THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT CLINTON, KING HUSSEIN I, PRESIDENT HOSNI MUBARAK, CHAIRMAN YASIR ARAFAT, PRIME MINISTER YITZHAK RABIN AT SIGNING CEREMONY OF THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN INTERIM AGREEMENT
The East Room
12:23 P.M. EDT
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Prime Minister Rabin; Chairman Arafat; Your Majesty King Hussein; President Mubarak; Foreign Minister Peres; Mr. Abu Mazin; Prime Ministers Gonzalez, Filali, Bin Shaker; Foreign Minister Kozyrev; our cosponsor of the Middle East peace negotiations; distinguished foreign ministers and members of the Diplomatic Corps; and honored guests:
I welcome you to the White House for this milestone on the path to reconciliation. Today we make a great stride toward the fulfillment of a vision toward the day when two peoples divided by generations, by conflict, are bound now by peace. Finally, the time is approaching when there will be safety in Israel's house; when the Palestinian people will write their own destiny; when the clash of arms will be banished from God's Holy Land.
Two years ago, on another brilliant September day here at the White House, two men reached across one of history's widest chasms with a simple handshake. That moment is etched forever in our memory.
With the eyes of the world upon you, Mr. Prime Minister, you declared your wish to live side by side with the Palestinian people in dignity, in empathy, as human beings, as free men.
And you, Mr. Chairman, vowed to wage what you called "the most difficult battle of our lives, the battle for peace."
In the days of labor that have followed you have both shown profound courage in bringing us to this moment, and you have kept your word.
The enemies of peace have fought the tide of history with terror and violence. We grieve for their victims, and we renew our vow to redeem the sacrifice of those victims. We will defeat those who will resort to terror. And we revere the determination of these leaders who chose peace; who rejected the old habits of hatred and revenge. Because they broke so bravely with the past, the bridges have multiplied -- bridges of communication, of commerce, of understanding. Today, the landscape changes and the chasm narrows.
The agreement that now will be signed means that Israel's mothers and fathers need no longer worry that their sons will face the dangers of patrolling Nablus or confronting the hostile streets of Ramallah. And it means that Palestinians will be able to decide for themselves what their schools teach, how their houses should be built, and who they choose to govern.
You, the children of Abraham, have made a peace worthy of your great forebear. Abraham, patriarch of both Arabs and Jews, sacrificed power for peace when he said to his nephew, Lot, "Let there be no strife between thee and me. If thou will take the left hand, then I will go to the right." Patience and persistence, courage and sacrifice -- these are the virtues, then as now, that set peacemakers apart.
Mr. Prime Minister and Mr. Chairman, you are showing that it is not by weapons, but by will and by word, that dreams best become reality. Your achievement shines as an inspiration to others all around this world who seek to overcome their own conflicts and to secure for themselves the blessings of peace.
Chapter by chapter, Jews and Arabs are writing a new chapter for their ancient lands. Camp David, the Declaration of Principles, signed here two years ago; the peace of the Arava last year between Jordan and Israel: With each of these, the truth of this book has become clear to the world. As courageous leaders stepped beyond the bounds of convention, they build for their peoples a new world of hope and peace.
Now, as this new chapter begins, it is fitting that we are joined by so many from the camp of peace. Egypt's President Mubarak has carried forth the commitment to peace that began with Anwar el-Sadat and the miracle at Camp David. Before there was a glimpse of a breakthrough, President Mubarak stood for reconciliation. And he added his strength, his personal strength, time and time again in the days of the negotiations.
Almost a year ago, on the border that had known only barbed wire and armed patrols, King Hussein and Prime Minister Rabin brought their nations together in peace. Already that border has been transformed, as have the lives of Israelis and Jordanians, after 46 years as enemies. King Hussein stands as a rock on which peace can be built. In only a few weeks, he will host the economic summit in Amman that will bring together Israelis and Arabs from throughout the region, business and government leaders from throughout the world, to map the promise of tomorrow.
Today we are also joined by the largest group of Arab foreign ministers ever assembled to support the growth of peace. Prime Minister Filali of Morocco has traveled here to represent King Hassan, who has done so much to advance progress in the region. With us as well are representatives of nations that have provided vital support for peace, including the countries of the European Union, Japan, Canada, and, of course, Norway, whose assistance two years ago opened the way to this moment.
All those who doubt the spirit of peace should remember this day and this extraordinary array of leaders who have joined together to bring a new era of hope to the Middle East. The United States is proud to stand with all of them.
Much remains to be done. But we will continue to walk each step of the way with those who work and risk for peace. We will press forward with our efforts until the circle of peace is closed, a circle which must include Syria and Lebanon if peace is to be complete. We will not rest until Muslims and Jews can turn their backs to pray without any fear; until all the region's children can grow up untouched by conflict; until the shadow of violence is lifted from the land of light and gold.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
(The Israel-Palestinian Interim Accord is signed.)
HIS MAJESTY KING HUSSEIN: President Clinton; Prime Minister Rabin; my brother, President Mubarak; President Arafat; and dear friends: What we are meeting here today to witness is all about responsibility, moral courage, physical courage, maturity, for the interests of people is the driving, motivating force behind leaders, and fulfilling their duties to future generations.
It is, indeed, the result of a commitment to peace, unwavering. And you have, indeed, witnessed and seen the hours spent and the efforts made and the obstacles surmounted because there is goodwill. And there is total commitment to peace by all those who played their part so far in shaping the comprehensive peace that we all seek in our part of the world.
In addition to all that, I believe for our Palestinian brethren -- and they are the closest to us in the Arab world, and we are the closest to them -- that is also the fulfillment of a dream they have struggled for for years, a chance to contribute their share in shaping their future and to have their word regarding that future and destiny.
I am proud to be a part of this occasion on behalf of the government and the people of Jordan; congratulate you on what you have achieved and to wish you every future success in the times ahead; and to assure you all -- President Clinton, all my colleagues, brother and friends starting with President Mubarak, for Egypt was a pioneer on the path of peace; President Arafat; Prime Minister Rabin, with his farsightedness and unquestionable moral and physical courage; and all the other wonderful people who have helped -- the Secretary of State, and the vision of Shimon Peres, and everyone who has -- Dennis Ross -- so many.
We will do everything we can. And hopefully, we'll meet again. And if we don't, hopefully, the process will continue beyond this point towards establishment of the comprehensive peace we seek, giving people the dignity that is their right, the security, tearing down the barriers of suspicion and hatred and confusion.
And I believe that I issue a challenge to any leader in our part of the world, or anywhere else in the world, to demonstrate courage -- moral and physical courage -- to show what responsibility really means by joining the peace camp for the better future of all the peoples of our region.
I hope they won't be wanting. I hope they will be there. And I hope that we will have fulfilled, after all these years of struggle, our responsibilities towards our people and the generations to come, the children of Abraham and their descendants forever.
Thank you very, very much, indeed. And I hope that we will next month see another major step in our part of the world when the economic summit is convened in Amman with the presence of all who belong to the peace camp to present our area in the context of peace and all our friends from throughout the world. For now we need to build on what we have achieved -- a better future for our people so they can see and enjoy what they have been denied for so long.
Mr. President, thank you once again for the kind invitation. And on behalf of all those here from Jordan -- my wife, Prime Minister, my colleagues -- we are deeply grateful.
And, Mrs. Clinton, at least Prime Minister Rabin and I did not smoke while we are here with you, sir. Thank you so much for your good influence in that regard. (Laughter.) Thank you so much. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT MUBARAK: President Clinton, dear friends, ladies and gentlemen: Today, we witness another significant step on the road to peace and reconciliation in the Middle East. The signing of this elaborate agreement testifies to the strength of the new spirit which has emerged in our region since we started the peace process years ago.
It reflects the firm commitment of both Arabs and Israelis to a noble cause that was considered until recently a distant dream. They made an historic choice between the continuation of the unhappy past and the opening of a new horizon for their peoples.
This dream could not have come true without the courage and the farsightedness of a group of determined men who worked together under the most difficult circumstances in order to translate their vision into a living reality. We commend these courageous leaders and congratulate the Palestinian and Israeli peoples on this historic achievement.
We also thank those friendly nations which have stood firmly in support of the peace efforts -- notably, the American people and their energetic leadership who put their full weight behind the peace process.
Dear friends, while we celebrate this historic event, we are determined that the challenge is not over yet. In the months ahead, we have to work hand in hand to facilitate the faithful implementation of the new agreement. This process will require greater understanding and cooperation. Equally needed is the material and the moral support of different nations in all four corners of the world.
We are also reminded that our mission of building peace will not be fulfilled until similar progress is made on the Syrian and the Lebanese tracks. All of us should reaffirm our fundamental goal of achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace. Those who hold the key to progress on those tracks are urged to exert maximum effort in the months ahead in order to make this possible.
On the other hand, we should not lose sight of the fact that what has been accomplished on the Palestinian front does not constitute a final settlement. It is still, nevertheless, an important step that is definitely going to make that goal easier to reach.
Finally, it is our duty to prove to all the peoples of the Middle East that the past is behind us at long last, and that a brighter future is dawning throughout the area; a future that brings to realization not only the promise of peace and security, but also greater prospects for balanced development and prosperity. This should be the cornerstone of the vision we have for the new era. Together, God willing, we shall succeed in our drive to write that bright chapter in the history of the Middle East.
Thank you. (Applause.)
CHAIRMAN ARAFAT: President William Clinton, President of the United States; Your Majesty King Hussein, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt; Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez, Prime Minister of Spain, and President in Office of the European Council; Mr. Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel; Your Excellencies, Ministers and Ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen:
We are gathered today under the sponsorship of President Clinton, who has generously offered to host the signing of this agreement. It has been two years since we met at the White House to sign the Declaration of Principles to which we and our Israeli partners have agreed to in Oslo. We meet again today to make new headway in giving hope to this historic process, the process of realizing a credible peace, reconciliation and co-existence between the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, and the peace of the brave, which we achieved on Egyptian land at Taba under President Mubarak's auspices.
A significant portion of Palestinian national rights reverts today to the Palestinian people through their control of the cities, villages, and populated areas. Recovery of this portion is a step in the implementation of the interim agreement, which we are gathered here to witness the signing. It is also a step which paves the way to free and democratic Palestinian elections, capping, thereby, the political components required for the establishment of an independent Palestinian national entity on the Palestinian territories.
These steps which required tremendous efforts, as well as exhausting and relentless work throughout the past months, do not make us oblivious of the fact that added diligence lies ahead to implement this agreement on our land in the West Bank. We still carry on our shoulders many other tasks, such as moving to the permanent status negotiations.
The permanent status negotiations will deal with such issues as settlements, the delineation of the borders, the rights of Palestinian refugees as determined by the international legitimacy, and the fundamental issue concerning the status of Jerusalem, which our people, irrespective of their faith -- Muslims, Christians or Jews -- consider Jerusalem to be the heart and soul of their entity and the center of their cultural, spiritual and economic life. I would say that the sanctity of Jerusalem for us all dictates that we make it the joint cornerstone and the capital of peace between the Palestinian and the Israeli peoples, inasmuch as it is a beacon for believers all over the world.
We urge you all to recognize the importance of this historic interim step. It demonstrates the irreversibility of the peace process. Its distinct significance lies in the verdict passed by history, the international community and human civilization at the turn of the century, that a just and comprehensive peace be established on this sacred land, whereby the Israeli and Palestinian peoples would coexist on the basis of mutual recognition of the rights, while enjoying a quality and self-determination without occupation or repeated wars, and without terrorism.
At this point, I must tell our Israeli partners from this solemn rostrum and in the presence of our brethren and friends who have come here from the region and from all over the world, particularly those who contributed to the realization of this agreement, that our past experience underscores the need to be more credible and committed to our steps in the future. And the commitment should be precise, honest, and mutual. For our part, we will honor our commitments.
That's why the continuation and expansion of the settlement drive, as the situation in the city of Hebron and elsewhere shows, lead to the persistence of tensions. Likewise, continued qualms about a new and dependent Palestinian birth convey to each and every Palestinian the feeling that his or her life shall remain in jeopardy.
Today, standing before you, I tell you with courage and a sense of responsibility, that our participation in the great peace process means that we are betting everything on the future. Therefore, we must condemn and foreswear violence totally, not only because the use of violence is morally reprehensible, but because it undermines Palestinian aspirations to the realization of peace and the exercise of our political and national options, and the achievement of economic and cultural progress in Palestine and in the region.
From this day on, we do not want to see any waste of, or threat to, any innocent Palestinian life or any innocent Israeli life. Enough killing and enough killing of innocent people. (Applause.)
I urge you, Mr. President, together with all our brethren and friends gathered here, to keep up the drive for a comprehensive and just settlement in our region on all tracks, especially the Syrian and Lebanese tracks, to complete all aspects of the process.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are still striving on two parallel fronts. One is to achieve a just political solution to our problem. The other is to build a homeland on modern and democratic grounds. For us to succeed on both fronts, we are bound to base the emerging Palestinian political system on the principles of liberty, democracy, separation of powers, freedom of expression, and national initiative. We are also bound to continue building Palestinian institutions and the Palestinian national economy. But this enterprise is still in its early stages and our institutions have yet to mature.
The road ahead remains long, indeed. We look forward to your continued support of our people. And we thank all friendly and brotherly donors for their assistance.
Mr. President, as the experience of your great country -- the country of freedom, democracy and human rights -- taught us that freedom is absolutely indivisible. And here, I would like to emphasize to you and to our people and to our devoted friends that our people's freedom will remain lacking without all our detainees walking free. All the martyrs, the wounded, and the victims shared one dream. They dreamt of a freedom and just peace for their children, for Israeli children, and for the future generations on both sides.
In keeping with that dream, and with that correct vision, we shall continue along this path, the path and reconciliation of the brave, notwithstanding its difficulties.
In conclusion, Mr. President, I thank you deeply for your devotion to this process and the historic reconciliation. I greatly appreciate your personal involvement and the role played by your able aides and by members of your administration who helped us all along to overcome and settle difficulties.
I am very grateful to my brother, His Excellency President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak, for his great and sincere efforts and for his fruitful involvement until the Taba Agreement was crowned with success. I hail the support of the custodial of the two holy shrines King Fahd, and the stand and support of His Majesty King Hassan II. I especially thank my brother, His Majesty King Hussein, for his support, for his efforts, and for his invaluable counseling.
I thank President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali for his diligence and efforts. I also thank my brethren, the Arab leaders, for lending us a willing hand. I appreciate the role of the Russian sponsor and that of President Yeltsin, who spared no efforts or advice to push the peace process closer to its historic destination.
I appreciate, too, the role of permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. I expressed my appreciation to Norway, a friendly country that has guided us throughout the process. I thank the presidency in office, and the member states of the European Union who exerted maximum efforts and extended great support throughout this march. I thank Japan, a friendly country whose backing was vital to our efforts. I thank the friendly and brotherly nations which helped realize this historic event, particularly the non-aligned movement, the African countries and the Islamic nations.
I am also grateful and thankful to Mr. Rabin, the Prime Minister of Israel; and Mr. Peres, the Israeli Foreign Minister; and their able aides and assistants for all their tireless efforts they exerted with us to reach this joint agreement. I tell them, let's nurture this peace of the brave for the sake of our grandchildren, of our peoples, and of the region as a whole.
Thank you very much, Mr. President. I wish to thank you and wish to thank the First Lady. And I wish to thank your country and your people. And my best wishes and happiness and prosperity for all of you. Thank you all. (Applause.)
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: First, the good news. I'm the last speaker -- (laughter) -- before, of course, the closing remarks by the President.
The President of the United States; King Hussein; President Mubarak; Chairman Arafat; prime ministers; foreign ministers; distinguished members of the two Houses of the Congress; ladies and gentlemen: Now, after a long series of formal, festive statements, take a look at the stage. The King of Jordan; the President of Egypt; Chairman Arafat; and us, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister of Israel, on the one platform with the President of the United States. Please, take a good, hard look. The sight you see before you at this moment was impossible, was unthinkable just three years ago. Only poets dreamt of it. And to our great pain, soldier and civilians went to their death to make this moment possible.
Here we stand before you, men who fate and history have sent on a mission of peace, to end once and for all 100 years of bloodshed. Our dream is also your dream -- King Hussein; President Mubarak; Chairman Arafat, all the others, and above, assisting us, President Bill Clinton, a President who is working in the service of peace. We all love the same children, weep the same tears, hate the same enmity and pray for reconciliation. Peace has no borders.
Yes, I know our speeches are already repeating themselves. Perhaps this picture has already become routine. The handshakes no longer set your pulse racing. Your loving hearts no longer pound with emotion as they did then. We have begun to get used to each other. We are like old acquaintances. We can tell all about Arafat's grief. He and his friend can tell you all about ours. We have matured in the two years since we first shook hands here -- the handshake that was the sign and symbol of the start of reconciliation.
Today, we are more sober. We are gladdened by the potential for reconciliation, but we are also wary of the dangers that lurk on every side. The enemies of yesterday share a common enemy of today and in the future -- the terrorism that sows death in our homes and on the buses that ply the streets. The sounds of celebration here cannot drown out the cries of innocent citizens who traveled those buses to their death. And your eyes shining here cannot erase for a single moment of the sight of the lifeless eyes of the students who were going to their classes and housewives who were on their way to market when hatred stuck them down. We are pained by their death, and remember them with love.
I want to say to you, Chairman Arafat, the leader of the Palestinians, together we should not let the land that's flowing with milk and honey become a land flowing with blood and tears. Don't let it happen. If all the partners to the peacemaking do not unite against the evil angels of death by terrorism, all that we will remain of this ceremony are color snapshots, empty mementos; rivers of hatred will overflow again and swamp the Middle East.
We gentlemen will not permit terrorism to defeat peace. We will not allow it. If we don't have partners in this bitter, difficult war, we will fight it alone. We know how to fight and we know how to win.
My brother Jews speak through the media to you of thousands of years of exile. And the dream of generations have returned us to our historic home in the land of Israel, the land of the prophets. Etched on every vineyard, every field, every olive tree, every flower is the deep imprint of the Jewish history; of the book of the books which we have bequeathed to the entire world; of the values of morality and of justice. Everyplace in the land of the prophets, every name is an integral part of our heritage of thousands of years of the divine promise to us and to our descendants.
Here is where we were born. Here is where we created a nation. Here we forged a haven for the persecuted and built a model of a democratic country. But we are not alone here on this soil, in this land. And so we are sharing this good earth today with the Palestinian people in order to choose life. Starting today, an agreement on paper will be translated into reality on the ground. We are not retreating; we are not leaving. We are building and we are doing so for the sake of peace.
Our neighbors, the Palestinian people -- we who have seen you in your difficulties, we saw you for generations; we who have killed and have been killed are walking beside you now toward a common future, and we want you as good neighbors.
Ladies and gentlemen, this week the Jewish people in each thousands of places of this -- has marked a new era, and in their Holy Day prayers, Jews everywhere are saying -- (spoken in Hebrew.) I'm translating it to the best of my capability. May we be remembered and inscribe before you in the book of life and of blessing and peace and prosperity, of deliverance and comfort and opportunity, we and all your people, the House of Israel, for a good life and peace.
These are my wishes to all the Jewish people. These are my wishes to all the citizens of Israel -- a good life and a peace. These are also our wishes to our neighbors, to all the world peoples -- a good life and peace.
Ladies and gentlemen, look at us again. Look at the scene on the stage, here in the White House. You are not excited anymore. You have grown up accustomed to it. But in order for peace to be completed, in order for this picture to be completed, and for the Middle East to become a jewel in the world crown, it still lacks two people -- the President of Syria and the President of Lebanon. I call upon them to come and join us, to come to the platform of peace.
Ladies and gentlemen, if and when this happens, we will again ask President Clinton to be our gracious host. We will again ask King Hussein, President Mubarak, Chairman Arafat, and all the others to return here to be partners in the glorious picture of all the peoples of the Middle East dwelling in security and peace.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me extend my wish to all of us that we may meet here again, and soon. Happy New Year. (Spoken in Hebrew.) (Applause.)
PRESIDENT CLINTON: As we adjourn, let me once again thank all of our guests from across the world who have come here to be a part of this, and to wish all the parties well. Let me thank those who have spoke today for their contributions to the peace process.
Let me say a special word of thanks to the members of Congress who have come here from both parties, including both Jewish Americans and Arab Americans represented in our United States Congress, for their support of the United States' effort.
And let me close with this simple thought. As the Cold War has given way to a global village in which the enemies of peace are many and dispersed all across the world, the United States is honored and obligated to be a force for peace -- from Northern Ireland to Southern Africa, from Bosnia to Haiti -- to reducing the nuclear threat and the threat of biological and chemical weapons to fighting against terrorism and organized crime.
But this is special. For it is in this place that those of us who believe that the world was created by, is looked over by, and ultimately will be accountable to one great God -- all of us came from there, whether we find that wisdom in the Torah or the Koran or the Christian Holy Bible. If we could all learn in that place to find the secret of peace, then perhaps the dream of peace on Earth can truly be realized.
Thank you, and God bless you all. (Applause.)
END 2:14 P.M. EDT