Resumption of Israel-Palestinian Peace Negotiations

Joint Press Conference

OPENING REMARKS
Jerusalem, October 6, 1997

Foreign Minister David Levy (Israel)
[translation from Hebrew]:

The meeting here this evening was in accordance with the agreements already reached between the sides to renew our negotiations and is an expression of the desire of both sides, the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, to continue in our efforts to make progress to our mutual goal, the goal of reaching peace between us. We are not beginning anew here. We are continuing the significant work and the great effort that have already been put in by both sides until the breach of contact occurred, and this out of our determined decision to extract ourselves from the breach of contact that had existed.

What we are doing in this meeting, what we have done and what we will continue to do in our work, is what is incumbent upon us by virtue of what we have undertaken between us to advance the issues between us and to reach agreement. Our determination to advance these issues and to proceed is also intended to create the necessary atmosphere which stands in complete opposition to violence, to terror, and in our work together we are giving expression to that strong position against terror and to creating the atmosphere needed for making peace between us.

I wish also to take this opportunity to note the great will and strong sense of partnership that my colleague, Abu Mazen, has given expression to this evening, and also to thank the Secretary of State Madeleine Albright for her efforts to bring the parties together; and in particular, as well, to Dennis Ross for his actions and for his efforts, his commitment to finding solutions and to advancing our common goal, a goal which we have each taken upon ourselves, both individually and as partners, to reach peace. The United States is the world’s great power and our great friend, and its involvement and its standing firm beside the parties as they try and make peace is something which we appreciate and value greatly. Especially on a day when some may feel that there are dark clouds passing over us, this strong, firm stand taken by the parties, the expression that they have given to their mutual desire to advance towards peace is like a ray of light, and we are hopeful that this ray of light will continue to shine upon us and upon our efforts today, tomorrow and in the days to come.

Thank you.

Deputy Chairman Mahmoud Abu Mazen (PA)
[translation from Arabic]:

I would like to express the appreciation of President Yasser Arafat to all efforts being exerted by the American administration in the hope of reviving the peace process, with special thanks to President Clinton, Mme. Albright and Ambassador Ross.

The peace process has been off track for a long time, and I say now, it’s time to revive it. In this regard, I would reiterate our commitment to activate our coordination and cooperation in all spheres, including the security sphere, and our efforts to combat violence and terror whether committed by Israelis or Palestinians.

As of next week, we will start crucial talks and negotiations in Washington with a specified agenda, that will include the unilateral steps, especially in the field of settlement activities, confiscation of land, demolition of homes, and the confiscation of identity cards from Palestinians in Jerusalem. Also what will be discussed in Washington is the further redeployments and the permanent status negotiations and the security council. These issues constitute the basic principles and fundamental basis to revive the peace process and to give the peace process the chance it deserves.

We are not starting from scratch. Our peace process has clearcut terms of reference, whether it’s the Madrid formula, the Oslo accords, the DOP, which will lead to the implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. The committees concerning the implementation of the outstanding commitments of the Interim Agreement will resume tomorrow. These committees have an objective of institutionalizing mechanisms of implementation of all these outstanding commitments. What we need is the implementation on the ground. We don’t think that negotiations are an end by itself. The implementation on the ground will be the only way to revive and to restore the confidence and credibility to the peace process.

The Palestinian people and the Israeli people deserve a better future. This is why I really wish real success for our endeavor to revive the peace process so the future generation can enjoy peace. And my special appreciation also to all efforts also being exerted by Minister Levy. Thank you.

Ambassador Dennis Ross (US): I think what was most important about this evening’s meeting is that after almost a seven-month break in direct formal negotiations between the two sides, we brought them back together again. We are not going to solve the problems that separate the parties away from the table. There has to be a negotiating process that involves give and take, that has each side approaching the other as a partner, and that recognizes that while there are differences, they can be overcome through this kind of a process.

Tonight’s meeting, I think, was conducted in a spirit that reflected both sides wanting to see the situation be transformed. Both sides want to see a new page turned. I think both sides recognize that there are difficulties; the difficulties will have to be overcome. But we certainly heard a commitment tonight that there will be every effort made to overcome those differences.

The Secretary of State sent me out here to help launch the resumption of the interim committees. We look at the interim committees as an important part of the political process. They will resume now. We have in a sense launched them tonight. We do not look at them as an end in themselves. We look at them as committees that should do work. We look at them as committees not only that should do work, but in a sense they themselves can help to reestablish some of the trust and confidence that has been lost. It is very important for the parties to be able to begin to work together again, and see that when they do, they produce results. That’s what I think we have launched tonight.

The US will work with both sides in a spirit of partnership to try to move us towards that end. What we heard tonight was a mutual intention and a mutual desire to move from where we are today back on a pathway that will yield the results that are promising to both.

QUESTIONS TO FOREIGN MINISTER LEVY:

Q: Has the time not come for Israel to take into account Arafat’s difficulties regarding the continuation of settlements and at least take a step towards some timeout?

FM Levy: There are issues which the two sides of course do not see eye to eye about, but that doesn’t mean that we must cease all contact when we have these disagreements. What we must do is reach an agreed basis about these issues and try and move forward. There is no doubt that this is the most important approach, this is the only approach that we can take upon ourselves. Ceasing contact, threats, violence – these are not the way to resolve differences but rather by sitting at the negotiating table. It is clear that in doing so neither side is throwing away its principles or its positions, but rather it is doing so out of its sense of responsibility and of the need to resolve through agreement all the differences between us.

Q: Israel has asked the Authority to crack down on terrorism, to arrest HAMAS people. How can you ask the Authority to crack down on terrorism infrastructure, while at the same time the Israeli government is making deals in which others are being released?

FM Levy: We did not conduct any negotiations with the HAMAS, and we did not release any extra HAMAS terrorists. We took one particular step, but in the further releases there are no members of the HAMAS. Nor are we demanding anything of the Palestinian Authority which it did not take upon itself in the agreements signed between the two parties. The Authority took upon itself to fight terror and to prevent it, and it reiterated that commitment in the understandings and agreements since the accords. This action in this field is indeed the basis of the entire process, and therefore what Abu Mazen said this evening regarding the determination of the Palestinian Authority to act against the terror, which indeed threatens both sides, is something which was not forced upon him but rather a required expression of what needs to be implemented, and I welcome this very clear statement. Certainly action on the ground in this area will bring us back towards the mutual confidence which we so need to advance the process. This is certainly the message that the people of Israel wish to hear. What we are dealing with here is our mutual effort to bring about peace between our two peoples.