THE WHITE HOUSE
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 1994
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I would like to make a brief comment and then give the prime minister a chance to make a comment.
With regard to the meeting that we have just had, let me say that it was as always a good meeting. We remain committed to achieving comprehensive peace in the Middle East. I have reaffirmed my support for the current aid level to Israel, as well as for certain security assistance, including the Arrow missile program, in the years ahead so that we can continue to support the security conditions that in my judgment are the precondition for Israel being able to make a just peace with all their neighbors in the Middle East.
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: In the last two years, the Middle East has seen dramatic change in the interrelationships between the Arab countries and the Arab peoples and Israel. As you remember, in September ’93, here on the lawns of the White House, we signed the Declaration of Principles between us and the PLO representing the Palestinians. We started to tackle the longest and the most complicated conflict in all the conflicts of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Since then we have implemented the first phase. There are problems, but we are continuing this process of reconciliation and solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
President Clinton visited the area when we signed the peace treaty with Jordan the second peace treaty ever to be signed between Israel and an Arab country and the first one after the convening of the Madrid peace conference. We are committed to continue the negotiation with the Palestinians, with Syria and Lebanon, with the purpose to achieve comprehensive peace. I’m sure that without the United States involvement, support under the leadership of both President Clinton through Secretary Christopher, it would be much more difficult, if at all to achieve this progress in the peace process that we all witnessed and so many people did not believe that it would be possible to be done.
Therefore, in our discussions, the president said what has been agreed, and we continue to adhere to our responsibility to achieve comprehensive peace. There will be obstacles, there will be difficulties, but I believe, with the support, involvement of the United States, we will achieve comprehensive peace.
Q Any possibility of Syria in ’95 of a peace agreement, Mr. Prime Minister?
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: According to the Bible, all the prophets came from the Middle East. I would not advise anyone to become a prophet of what will be happen in the Middle East today. We will try our best.
Q Senator Helms opposes troops on the Golan Heights.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: On the Golan issue, let me say generally, that we shouldn’t get in the way of the party. I don’t think I should say or do anything on that that would undermine the possibility of the parties reaching a peace. I think that ought to be the position that all Americans take. Now, the prime minister can comment on this better than I, but you know there have been American troops in the Sinai for quite a long time without incident, and I don’t think any American would begrudge the investment we’ve made and the historic peace that grew out of Camp David.
PRIME MINISTER: There are today about a thousand Americans that served for 15 and a half years in the Sinai as part of the multinational force, in which there is participation of military civilians from Australia, New Zealand, Colombia, Canada, and this force is in existence since we signed the peace treaty with Egypt. On the demand of Israel, the role of the Americans there, as the others there is one fighting infantry battalion of American uniformed soldiers in the Sinai their role is not to defend Israel, their role is to monitor the military annex of the peace treaty, the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, and it serves effectively. No American was hurt there by any terror activities because it is in an area controlled by the Egyptian armed forces. We work in cooperation. We have all the machinery of cooperation. No doubt on the Golan Heights for 19 years we had not one act of terror through the lines between Syria and Israel. The Golan Heights today is the safest from terror because the Syrians keep their commitment under the disengagement agreement of 1974.
Q Is that how you anticipate Americans being used, as monitors, or is it a trip wire to something entirely different?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: First of all, he described to you what came out of Camp David. There has been no discussion among the parties of a role for American forces yet. Let’s let the people who have to make this agreement make it, and then if we’re asked by the parties themselves to become involved at some point in the future, I will come to the American people, I will come to the Congress, and I will make the case at that time based on an agreement that they would reach. There has been no agreement of any kind about this. We are jumping the gun here on this part of it.
Q Mr. President, with the new Republican Congress, what happens to the foreign aid and to the American troops on the Golan Heights?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, first of all, with regard to foreign aid, I have just pledged to the prime minister that I will support next year continuing the aid to Israel at its present level, in addition to some new security initiatives, with regard to the Arrow missiles, with supercomputers and a couple of other things. So, we are going to have a very robust security relationship with Israel, and I believe the aid levels will be maintained. We have enjoyed in this country historically a bipartisan level of support for Israel.
Now, with regard to the Golan, I can only tell you that we in the United States must await an agreement of peace between Israel and Syria. If a peace agreement is reached regarding the Golan in which we were asked to participate, obviously that is something that I would consider. We have been in the Sinai as a result of the agreement between Egypt and Israel for quite a long time now without incident. I am very proud of the role the United States has been asked to play there as a monitor not as a defender of Israel’s security, but as a monitor. But that has not been discussed now. We’re a good ways from that, and that is something for Israel and for Syria to resolve between themselves before the United States can be involved in that.
Q Mr. President, can you speed up foreign aid to Arafat?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I do think we should speed it up. There will be a meeting next week, a donors meeting, in Brussels. We’re going to try to move about $125 million out in a hurry. I do believe that the donors must work to get the assistance out quickly to enable the people in the areas to receive and to feel some benefits of the peace. I think that’s critically important.
Q Mr. President, do you see any chance of resuming the talks here in Washington between Israel and Syria with full-scale delegations?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I have no comment about that, except to tell you that we will continue to do everything we can to reach a peace agreement and to facilitate the peace between the parties.
Q Mr. President, in view of the Republican victory in the elections to the Congress, do you expect to change the foreign policy of the United States vis-a-vis the Middle East, or do you feel that this policy enjoys a bipartisan support in the American public?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: No, I have no intention of changing it. It’s working. You know, my policy in the Middle East is to support the peace process, to support a comprehensive peace, to stand behind Israel and its security, to increase the feeling that peace is possible and then to make the benefits of peace apparent to all the parties who sign onto it. So, that policy has worked very well for two years and I intend to continue it.
Q What do you think of what happened in the Gaza Strip?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I think we have to work hard to stand up against terror, and to try to bring the benefits of peace to the people who support the peace. And that is a difficult situation, we know that it is. But our policy will remain clear and steadfast there, we’ll continue to support the peace process.
Q Mr. President don’t you think that the press conference of President Assad’s was an insult from your point of view?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I wouldn’t characterize it that way. I would say that if you look at the way that my press conference and my comments about terrorism were played in the Syrian media I don’t think you can say it in that way. I do think that we have to keep working to build more trust and confidence between the two countries and I have urged President Assad to do that, to do whatever can be done to reach out to the people as well as the government of Israel to make it clear that Syria genuinely does wish a peace.
I’m convinced that the president of Syria wants to make peace with Israel, but I think that my opinion is not nearly as important as not only the opinion of the leaders of Israel but the people of Israel. Israel is a very great democracy and the people need to feel in their bones that peace and security are both possible. And I’m going to keep working to that end.
Q (Off mike.)
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I believe that when you bring peace to a place you need to work hard to make sure that the benefits of peace become apparent to people who are the targets of the enemies of peace. And the poor in Gaza are clearly the targets of the enemies of peace. So we have to work harder and more aggressively all of us, who support the peace process to try to make the benefits more apparent.
We all knew that this would be difficult, the prime minister knew it would be difficult. There had never been, in effect, a national Palestinian government there, if you will, and there are difficulties. But I think but I think the responsibility is on all of us who wish to see benefits of peace to keep pushing it. That’s what the donor’s conference is about, and I think there is a sense of urgency among those who understands that the money investment needs to go out.
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: First, I thank the president for his involvement, and sending the secretary of state to the region, because in the last two years we have achieved to my humble opinion dramatic changes in the Arab- Israeli conflict. We started to tackle the longest, the most complicated, complex of conflicts the Israeli-Palestinian. I knew that there would be ups and downs, there would be enemies of the achievement of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, but I believe that regardless to what happened in Gaza we are on the right track.
We signed a peace treaty with Jordan, the country that has the longest border with Israel, and it goes mostly the implementation of the peace treaty. We are still in process, not easy one, with negotiation with Syria and Lebanon. These all happened in less than two years. I told the president that I, the government of Israel, I believe the people of Israel, thank him for his guidance, for his involvement, for his readiness as he once wrote to me, and has kept his commitment that when Israel takes risk for peace, the United States will try its best to minimize this risk, and the support that we got from the president, from the administration, the secretary of State, and what we were told by the president that for the next fiscal year the president will keep the same level of assistance to Israel, will recommend to the Congress to keep the same level, with the additions that the president mentioned. All this means backing Israel in its effort and assisting wherever it is needed, wherever it is possible by the United States to advance towards comprehensive peace. There are problems, but I am proud of what has been achieved towards peace in the last two years.
Q Regarding the danger of the Islamic extremists, do you intend, as the president of the most powerful country, to build a coalition against Islamic extremists?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: First, let me say, I agree that it’s a danger; and we are monitoring it very closely, we keep up with it, and we’re going to do whatever is appropriate.