|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak
Press remarks following their meeting at the Prime Minister's Office
Jerusalem, June 28, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
PRIME MINISTER BARAK: Good evening. With your permission, I will make a short statement in Hebrew, a language in which I am much more fluent.
(Translation from Hebrew): We had a comprehensive discussion today and a long conversation last night with the Secretary of State, and we discussed in detail the different aspects of the negotiations with the Palestinians. I thanked again the Secretary for her unique contribution to the organized withdrawal of IDF forces from Lebanon in accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 425. As to the negotiations with the Palestinian, I presented again to the Secretary the vital interests of Israel in any arrangement. I believe that the Israeli position is well understood by the Americans. I assume that they are familiar with the Palestinian position even better than us, and only the President of the U.S. will be able to decide whether and when conditions are ripe for a summit discussion between us and the Palestinians. If and when all the conditions will be right for further negotiations, we will be ready for any serious discussion aimed at the solution of the conflict, keeping in mind the need to strengthen the State of Israel, and also take into consideration the necessary conditions for the Palestinians.
(In English): What I said is that it is only the President of the United States that will be able, having all the information from both sides, to make up his mind whether a summit meeting is possible and we will respect whatever decision or view he might have about it, and if and when the time will come, we will be ready.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I had a very good meeting with Prime Minister Barak in which we concentrated on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and how best to advance that process. Early tomorrow morning I will be returning to Washington via Berlin to report to President Clinton on where we stand and whether it is appropriate to convene a summit now or whether additional work is required. In case you are wondering, I am clearly not going to share my views on this issue now.
From my discussions during the past 24 hours, I have been impressed by several things. First, the fact that the Israelis and the Palestinians are engaged in serious and sustained discussions on permanent status itself, and that is a remarkable fact. These discussions, involving as they do issues of land, portable identity, security are extraordinarily complex, and yet they are the issues that will define and shape Israeli-Palestinian peaceful coexistence for years to come.
Second, the Israelis and Palestinians understand the burden of this historic responsibility they carry. But also, the historic opportunity now they have at hand to try to achieve an agreement. Both sides also know the benefits of reaching an accord, as well as the risks and consequences if they do not. Finally, it is critical that everyone involved in this historic effort understand that if an agreement is to be reached, it must address each side's vital needs, but that no one can get a hundred percent. Indeed, this is the nature of the give and take that comprise negotiations. In this regard, no one can afford to allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good. And the result needs to ensure that both sides emerge stronger, rather than weaker.
President Clinton and I will do everything we possibly can to assist Israelis and Palestinians in their efforts to achieve a fair and durable peace that both sides need and deserve. And we recognize the urgency of the moment. Hard work and courageous decisions lie ahead. But as Prime Minister Barak reiterated, it is the President who has to make the decision.
QUESTION (in Hebrew): [Translation not available]
PRIME MINISTER BARAK (Translation from Hebrew*): I have high appreciation for David Levy -- my best political colleague and my best diplomatic partner in leading our foreign policies, and he is correct in saying that agreement could be achieved only if movement and flexibility will be shown from both sides. But at the same time I'm saying until now we have no agreement. The substantial negotiation will begin only if and when there will be a summit meeting, and we will negotiate only an agreement that will strengthen Israel.
I will not sign on an agreement that will not represent the vital security and national interest of the State of Israel. And I'm confident that if there will be a summit, if through the summit there will be an agreement, this agreement will be confirmed or approved by a landslide majority of the Israeli electorate and what is more important, by an absolute majority of the Israeli settlers in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza strip. And I believe that we need no better proof that such an agreement really represents our interests and achievements if the Israeli settlers within those areas will approve it in a majority.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I really do not think that any particular use is served by my making a comment on the third FRD deployment. I think that the important point here is that discussions are going on on all the subjects, the interim as well the permanent status issues, and I think that the important point here is to keep working and dealing with what are clearly very complicated and difficult issues, and I know that both sides are doing that.
QUESTION: Madame Secretrary, I hope that this will not impinge on the confidentiality of the report you are going to give the President. Could you tell us will there be further negotiations? What is the next step? Putting aside the conference, I know we're not talking about the conference publicly. What about Israel and the Palestinians? When you talk about the need for a compromise, maximum positions have prevailed in the past. Anwar Sadat insisted on every inch and got every inch. Is there any possibility to do either of these things that are maximum positions. Will maximum positions prevail in this situation?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, let me say that there is no kind of stop and start on discussions. They have been going on, they will continue to go on, and as I said in my statement, there are a lot of issues that have to be talked about. I will make my report to the President. That doesn't mean that everything stops until I get back and he makes a decision. I mean this is something that is an ongoing issue. So, that's the answer to that question.
I believe, again, that we should not prejudge what comes out of the summit. I made a statement which I have made now a number of times while I have been here that it's very hard for both sides to have a hundred percent, and I think that that is something that we all need to absorb. The second statement that I have now made a number of times is that it's very important for both sides to come out strengthened. So, I think those are the kind of general statements I would like to make about positions.
QUESTION (Translation from Hebrew): Inaudible. Have you discussed at all, in the course of the visit, the Syrian issue, in light of the U.N. suggestion to renew the negotiations?
PRIME MINISTER BARAK: Now let me turn to English. I don't think that they can comment as of now on details that came out from the Palestinian sources in regard to the next step. As I said, it is up to the President to make up his mind. We will be ready. I believe that once the Secretary goes back and consults with the President we will hear the American preferences. We will be ready, but, of course, we expect the negotiation itself, if the moment will come, to be serious and a true readiness to move on both sides.
In regard to the other part of your question, the Secretary told me about her impressions from the meeting with Bashar Al-Assad during the funeral, but I don't think that we have something to report in regard to this track.. I exploit once again the opportunity to thank the Secretary personally for her unique role in bringing UN Security Council Resolution 425 to become the reality of what is happening right now on the ground in a quiet border with Lebanon, that I hope will stay the same.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me just make a comment. I didn't, obviously, didn't understand the question. But generally, that any report on next steps can't be accurate because next steps are based on the fact that I will be going back to report to the President, which I have not yet [done], and therefore he has not made any decisions. So, I haven't heard the reports, but whatever they are, they can't be accurate. And let me also make a further statement, I think that the bold and courageous move that Prime Minister Barak made on Lebanon is much appreciated by all and I was very honored to be able to help in fulfilling the (inaudible).
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The President will make his decision based on substantive facts of whether he believes there's a determination as to the substantive basis of whether enough work has been done. I'm not going to speculate on political questions. As I've told you, as Secretary of State, I have all my political instincts surgically removed.
PRIME MINISTER BARAK: Thank you.
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