January 8, 2001
I am so pleased to be able to participate with you from Jerusalem. Thank you for inviting me to give the Leffingwell Lecture, and to share my views on Israel’s engagement in the peace process, as well as our policies in recent weeks and months.
At Camp David we were able, for the first time, to touch on the most sensitive issues of all. Israeli willingness to negotiate far-reaching understandings was not reciprocated. Arafat avoided the discussion, choosing to respond to President Clinton’s ideas with a thank-you letter.
The recent clashes began on September 28, 2000, three days after a dinner with Chairman Arafat at my home, and one day after the conclusion of a round of negotiations in Washington. At the end of these negotiations, both sides had arrived at a tacit understanding of the American view of a possible agreement. But, the Palestinian side wanted to try, as we say, and squeeze the lemon one more time.
President Clinton’s ideas of December 23, 2000, served an historic purpose: for the first time a proposal for a quid pro quo agreement on Permanent Status was put on the negotiating table. Both sides were closer than ever to an agreement.
Israel announced that it would be willing to view these ideas as a basis for discussion provided that they become the basis for discussion also for the Palestinians. However, Arafat dragged his feet for ten days, rendering the achievement of an agreement almost impossible.
The entire Middle East is at a crossroads. Whatever is not achieved in the near future, might not be achieved for a long time. In the absence of an agreement, all sides may face uncertainty, instability and the mutual challenge of avoiding a deterioration in the situation.
My government endorses the position expressed in the joint statement at the end of the Camp David Summit: that neither party should take unilateral steps. We expect the international community to make known its opposition to unilateral actions pertaining to the status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and to the permanent status of the outstanding issues.
On the other hand, peace offers Israel, the Palestinians and the entire region the prospect of stability, prosperity and growth.
The Palestinian people, who could establish their own state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with Al-Quds as its Capital, would be able to determine their own fate. The fifty-three year plight of the refugees could be resolved and a new future within reach.
Israel would have internationally recognized borders, recognition of Yerushalaim as its capital, and 80% of the settlers incorporated within sovereign Israeli territory. We would have lasting security arrangements, as well as other mechanisms to ensure stability.
The leading role, commitment and dedication of the United States, and that of President Clinton personally, remain essential for the successful conclusion of the FAPS [Framework Agreement on Permanent Status].
Both sides face historic decisions. Our mission is to win the support of our people for the settlement of this 100-year conflict, and to guarantee regional stability and growth. We should be partners in this mission — members of an alliance of peace — each with the duty to respect the concerns and needs of the other.
I am confident that Israel will remain committed to the process of peace based on the frameworks agreed in Madrid, Oslo, and Sharm El-Sheikh. We are determined to achieve agreement on all out-standing issues relating to the Permanent Status, which, according to the letter that Chairman Arafat sent to Prime Minister Rabin on September 9, 1993, should only be resolved through negotiations.
Without question, a permanent agreement would place the Zionist movement on the verge of a new and exciting phase in its evolution. But, more importantly, it would offer an horizon of opportunities for both the Israeli and the Palestinian people. All of us in this region deserve a better and more secure future.
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