THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Hilton Head, South Carolina) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release January 1, 1997
PRESS BRIEFING BY MARY ELLEN GLYNN
MS. GLYNN: We've got a statement here, which they're handing out on paper, but I can read for you right now.
Q A statement by?
MS. GLYNN: A statement by the Press Secretary. "The President is outraged and saddened by this morning's incident in Hebron, when an off-duty Israeli soldier fired into a crowd of civilians. The President has called Chairman Arafat to express his condolences to him and to the families of the victims. The President condemns this cowardly act, which was clearly designed to make it more difficult to conclude an agreement on Israeli deployment from Hebron. The best answer to this action would be for the two sides to close the remaining gaps and move forward with the hard work of forging a durable peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu will have America's unwavering support as they pursue that goal."
As the statement indicates, the President had about a 5-minute phone call this morning with Chairman Arafat, in which he urged the parties to reach an agreement as soon as possible and indicated some of the things that we said in the statement. At this point in time we don't have any plans to call anybody else. The President has been in touch with Sandy Berger and Mark Parris, who is from the Near Eastern Affairs Directorate, and I think that is about it for the moment.
Q Why no call to Netanyahu?
MS. GLYNN: Because we're in pretty close touch with Netanyahu and he wanted to express his condolences to Chairman Arafat.
Q Is it -- can it be taken as a sign at all as displeasure because an Israeli soldier was the one that committed the act?
MS. GLYNN: No. No, you should not read anything like that into it. Dennis Ross, as I say, met early this morning with Netanyahu and then met with Chairman Arafat about it.
Q Prospects now for continued discussions?
MS. GLYNN: Well, Ambassador Ross will continue to work, but we think it, as I said this morning, underscores the need to reach an agreement as soon as possible.
Q Was there any discussion about possibly -- they had talked about a meeting and then a summit later on, maybe tomorrow. Was there any discussion with the President about when this meeting between Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat was going to take place?
MS. GLYNN: I don't believe there was any discussion of that on the phone call, and that, you know, I will leave to the negotiators in Israel for now, but stay tuned.
Q The U.S. regards this shooting incident as the act of a disturbed individual rather than an act of policy?
MS. GLYNN: I can't say that because we just don't know at this point in time, it was only eight hours ago. But we are shocked, as we say, about it.
Q Do you see this as a setback, though, to the peace process?
MS. GLYNN: I'll stick with the statement.
Q Is he going to address this at all publicly, the President?
MS. GLYNN: I don't think he is at this point in time, I think this is it, just the paper statement. So if something changes on that I will let you know. Obviously, he is going to keep in touch with Dennis Ross over the phone as we go to the Virgin Islands, but I think some of you can at least take off. That will be it for the morning.
Q Has he spoken to Ross personally?
MS. GLYNN: He has not spoken to Ross personally. I know he has spoken to Sandy Berger and Mark Parris.
Q And so would he talk with Dennis Ross directly, do you think at all today?
MS. GLYNN: I don't know. It's impossible to predict.
Q So he'd be in touch with him, would mean, like, through Sandy?
MS. GLYNN: Right, exactly.
Q And you don't expect him to make any kind of comments at the airport, on the way to the airport?
MS. GLYNN: Not at this point in time, no.
Q When did he talk to Arafat?
MS. GLYNN: It was about 45 minutes ago -- not too long ago. All right. So that's it for now.
END 10:30 AM