THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT CLINTON, VICE PRESIDENT GORE, CHAIRMAN YASSER ARAFAT, PRIME MINISTER YITZHAK RABIN, PRESIDENT HOSNI MUBARAK, AND KING HUSSEIN I AT RECEPTION FOR HEADS OF STATE
The Corcoran Gallery Washington, D.C.
7:25 P.M. EDT
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you. (Applause.) On behalf of the President and First Lady and their guests here this evening, I would like to welcome all of you to this historic occasion.
To His Majesty King Hussein and Her Majesty Queen Noor, to President Mubarak and Mrs. Mubarak, to Prime Minister Rabin and Mrs. Rabin, to Chairman Arafat and Mrs. Arafat, to Secretary Christopher, to Foreign Minister Peres, to Prime Minister Sharif Zeid Bin Shaker, to Foreign Minister Moussa, to Mr. Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian delegation, we welcome you.
To the members of Congress who are present, to the assembled ministers and members of the diplomatic corps, to the assembled friends of peace.
Today, as we begin a new month in the Islamic calendar, and the new year for the house of Israel, we have witnessed the dawning of a new day of peace for the ancient lands of the Levant.
Tonight, we gather to celebrate this great triumph of courage and hope. These truly are days of awe. The primitive sound of the shofar, the plaintiff echoes of the muezin, have resonated in the collective yearnings of our peoples for peace. They have awakened all of us to a new season of reason and renewal and redemption. They have called us all to compassion, humility and understanding. They have asked us to turn away from past selves to better selves, to take stock and to be reminded of our humanity and our relationship with the one God we all worship.
It is fitting that we join together tonight, as Palestinians, Israelis, Egyptians, Jordanians, Russians, and other Europeans, Americans, and all friends of peace to celebrate the progress we've made on our path to peace. The historic act over which President Clinton presided today and which we were all privileged to witness this afternoon at the White House culminates months of intensive, difficult negotiations and opens a new chapter in our collective efforts to create a comprehensive lasting peace in the Middle East.
I would like to welcome each of you here tonight, and to say that we are especially honored by the presence this evening of five leaders whose vision and tenacity and resolve have led all of our citizens to a grand new moment of opportunity and security. For, peace, as the philosopher Spinoza said, is not mere absence of war, but is a virtue that springs from force of character. I am privileged to welcome you to Washington and am especially honored to introduce to you as our first speaker this evening under these auspicious circumstances, Chairman Arafat.
Ladies and gentlemen, Chairman Arafat. (Applause.)
CHAIRMAN ARAFAT: Mr. President; His Majesty King Hussein of Jordan; His Excellency President Mubarak; our partner, our cousin, Yitzhak Rabin. (Applause.) We were, in the past, only cousins, all of us who are the sons of Abraham. And now, we are the sons of Abraham, we are cousins, but now we are partners and we are neighbors. (Applause.)
Mr. President, what happened today, and with what we have achieved today, was done because of your help and support; also the help and support of President Mubarak, His Majesty King Hussein, and the other Arab leaders. They stood fast by us in order to achieve this agreement.
What we have achieved was achieved by the sponsorship of President Clinton and the Russian President, President Yeltsin. And we cannot forget the position of Norway, the friendly country. We have named the agreement the Oslo Agreement, because we have started our secret talks there, and Norway was always with us.
We cannot also forget the position of the European Union. The European Union states, they supported us; they supported us in Gaza, and they worked very hard in order to create a new Middle East -- a new Middle East that's based on peace and justice, and create a totally new circumstances for that region.
We have created with our neighbors, our new neighbors and our new partners, a new peace -- peace of the brave. Now, we can say that we have a new Middle East, a new Middle East is in the making. And that new Middle East will be completed when our efforts will succeed on the Syrian track and the Lebanese track. (Applause.)
The Middle East is the cradle of all faiths, that's where all prophets and God's messengers came from. And as our Koran teaches us that if they incline toward peace, inclined as well toward peace and depend on God. Therefore, we will protect this peace with our souls and our bodies. (Applause.)
Yes, we will protect this peace. We will protect this peace because our peoples need peace. Our children need the peace. All of our children -- our Egyptian children, our Jordanian children, our Israeli children, our Syrian children, our Lebanese children, our Arab children, and, yes, our Palestinian children. (Applause.)
I would like to tell all of you, before President Clinton, the man whom I consider the man who created the miracle and made that peace. (Applause.) The Holy Land that we talk about needs your efforts, Mr. President. It needs your efforts today more than any time else in the past. And I invite you, Mr. President, to celebrate a very special occasion, as I mentioned to you this morning, that, soon, I hope you will be able to join us when we celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem in Jerusalem. Yes, the year 2000 and the celebration of the year 2000 will be a historic event and a religious event.
Thank you very much, and I hope to see you in Palestine. (Applause.)
PRIME MINISTER RABIN: President Clinton, King Hussein, President Mubarak, Chairman Arafat, Prime Minister, Foreign Ministers, and allow me to single out my partner for peace, the Foreign Minister of Israel, Shimon Peres. (Applause.)
You know I am Jewish, I am an Israeli, and in our tradition there is a saying that what is a Jewish sport? And the saying is, speechmaking. (Laughter.) I start to believe, Chairman Arafat, that you are close to being Jewish. (Laughter and applause.)
It's a unique opportunity, and I speak frankly: no doubt the United States, President Clinton is a friend of Israel. But, the President -- King Hussein, the President of Egypt, Chairman Arafat, represent two countries, two peoples that I fought with them for many years. And the fighting was very bitter once. And on both sides were casualties; there was pain, tears, losing people. And, always, I've asked myself, was it -- is it necessary? There can be no solution to the problem. There can be no reconciliation -- not recognition. And it took too long to all sides. And I would like to give the credit to Egypt that led the Arab world towards us and led the Arab world to peace with us. (Applause.)
I would like to pay great respect to King Hussein. (Applause.) King Hussein of Jordan that, after a long time, in the meantime, we have found ways to talk one to another. I would not tell this story when we came to Washington for the Washington Declaration. And President Clinton, King Hussein and myself, we all moving to the lawn, and he turned to us and asked, "For how long do you know each other?" I would not answer the question. (Laughter.) But it's more than 15 years. (Laughter.)
And now, what was considered to be and still might be the most complicated path of the whole Arab-Israeli conflict, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the longest one -- at least 100 years long; the most loaded with prejudices, animosity, hatred, bloodshed; and the most difficult to solve. And we have solved it.
Two years ago, over two years ago, by the government that realizes regardless of the misconceptions, the hatred, the backload of painful, to try to see to what extent there can be a peaceful coexistence in the same piece of land that both sides claimed in the past, might claim in the future, to be their own; to what extent we can reach understanding that a solution is not that only one will get all, and there should be a compromise.
I believe the present government of Israel -- Foreign Minister Peres, myself -- trying to find a way how the two peoples -- and I recognize that there are two peoples -- in what used to be the British (inaudible) Palestine, the land of Israel. There can be compromise and reach the two entities -- Israel as a Jewish independent state and a Palestinian entity next to us, not under our rule, independent -- (applause) -- can live together. And, if I may add, that Israel, the Palestinian entity and Jordan can form a new framework which no diplomat or a professor of a university could devise in which the three of us can work together because there is unique interrelationships between the three.
This is our goal. This is where we go. This is what we try to pursue phase by phase. And the agreement that we signed today was another major step towards this goal -- separation, not because of hatred, because of respect -- a Palestinian entity in which they rule themselves by themselves, Israel as a Jewish independent state, and Jordan, the closest to us, with always the help of Egypt. (Applause.)
And this is where we go. I've seen too much fighting, too much bloodshed, development of animosity, development of extreme interreligious or nationalistic positions that try to discriminate those who oppose you or not belong to you.
And we, the Jewish people, live today between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, in our tradition is the period of soul-searching. And I believe by doing it, this, in these days of soul-searching, represents a new direction in the policy of Israel. Policy of peace. Policy of opposition to any use of force or terror against us. We are a strong country. We are thankful to the United States for helping to be strong. We negotiate peace from the standpoint of strength and respect to the others.
Therefore, thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. President. You helped us. And I'll never forget, once I sent to you a letter in which I said to you: Israel is ready to take risks for peace. And your answer to me in writing was -- and I'll never forget, because you continue to fulfill it -- that the United States will try to minimize the risks of Israel taking for peace. And you have done so. And for that, thank you very much. (Inaudible.) (Applause.)
PRESIDENT MUBARAK: President Clinton, dear friends, ladies and gentlemen. Once again, we meet in Washington in pursuit of peace. Just a few hours ago, we took part in the signing a new agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis at the White House. And we gather here in this glorious setting in order to reaffirm our commitment to the cause of peace and the prosperity in the Middle East.
In so doing, we are reviving a great tradition of coexistence and tolerance that prevailed in that area for centuries. Arabs and Israelis, the descendants of Abraham, as I've already mentioned before, have always lived together in peace and harmony in the land that was the cradle of civilization. Their souls were free of prejudice and hatred. Today we took another step which is certain to reinforce that heritage, and pave a way for a better future for all the inhabitants of the whole region.
Although the agreement, which was signed this morning, is supposed to regulate only the second phase of an interim arrangement, its significance is quite evident. First, it proves that the peace process is working, and that the forces of peace are gaining, and gaining more ground every day. (Applause.)
In turn, this would enhance the credibility of the process in the minds of millions of Palestinians and Israelis. With a strict implementation of the new agreement, the parties would be able to move on to the crucial phase of the final settlement. The leaders who made this possible should be commended for their courage and perseverance.
As this is achieved, the door will be wide open for meaningful regional cooperation in various fields. We have a bright vision for a new Middle East, which would be free, once and for all, of the threats of war and devastation. Past enemies and adversaries would become partners in progress and the prosperity. The region would figure high on the list of those who want to invest in peace and stability.
The peoples of the Middle East are fully prepared to assume their share of the responsibility. And other nations are invited to make their contributions. I need not say that most parts of the world are strategically linked to that area which is the crossroads of many continents.
The American people have been undertaking a pivotal role in this process. Year after year, American heads of state have committed themselves to that cause. They spared no effort to bring the partners closer together and to bridge the gaps that existed between their two positions.
Our good friend, President Clinton, and his able aides have made a great contribution in this regard. They are still exerting relentless efforts in order to maintain the momentum for peace. We have no doubt that the Clinton administration is supported in that drive by the American people.
Ladies and gentlemen, together we have started this holy journey on the road to peace, and also together, we shall overcome.
And thank you. (Applause.)
KING HUSSEIN: President Clinton, President Mubarak, Prime Minister Rabin, President Yasser Arafat, and dear friends.
I would like to say how proud I am of this moment, of this day where both President Mubarak and I stood witness to yet another major step on the road to peace in our area, in our part of the world -- the cradle of civilization, the birthplace of the sacred Abrahamic villages, the land of the children of Abraham and their children and their descendants.
I would like to say how grateful we are for the consistent support we have received from our friends in the United States of America. Listening to my colleagues speak, I could see tears in many eyes; for, what they said, what I say, comes from the heart. We will never forget all that you have done for us, and all that you will continue to do for us. But we are partners in the cause of peace and a better future for all people, and certainly ours -- the peace of the free; a peace that incorporates all that we believe in -- democracy, pluralism, respect for human rights; a peace that gives generations to come the opportunity to build and work together and share their experiences, having conquered their fears of each other that separated them over so many years.
Both Arabs and Jews have suffered; yet, both come from the same origins. And over a long period of time -- certainly my lifetime -- there was much suffering and much loss, dear loss to us all.
Prime Minister Rabin referred to the question asked by President Clinton when we were here to sign the Washington Declaration, as to how many years did we know each other. I'll be 68, God wills it, in November, and I would like to say that probably for more than I would care to remember in the way of years. (Laughter and applause.)
But as people in positions of responsibility, peace has always been our dream and our hope. And we sought to achieve it and turn it into a reality. Our relations passed through some very, very difficult moments -- passed through strife and tragedy. But how can you make peace with somebody you don't know? How can you make peace with someone you can't talk to? How can you explore the possibility, the venues? How can you build trust and mutual confidence in each other?
And permit me to say, from my limited experience, I have always sought to place myself in my opposite number's position, time and again. Because when peace arrives, when such a goal is achieved, it is not a question of one side winning and the other losing. The reality is that everybody wins. And for that to happen, there has to be understanding and compromise. And there has to be dedication and courage, and selflessness.
People cannot continue to live in ivory towers and watch more suffering and uncertainty and turmoil and waste, terrible waste. Let's hope that what has been achieved is on the way towards the very great goal that all of us have and share of seeing a comprehensive peace in our region.
Egypt, with its weight and position, on behalf of all in our region, was there in times of war, and was there to be the first to move to establish peace. The Palestinians, our brethren, have courageously upheld their responsibilities towards themselves and the generations to come and all their neighbors who will give them all the support we can in the times ahead, for their success will be ours.
And let's hope and pray that others will come, and we are sure that they will. And when they do, they will exhibit even greater courage because their actions will complete the circle and get us all to enjoy what we have been denied for so long. For them to join us will be more than welcome. We pray and hope it will not be long before we see them with us. And with God's will and guidance, see their contribution for the establishment of the comprehensive peace we seek. (Applause.)
President Clinton, these years of your being at the helm of the great American nation have seen us come closer together than we have ever been in terms of the past mutual respect and the warmth of our relations, for we in Jordan are old friends of the United States of America. We have been comforted to know that you are with us through every moment of our endeavor to achieve peace, by your support and understanding, commitment, encouragement, courage and interest in the worthiest of causes.
And I will recall you have been with us, Prime Minister Rabin and myself, the Jordanians, the Israelis and all our brothers in the area of Aqaba and Eilat when we saw the ratification of our peace treaty. We will also remember the very moving coincidence, moving because you chose to bring Mrs. Clinton with you on her birthday that coincided with that day that will remain in the minds of all us and generations to come for all time.
It has been a long way. It has been a long struggle. But we salute the bravery, the courage -- moral, physical -- the faith, the determination of those who have come together today, not for the first time, Israelis and Palestinians, in this major step on the path to peace and reconciliation and driving away the shadows of darkness and despair and anger. And we have to be vigilant because unfortunately there are the skeptics and the enemies of peace.
But may I venture to say and state categorically that in our three great faiths and religions, there is only one call that is predominant, and that is the call of tolerance between brethren and between peoples and respect for each other and for life and the fulfillment of our duties as human beings and the worship of God.
I thank you very, very much indeed. (Applause.) And it is so wonderful to be among so many friends and familiar faces, have become more so with every time we meet and every step we take towards a brighter, happier future which, God willing, we will bequeath to the generations to come within our area and in the world.
Thank you so much. And, incidentally, I think that we are very fortunate to have taken more than our share of the interest of the American people, particularly this time with the O.J. Simpson trial. (Laughter.)
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you very much. On behalf of the First Lady and myself, the Vice President and Mrs. Gore, and Secretary Christopher, we are delighted to welcome all of our visitors from around the world, and especially from the Middle East, the Prime Ministers, the Foreign Ministers, especially Mrs. Rabin and Mrs. Arafat, Mrs. Mubarak, and Her Majesty Queen Noor.
We are delighted to be here again with these four great leaders who have just spoken. I was looking at His Majesty King Hussein when he said he was almost 60, thinking that he has been on the throne for more than 40 years. (Applause.) What I thought to myself was, for myself, I don't object to term limits, but I'm awfully glad he was not subject to them -- (laughter) -- because the Middle East is a different place because of the way King Hussein has lived his life for peace all these decades.
I thank President Mubarak for the power of his example, the constant strength of his determination. Not so very long ago, my family and I were, as with many Americans, praying for his safety. We are glad to see him strong, leading the world working toward peace. (Applause.)
I agree with Prime Minister Rabin, Chairman Arafat makes a good speech -- and a passionate one. What an interesting turn of events his life has taken, and how fortunate we all are that he decided to take his risks for peace. (Applause.)
Mr. Prime Minister, you give a pretty good speech yourself. (Laughter.) I think you give such a good speech because it is obvious to everyone that every word you utter comes from your heart and your mind together, and we thank you. (Applause.)
And to all my fellow Americans and all of you here present, we've heard a lot of wonderful words today. I would like to close with three brief points that I believe should be emphasized. First, I want to recognize the negotiators -- Foreign Minister Peres, Mr. Abu Mazin, Mr. Uri Savir, and Mr. Abu Alaa and their teams. They did this, and we should applaud them. (Applause.) We should applaud them. (Applause.)
I watched today in the Cabinet Room while the Prime Minister and Chairman Arafat literally signed, initialed, the annex to this agreement which included 26 different maps, comprising literally thousands and thousands of decisions that these two sides made. After long and arduous argument, they found common ground. It was an astonishing achievement -- the care, the detail, the concern that they manifested and the effort it took to reach agreement was truly extraordinary. And I do not want that to escape anyone's attention.
The second thing I want to say is that this agreement embodies, for those of us who are Americans, the things that we believe in the most. For this agreement required the acceptance of responsibility, along with the assertion of freedom and independence. This agreement required people to think about the interests of their children and the sacrifices of their parents. This agreement required a real effort to reach principled compromise, common ground and higher ground. And make no mistake about it, this agreement required these decision-makers to do things that may be unpopular in the short run, because they know that 10, 20, 30 years from now, it is the only course for the future of the people that they love. (Applause.)
And that brings me to the second point -- what are our obligations, the rest of us? We can clap for them. But they have to go back to work tomorrow. When the glamour is gone and the applause has died out, they will be back at the hard work. There are two things we can do for them. The first thing we have to do is to stand with them against terrorism. It is the enemy of peace everywhere. (Applause.)
Now we in America know what it is like to see parents grieving over the bodies of their children, and children grieving over the bodies of their parents, because people believe that terrorism is simply politics by other means. We have had our hearts ripped out, and now we know better. So we must stand with them against terrorism.
The second thing we have to do is to work with them to achieve the benefits of peace, for the peace has to bring people the opportunity to work with dignity, to educate their children, to clean up their environment, to invest in their future. Hundreds and hundreds of Arab-Americans and Jewish-Americans have the capacity to work with these people in partnership to transform the future of the Middle East. And I say again, let us do our part. (Applause.)
Finally, let me say to all the members of Congress here present and those who were there this afternoon, I thank you for your presence and your support of this process.
We know that in this era where we have gone from the bipolar world of the Cold War to a global village with all kinds of new and different threats to our security, only the United States can stand consistently throughout the world for the cause of freedom and democracy and opportunity. We know that and we must continue to do that, not simply for the people of the Middle East, but for ourselves as well.
For when we work for peace in Northern Ireland, in Southern Africa, in Haiti, in Bosnia; when we work to dismantle the threat of nuclear war and fight terrorism, we help ourselves and our children's future.
But I will say again what I said today: If we can make peace in the Middle East, if we can help the people who live there to make their own peace, it will have a special meaning for ourselves and for the world in the 21st century for the simple reason that the world's three great religions who believe that one God created us, watches over us and ultimately will hold us to account for what we do -- we all studied through the Koran, through the Torah, through the Holy Bible those lessons -- surely if those people can resolve all their differences, we can bring peace to all the world.
Thank you, and God bless you all. (Applause.)
END 8:23 P.M. EDT