Statement by Prime Minister Barak at Joint Press Conference with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
Alexandria, July 29, 1999

PM BARAK: I had a good working meeting with the President. We have covered a wide range of Middle Eastern issues that are on the table. I truly updated the President about my contacts in Washington and then about my meeting with Chairman Arafat.

I reiterated our commitment to the Wye Agreement and our intention to fully implement it. We had raised certain ideas with Chairman Arafat about ways, means and timing about the implementation of the Wye Agreement within the context of how to move forward toward a permanent status agreement, and I found the discussion with the President very constructive and important.

I really hope that the beginning that we have announced yesterday with Chairman Arafat, appointing one individual on each side to sit together and try to report to the Chairman and myself within two weeks about their suggestions on the question of how to move forward – I believe that it will be fruitful, we will able to do that. And I am really optimistic that we are launching and continuing from here, from Egypt, that was the place where the cornerstone for the comprehensive process in the Middle East was established that we are launching once again an effort that will be ultimately successful and will change the future of the peoples of the Middle East, to make a secure Israel living in good neighborly relations with all its neighbors.

Thank you very much.

Q: Mr. Barak, I’d like to ask you about the Syrian track, because there are reports that King Abdullah of Jordan is acting as mediator these days, and he’s been transfering message between yourself and the Syrian leadership.

PM BARAK: As I already stated, we are determined to leave no stone unturned on the road to peace. In order to make Israel more secure we suggest to open on all tracks, without any preference or priority. We are ready to open the Palestinian track, the Syrian track, the Lebanese track, and even the multilateral track. As to the content of the discussion, I think it is more appropriate to run the dialogue if and when the time comes with the representatives of President Assad, not on camera.

Q: I have a question about the U.S. role. While in Washington, news reports noted that you want Washington to step back from its role of negotiating and supervising the peace process – something that the United States has been doing for a long time, since the peace process started. A Palestinian official then suggested that you want to have a wrestling match without a referee. Don’t you think that the U.S. role has been instrumental and pivotal so far, and it’s very difficult at this point, at this stage, just to put it on the sidelines?

PM BARAK: The United States has a major role in providing what has been achieved until now in the peace process between us and the Palestinians. I don’t think in terms of wrestling match, but in terms constructing a bridge. It should be first of all negotiated by the two sides that sit on the two sides of the gap and have to build the bridge in order to use it. Here, in this country, under the leadership of the late President Sadat and continued by the strong leadership of President Mubarak, the cornerstone of this bridge had been laid. Now we are about to put the keystone – an agreement with the Palestinians, an agreement with the Syrians. As long as we don’t have the keystone, there is no comprehensive peace. We cannot put aside the scaffold, we cannot put weight on the bridge. And we want to complete what has been established here so skillfully and so daringly more than 20 years ago.

We are determined to do whatever we can to put an end to the conflict in the Middle East. In this context, we want the Americans to be able to provide their good services, but they cannot replace either Chairman Arafat or myself in dealing with our responsibilities as leaders of the Israeli people and the Palestinian people, respectively. America can and will provide not just the facilitator role, but ultimately the political umbrella, […] security, and in a way a financial safety net for the whole process. I believe that it will happen and should happen.

Q: Prime Minister, having been elected on a promise to accelerate peacemaking, you might be expected to carry out Wye already. What is it about the agreement that you want to change? Is it the isolation of settlements you don’t like? Whatever changes you make, what’s in it for the Palestinians as you go through with it?

PM BARAK: I feel that we have to go forward, but I never pretended to have magic solutions to solve a conflict of 100 years in three weeks or three months. We are looking forward together. I am committed to Wye; we are going to implement Wye. We suggested certain ideas about how and in what ways and along what kind of timing to implement it. It is only if we will agree upon it with Chairman Arafat that we will insert these modifications. If not, we will continue. But, once again, we, the leaders, are going to be responsible. If we choose a kind of bumpy road instead of a main road, we cannot ask ourselves in retrospect why we are moving on bumps. We choose the bumpy road – we will have bumps; we choose the main road – we will move smoothly.

Q: What must preferably be done by both co-sponsors, the United States as well as Russia, to accelerate the process on three tracks: Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian? And what do you expect will be done in the next two weeks by the United States and Russia?

PM BARAK: I am going to visit Russia next week. I exchanged views about it with the President. I think that Russia was a co-host of the Madrid process and they should be respected. They are a great power quite close to this region, and I think that it is appropriate that we will update them about the process, what’s going on, and consult with them what ways they think they could contribute to moving forward in this process. In fact, let me tell you frankly that all the leaders of the free world that I meet these days, myself and Foreign Ministry Levy who is here with me – whoever we meet among world leaders, we ask them to look around, to see how they can contribute to move forward toward a Middle East where a secure Israel can live side by side with all its neighbors in peace. And whoever can contribute, we congratulate them.