PM NETANYAHU: I am pleased to welcome Madeleine Albright on her first visit to Israel as Secrtary of State. Secretary Albright is a distinguished world leader, and she represents the abiding kinship between our two peoples and our two countries. It is a bond of deeply shared values – freedom and democracy – and of friendship. This is also the first visit of Madeleine Albright as Secretary of State here, and there are so many issues that we have to talk about. But we have devoted our time to the most pressing discussion vis-a-vis the Palestinian-Israeli talks. I think that our meeting was truly most cordial and most productive. I was deeply touched by your words this morning – I am sure they touched the hearts of all Israelis. They certainly touched mine. They reflected an understanding of our history, and I think a real understanding of our concerns and our desires and our hopes.

I want to emphasize again that we want the peace process to succeed. In fact, I am convinced that my government is the only gov=E0ernment which can bring this process to a successful conclusion. This government is determined to achieve peace – real peace, peace with security, a peace that will last, a peace that will benefit all the peoples of our region. But obviously no agreement will work unless both sides live up to their obligations.

The central, essential premise of this agreement that was signed by Israel and the Palestinians exactly four years ago was based on a Palestinian commitment to wage an unrelenting war against terrorism. Unfortunately, in the four years that have passed, the Palestinian Authority has done virtually nothing to keep up this central commitment. The result, terrorism, grew by leaps and bounds under my predecessors, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres; it continues to grow in the absence of firm Palestinian Authority action action against terrorism.

We must make it clear to everyone who wants to see peace prevail: Terrorism must not be used as an instrument of negotiations, and violence is not an option in such negotiations. I know it is unacceptable to us and to the United States, and it should be unacceptable to every peace-loving government in the world. The only way to fight terrorism is to do what was explicitly undertaken by the Palestinian Authority and was articulated so well by Secretary Albright, that is: fighting the terrorists and dismantling their infrastructure. These are the critical components of security and waging war on terrorism.

All this is not an item for bargaining, it is not an option. It is, as Secretary Albright has put it, the sine qua non of the Oslo agreements. We believe the Palestinian Authority must keep its part. It must fight terrorism with no ifs and buts, and it must do so soon if this process is to survive. It must choose sides – if they want peace with HAMAS or peace with Israel, but it cannot have both. I want to assure you, Madame Secretary, that we will do everything to make your visit successful, because your success is the success of the entire peace process which we so fervently desire. If you are able to persuade the Palestinian Authority to wage war against the terrorists, I believe the road will be open to the continuation of the peace process to its successful conclusion.

I hope that the Palestinian Authority also desires this peace, with the same fervor, and will prove it, soon, by fighting terrorism. We can achieve a good life for both our peoples in this small land. And if peace is to win, both sides must want it to win. We certainly do.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much. Mr. Prime Minister, it is a great pleasure to be here with you, and I very much appreciate your characterization of our discussions. I do believe that we had very good discussions and reviewed a variety of issues relating to the pursuit of Israeli-Arab peace.

Israel and the United States have long been partners in that historic endeavor, and it is important that the partnership continue. Clearly, we are at a very difficult moment. Negotiations have stalled, and Israelis and Palestinians are locked in a crisis of confidence which has threatened the historic gains achieved in recent years. We must move forward, Israelis and Palestinians, to restore the confidence and the reciprocity that produced those achievements. The terrorist war being waged against Israel and peace itself has created a severe challenge. This security is at the center of my agenda.

Let me be clear. The enemies of peace are purposefully and relentlessly attacking Israelis. So that war against terror being waged by those who support the path of peace must also be purposeful and relentless. There is no way to completely protect any society from the threat of terror, but partners in the pursuits of peace have a right to expect a total, sustained and comprehensive effort to pre-empt terror, to combat it, and to delegitimize those in their midst who associate themselves with it. There can be no room in this process for those groups who would tolerate or advocate terror and violence.

I will be seeing Chairman Arafat tomorrow, and my message will be clear. It is essential that Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation be serious, sustained and effective. At the same time, the Palestinian Authority must take unilateral steps and actions to root out terrorist infrastructure. If we are to create and sustain an invigorated and accelerated negotiating process, there is simply no other way.

The Prime Minister has talked about the importance of reciprocity. Both Israelis and Palestinains must shoulder their responsibilities if we are to emerge from the current crisis. This process cannot succeed without reciprocity. Let me be clear. There is no moral equivalence between killing people and building houses. It is simply not possible to address political issues seriously in a climate of intimidation and terror. At the same time, real security depends ultimately on real peace.

Achieving this peace turns fundamentally on a political process which meets through a genuine process of give and take the needs of both sides. Clearly Israel also has a responsibility to shape an environment which will give that process a chance to succeed. This means that Israel should be taking steps that build confidence and to refrain from actions that undermine confidence and trust. As I said in my speech last month, it is very difficult to create a serious environment for negotiations when unilateral actions are taken that prejudge or pre-empt issues reserved for permanent status negotiations.

Restoring a sense of partnership will not be accomplished quickly or easily, certainly not on a single visit. At the same time, I firmly believe that there is no alternative to the political pathway Israelis and Palestinians have chosen. The people of this region have seen too much violence, there have been too many victims. They do not deserve and will not accept a future that promises only more of the same. The United States will do all it can to help the parties rediscover the path to a brighter future with real security and real peace. The President of the United States and I are committed to that. And in that effort, as in our deep and abiding friendship with the people of Israel, the United States may be counted upon to persevere.