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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks before the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the New York Jewish Community Relations Council
New York, New York, September 13, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much, Ron, for your kind words and most of all for everything that you do. Dale Horowitz and other Presidents of American Jewish Organizations, and excellencies and distinguished guests, it's a pleasure to be here with you to see so many friends, and wonderful to have Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami with us.

Shlomo, I haven't seen you in a suit. We have been at Camp David in the soggy rain at all hours of the day and night. So it's very good to see you in your official outfit. And we will have a chance to hear from him.

This is probably the only audience in America for whom it is not necessary to translate into English the sentence "Israel has joined the WEOG"-- or to explain what that means. It was a year ago that I think we really began working on this at full speed. Ambassador Holbrooke and I were very glad to be in a meeting with the Europeans and be able to show various ads that showed how totally isolated Israel was. We used that as our show and tell, and I think it made a huge difference for people to understand this.

By becoming part of the Western European and Others group here in New York, Israel takes an historic step toward its rightful place as a full participant in the United Nations. And that is good for Israel. But I think it's even better for the United Nations; because the UN's lowest moments have been associated with unwarranted anti-Israeli sentiments and actions.

Slowly but surely in recent years, the momentum has shifted and it has begun to move in the right direction. And although there are still many miles still to go, joining the WEOG is an important way station along that upward road.

And I want to acknowledge the many who have made this progress possible, including Prime Minister Barak and Israel's entire diplomatic team; and for the United States, President Clinton, and Vice-President Gore, and as I said, Ambassador Holbrooke, with whom I am joined at the hip on policy issues. And this one of them that we really worked on together very, very hard. And he deserves a great vote of thanks, as does --

(Applause.)

And the Washington team that was led by Assistant Secretary David Welch.

I also want to thank our many friends in Western Europe, and of course, the all-important "Others" - the "Ogs" -- who backed this effort. And praise, as well, to the many members of this Conference for using your influence and know-how to support our common effort.

This accomplishment reflects an ongoing process of change in our institutions and in the pattern of international relations.

But what has not changed is America's rock solid support for the security of Israel. For eight years, this has been a hallmark of the Clinton-Gore Administration's national security policy.

And today, we continue to enhance our strategic relationship to be sure that Israel retains a qualitative military edge over any potential combination of adversaries.

Moreover, the United States will continue to use vigorous diplomacy backed by the threat of force to preserve stability throughout the Middle East and the Gulf. And we will continue to speak out against the rise of extremist political parties in Europe and to oppose anti-Semitism. We will not hesitate to condemn discrimination and denial of due process in Iran.

And we will not ever grow weary in our support for a secure, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

No one knows better than this audience what the facts are, what the stakes are, and what the difficulties are in arriving at an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

And the obstacles remain daunting, but because of Prime Minister Barak's courage and vision at Camp David, the parties made unprecedented progress. And even though the going is hard, Israelis and Palestinians still have an opportunity to move forward toward an historic agreement.

As President Clinton has shown, America's support for peace is literally tireless. As long as the parties remain serious in pursuing an agreement, America will respond to their requests for help in bridging and brokering the hardest issues.

And this is smart, because a comprehensive Middle East peace is vital to American interests. And it's also right because the children of this region, Israeli and Arab alike, deserve the chance to grow up and grow old free from the threat of conflict.

Before closing, I want to add that Congress has only a few weeks left to act on our foreign affairs appropriations for next year. This matters because both the Senate and House have proposed huge cuts in President Clinton's requests. And unless reversed, these reductions will hurt the next Administration's ability to promote peace and provide leadership.

I have to say to you that that is totally irresponsible. We are spending time up here at the United Nations dealing with the myriad problems. I can't even begin to describe my days to you where I deal - have 14 bilaterals from every part of the world and the United States is at the center of dealing with these problems.

The 21st Century is definitely no time for the United States to retreat. And we are in a position not only of robbing Peter to pay Paul, we're now robbing Paul in order to be able to pay for our diplomacy. I fully believe that the United States needs to have the strongest defense and the strongest military. But it is your diplomats who are the first line of defense. And they need your support also.

(Applause.)

And I really urge that Congress approve the funds that the President has requested, so that we can meet our responsibilities in the Middle East and around the world.

In two weeks, the Jewish people will celebrate Rosh Hashanah, and the start of a New Year. Tonight we celebrate a long-overdue breakthrough for Israel, renew old friendships, and reaffirm solemn commitments, and join in praying that the New Year will bring us closer to the mountaintop of true reconciliation and enduring peace.

Thank you so very much for everything that you do and for the honor you pay me.

(Applause.)

[End of Document]
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