in 1993, the effort to achieve peace entered a new phase. The parties agreed for the first time on mutual recognition. And they agreed on a road map for transforming what had been an irresolvable confrontation based on clashing ideologies and violence into a solvable political negotiation based on shared interests. The leaders were able to agree to this because the Israeli and Palestinian people understood the need to recognize and deal with one another directly and to accept each other's political identity.

Now that the threshold of mutual recognition has been crossed, there can be no going back to mutual rejection, no going back to mutual denial. Neither party can return to an earlier time. By agreeing to accept one another as partners, the Israelis and Palestinians took an irreversible step towards ending their conflict.

The question today is not whether the Israelis and Palestinians will reach a mutually acceptable agreement, but when. This question of time is an important one. With our help, Israelis and Palestinians can move steadily towards a better future or they can remain bogged down in mutual suspicion and recriminations. The longer decisions are postponed, the more conflict and suffering will ensue.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said recently that leading Israel was like a “bed of roses”, but with a “lot of thorns”. I suspect that Chairman Arafat might describe his job in a similar way.

One cannot talk fairly about the Middle East without recognizing the difficulty of the challenges the leaders face. But one cannot talk accurately about the region without recognizing how important peace is to both the Israeli and Palestinian people and without acknowledging that they have made the choice for peace. It is important in each society that the centre work hard to make its influence felt over that of the extremes. And it is vital that the message be conveyed that it is no longer acceptable to avoid the tough choices required to move forward the quest for peace.

Unfortunately, in recent months, since the promising agreement over Hebron, progress has stalled. We now face a crisis of confidence that has put at risk past gains, rekindled old animosities, and left Israelis and Palestinians alike fearful about what the future may bring.

In order to break the current deadlock, Israelis and Palestinians must return to basic principles. These principles do not focus on the substance of negotiations, which the parties must resolve between themselves at the bargaining table, but rather on the even more fundamental question of how the parties should approach negotiations in order to create the best possible environment for success.

What are these principles?

First, the sine qua non for progress is a mutual commitment to security and against violence. This is basic. This is common sense. There is no place in the peace process for violence or terror and there is no room for using security cooperation as leverage in a negotiation. That approach destroys confidence, fuels extremism and undermines prospects for peace.

In recent months, many Israelis have come to believe that the Palestinian Authority is not taking seriously its vow to combat terror; that Palestinian words are not followed by action; and that the words, themselves, are not consistent or clear. They are concerned that violence in the streets may be orchestrated. And they wonder whether the Palestinian Authority is doing all it can to prevent incitement to violence and terrorist attacks. They fear that violence is being given a green light, or a yellow light, or a blinking light - when what is called for in Oslo and what is essential for peace is an unceasing red.

We do not ask the impossible. With suicide terrorists, there can be no perfect system for guaranteeing security. We cannot expect 100 per cent success. But there must be 100 per cent effort both with regard to unilateral Palestinian Authority measures against terror and in Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation. What does this mean? Specifically it means sharing information and coordinating law enforcement actions. It means an unrelenting effort to detect and deter potential terrorist acts.

It means identifying and seizing arms caches, such as the one raided successfully by Palestinian police in Beit Sahour two weeks ago. It means arresting and prosecuting those involved in planning, financing, supplying or abetting terrorism. And it means doing everything possible to create a moral atmosphere in which advocacy of violence and terror withers away. The terrorists are unrelenting, and so must we be unrelenting in our struggle against them.

On this issue, there can be no winks, no double standards, no double meanings and with respect to the imprisonment of terrorists - no revolving doors. Nor can the level of security cooperation ebb and flow with the ups and downs of negotiation. The Palestinian commitment to fight terror must be constant and absolute. This is essential to move the peace process forward. It is necessary, obviously, to create a climate of greater security and confidence within Israel. But it is also essential to Palestinians. Extremist violence is a grave threat to Palestinian society. Palestinians are sometimes the direct targets of this violence. And they are the ones who suffer economic and humanitarian hardships when Israel clamps down on access.

While Israelis have too often been the victims of terror, it is fair to say that attacks by Islamic Jihad and Hamas have made ordinary Palestinians pay a terrible price not only in their day-to-day well-being, but also in their long-range hopes and possibilities.

Israelis and Palestinians must unite to defeat terrorism, which is their common enemy. They must unite to end violence, apprehend perpetrators and create an environment in which it is possible for all not simply to survive, but to thrive - to go about the business of building secure and productive lives. This is the first principle of Oslo and it is the cornerstone of an enduring peace.

The second principle is that both sides agreed to settle their differences over the subjects of negotiation at the bargaining table, and not somewhere else. It is in the interests of each party to avoid steps that undermine the other's confidence and trust in the process. In practice, this means forgoing unilateral acts which prejudge or predetermine issues reserved for permanent status negotiations.

Let me be clear. There is no moral equivalency between suicide bombers and bulldozers, between killing innocent people and building houses. It is simply not possible to address political issues seriously in a climate of intimidation and terror. But the principle of refraining from unhelpful unilateral acts is central to maintaining mutual confidence; especially as we look ahead to permanent status negotiations. It is essential that the parties think through how their actions will affect the environment for those negotiations.

Palestinians argue that Israel has taken some actions in recent months that prejudge issues reserved for permanent status negotiations. These include settlement activity, construction at Har Homa and the confiscation of land. These actions have generated uncertainty among many Palestinians about Israeli intentions, undermined for them the very logic of negotiations and caused a crisis of confidence in their Israeli partner. It is fair to ask, how can you create a credible environment for negotiation when actions are being taken that seem to predetermine the outcome?

To restore confidence, both sides must think seriously and in advance about the potential impact of what they do and say. They must do more than ask whether an action is technically legal. They must ask whether it is wise, whether it is consistent with the spirit of their partnership, and whether it brings them closer to the goals of their agreements.

The third rule of the road for the negotiating process is that both parties must demonstrate, in word and deed, their understanding of peace not as one option among many, but as the only option that will provide for the security and well-being of their people. It was this mutual recognition that made Israel and the Palestinian partners in pursuing peace. And it is the logic of this partnership that has made it possible to overcome past obstacles and setbacks, as demonstrated by the Hebron agreement earlier this year.

Both Israeli and Palestinian leaders have been consistent in stating their commitment to peace. But the success of the negotiating process requires more. They must reaffirm their commitment to partnership and to working together to solve problems. They must reiterate their understanding that the future of their two peoples is not a zero-sum game in which one party will win and the other will lose; or in which one will get up from the bargaining table with an advantage over the other. If two people are in a boat heading for the rapids, they should not be arguing about how they got there; they should be rowing together in the direction of security and shore.

Israelis and Palestinians will continue to have substantive differences in their negotiations, especially given the issues of permanent status that are yet to be addressed. The depth of these differences makes it all the more vital that the parties search for ways to rebuild mutual confidence and restore the momentum towards peace. A spirit of partnership must motivate each side. And a recognition of their partner's legitimate needs must influence behaviour. Indeed, the new mindset must be that there is no problem too big that we cannot resolve it together.

As Israelis and Palestinians move to re-energize their negotiations, it is imperative that the international community do its share to support this effort and to recognize that prosperity is a parent to peace. Every nation with an interest in the region - especially Israel - has a stake in the social and economic progress of the Palestinian Authority and should contribute appropriately to it.

And Arab States have a responsibility to build peace through a normalization of relations throughout their region. Dialogue, business contracts and personal contacts should take the place of boycotts and hostility. This is the logic of the Middle East Economic Summit planned for Doha this November. Countries in the region will only hurt the peace process and their own economic future if they fail to attend that summit.

In this regard, I salute King Hussein of Jordan both for his direct contributions to the peace process, and for the effort he has made to persuade Arabs and Israelis alike of the economic and political benefits of peace.

For decades, the United States has been deeply engaged in the pursuit of a comprehensive Middle East peace. President Clinton - like his predecessors - has considered this to be a top priority and has worked hard to support the efforts of the parties to reach that goal. Over the years, US policy towards the Arab-Israeli peace process has been based on key elements which have underlined our approach. These core elements remain valid today. Let me reaffirm them.

We seek a just and lasting peace achieved through direct negotiations, based on UN Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), including the principle, upon which every Arab-Israeli agreement has been built - land for peace. We believe that peace must be accompanied by real security for Israel and her Arab neighbours both from external threats and from terror.

We believe peace must be just, lasting, comprehensive, leading to treaties based on normal relations and genuine peace between peoples, including between Israel and Syria and Israel and Lebanon. And we believe that peace must address the legitimate political rights of the Palestinian people. Principles, however, cannot produce agreements; the hard work of negotiation does. And the United States has tried, through a variety of ways, to promote that process.

We have worked at times to insulate and protect negotiations. We have moved to defuse crises both on the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Lebanon fronts. We have marshalled economic and political support. And, as was the case during the Israeli-Syrian talks at the Wye Plantation and during the Hebron negotiations, we have at times even gone beyond the traditional role of facilitator and played the role of mediator.

At the same time, the United States is not a party to the Arab-Israeli conflict. We do not assume the same risks and responsibilities as parties struggling with the issues of political identity and physical survival.

As a consequence, we cannot, should not, and will not impose solutions. Nor can we create the political will required for Arabs and Israelis to make the tough decisions for peace. These are their decisions, not ours. But given our indispensable role and the trust and confidence we have gained, we do have a responsibility during good times and bad to work with them in the pursuit of peace. Indeed, they want us to play this role. And we will continue to do so.

In the past several months, as the negotiations floundered, and Israeli-Palestinian recriminations intensified, we sought in several ways to put the process back on track. Working closely with President Mubarak of Egypt, our strategic partner in peace, we tried to define a basis on which the parties could re-engage. We promoted direct contacts to restore a practical working relationship between Israelis and Palestinians.

We focused on parallel steps each side could take to address the concerns of the other. We built on these contacts to renew discussions on the interim agreement issues and were developing ideas to overcome the differences that had prevented the permanent status talks from convening.

Indeed, on the eve of the 30 July attack in Jerusalem, the President and I felt it was time to send Dennis Ross to the region to convey US ideas. That trip will now go forward at the end of this week. The primary focus of Ambassador Ross' visit will be to deal with the security dimension of the current crisis. If the right kinds of steps are being taken to improve the security environment, we will have a basis for going forward - as we must - with consideration of political issues, beginning with the need to restore trust and make progress towards fulfilling the terms of the interim agreement.

We must also, however, prepare to do more. The Israeli-Palestinian crisis of confidence has cost the peace process six months. Suspicions and mistrust are running high. The logic of Oslo, based on mutual recognition, is sound, but the incremental approach of the interim agreement needs to be married to an accelerated approach to permanent status.

To restore momentum, we have to increase confidence on both sides about where the negotiating process is leading and what the outcome of permanent status talks might be. If the parties have a clear, mutual and favourable sense of the ultimate direction of negotiation, it will be easier for them to overcome setbacks and avoid distractions along the way. This will require accelerating permanent status negotiations.

Today, this step is urgent and important. Accordingly, provided there is some progress on security issues, I am prepared to travel to the Middle East at the end of this month. I will consult closely with the leaders of the region - and especially with Israeli and Palestinian leaders - to improve the climate for negotiations, and to discuss the procedural and substantive aspects of the permanent status issues.

Re-energizing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process will not happen overnight. It will take time. But President Clinton and I remain committed to doing everything possible to help the parties to succeed. We will continue to play our role as a full partner.

In this partnership, only the parties must make the decisions, but we can support them. In this partnership, only the parties must conduct the negotiations, but we can be with them at the table. In this partnership, only the parties must determine the shape of peace, but we can work with them to facilitate, protect and broaden that peace.

Let there be no doubt, the United States will continue to do all it can to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians throughout the Middle East. We will do so because progress towards peace serves our vital interests, helps protect our friends, reflects our values and because it is right.

No region of the world has seen greater suffering or more persistent conflict than the Middle East. No generation has a better chance than the current one to replace the downward cycle of conflict with an upward ladder of opportunity.

As we approach the new century, there are no Cold War divisions fuelling regional rivalry. And the way to peace - once obscure - has been laid out first at Madrid, then more clearly at Oslo, and in the agreements since. So now the choice for Israelis and Palestinians alike is between two futures. They can shy from the risks of peace and ensure a future of more uncertainty, hardship and fighting; or they can come together to renew their partnership and fulfil the promise of peace.

For Israelis, that is the promise of a bustling economy with Pacific Rim potential. It is assurance of a common front in the fight against terror, a steady growth in regional cooperation and the ability to raise children in security and peace.

For Palestinians, it is the promise of an end to decades of strife. It is the chance, as full participants in a growing regional economy, to use their energy and skills to create a future for themselves of steadily increasing prosperity, dignity and hope.

And for all the people of the region, it is the promise, as President Clinton has said, of building a land that is as bountiful and peaceful as it is holy, and of offering to Israelis and Palestinians alike the quiet miracle of a normal life.

The United States cannot choose this future for Israel or for the Palestinians. That is their choice and their challenge. We do not underestimate the difficulties. We are cognizant of the dangers. But America was built on optimism and on the faith that the future can be made better than the past, not only within our own borders but within all the borders of the Earth. It is in that spirit, and with that faith, that we ask of ourselves and of our partners a renewed and determined effort to transform from hope to reality the elusive dream of a Middle East peace. Thank you very much.5/
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Notes

1. USIA, via the Internet at <gopher://gopher.usia.gov/11s/current/news/geog/nea>.
2. Office of the Spokesman, United States Department of State, 3 March 1997, via the Internet at <http://secretary.state.gov/www/briefings/statements/970303c.html>.
3. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, via the Internet at <gopher://israel-info.gov.il/1m/new/leaders1>.
4. As per the texts received on 27 June 1997 from the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations.
5. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, European Union Presidency WWW site, at <http://www.bz.minbuza.nl/europe97/nieuws/enieuws/NIEUWSEU.htm>.
6. United States Department of State, Secretary of State, via the Internet at http://secretary.state.gov/www/statements/970806.htm>.

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