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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Washington Post Op-Ed on "Breaking the Cycle of Violence"
Washington, D.C., October 15, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
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Blue Line

Breaking the Cycle of Violence

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's decision to invite President Clinton, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and King Abdullah of Jordan to a summit in Sharm el Sheikh may provide a respite in the terrible confrontation that has unfolded between Israelis and Palestinians. We must keep our expectations realistic. At the same time, the summit offers an opportunity to take steps to break the cycle of violence, to return life to normal and create a pathway back to negotiations.

Looking back over the past two weeks of the worst Israeli-Palestinian violence since Oslo, it is hard for me to believe that little more than two months ago we stood at Camp David hopeful of an agreement on all permanent status issues. The quick descent from diplomacy to violence has convinced many that Israelis and Palestinians can never be partners, that any possibility of peace between them is an illusion and that the entire Oslo process was based on deeply flawed assumptions now cracked and broken in the streets of Gaza, Ramallah and Nablus. Unquestionably, the scars of the past week will not heal easily or quickly. But giving up on peace leads nowhere. There are opportunities for progress and the United States will continue to assist the parties in any way it can. The United States is operating on the basis that we have an indissoluble link with Israel and that we recognize the legitimate political rights of the Palestinian people.

Despite the events of recent days, Israelis and Palestinians know they have no alternative but to coexist as neighbors. Sooner or later they know they must find a way back to cooperation and accommodation. The same forces of history and geography that compelled Israelis and Palestinians into an uneasy partnership, and the same hopes and fears that led the two sides from Madrid to Oslo and then to Camp David have not changed. The United States has approached the current crisis with these facts in mind. Three goals have guided our policy since the crisis began.

First, there must be an end to the violence and restoration of calm. Last week in Paris, Prime Minister Barak, Chairman Arafat and I worked out a set of security procedures to end the violence, defuse potential flash points and enhance communication between security professionals. Israelis and Palestinians have demonstrated in the past an ability to cooperate closely and practically on security issues. They need to return to that cooperation now, and we are prepared to assist them in any way we can.

Second, there needs to be a fair and honest effort to look into the causes of the recent violence with the primary objective of preventing a recurrence. The United States has offered to develop a fact-finding commission which, in consultation with others in the international community, would carry out such a mission. A fact-finding study would also allow each side to be heard and to understand the perspective of the other, and might help to ameliorate the deep sense of grievance on each side.

Third, there must be a pathway back to negotiations and a resumption of efforts to reach an agreement on permanent status. I realize at the moment this goal seems illusory. Israelis feel betrayed. Having made historic decisions for peace, they watched as rifles were turned against them, their soldiers were murdered and their holy sites were desecrated. And Palestinians feel victimized, powerless and believe that their lives count for little. They have suffered immensely with 100 of their own killed and thousands wounded -- among them many children -- and lives shattered by the use of deadly force. Nonetheless, the only way to address the underlying roots of conflict and grievance is through negotiation in an environment free from the use of violence, pressure and intimidation. At the same time both sides also need to understand there can be no perfect justice. Each must be prepared to reconcile the other's needs and interests with its own. And President Clinton and I will continue to do everything we can to facilitate that process.

An extraordinary beginning was made at Camp David. Those discussions transformed the landscape of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, provided new openings on every issue and enabled the two sides to explore the most difficult issues: territory, security, refugees and Jerusalem, in unprecedented scope and detail. Sooner or later, the Israelis and Palestinians will have to return to that effort. Indeed, if they are truly to achieve an end to the conflict, then these difficult and sensitive issues cannot be ignored; they will need to be resolved. Clearly there are no guarantees that Israelis and Palestinians can bridge the gaps on these sensitive issues, particularly in the aftermath of this crisis. But there is also no doubt that only through negotiations can they achieve that objective and a mutually acceptable vision of the future.

This past week, we have been given a glimpse of the future in the absence of a shared vision: a future of streets filled with children dying and soldiers being murdered, and skies filled with stones, helicopters and hate. The challenge for us all is to find a way to stop the killing, and begin again the effort -- advanced at Camp David -- to achieve a secure and lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace.

[End of Document]
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