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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 23, 1998
                       VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE,
                    HIS MAJESTY KING HUSSEIN OF 

                      CHAIRMAN YASSER ARAFAT,
                  AT MIDDLE EAST SIGNING CEREMONY       

The East Room

4:00 P.M. EDT

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Mr. President, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Chairman Arafat, Vice President Gore, King Hussein, diplomatic colleagues, distinguished guests, and friends of the Middle East. We meet this afternoon to mark not a conclusion, but rather a new chapter in the pursuit of permanent peace with security and justice in the Middle East.

I begin by expressing my admiration for the effort to reach an agreement that was made by both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders and their delegations. The issues considered this week were difficult and complex. But in the end, both sides made the hard choices required to move the process forward. In so doing, they demonstrated leadership, courage and vision.

I express my heartfelt appreciation for the contributions made by His Majesty King Hussein of Jordan. His passion for peace inspired us all to believe that with sufficient faith and unyielding will, the seemingly unattainable would prove within our grasp.

I would like to thank the Vice President for his most helpful participation in our discussions; and the CIA Director, George Tenet, for his critical assistance at a number of key points.

And most of all, I congratulate President Clinton, who has given new meaning to the term shuttle diplomacy. This agreement would not have been reached without his incredible persistence and determination. From the outset, he put America squarely on the side of peace and cleared the path so that both sides could join us there.

Today's ceremony culminates almost a year and a half of efforts to restore confidence and forward movement to the peace process. It ends a dangerous impasse that has eroded trust and stalled progress towards a broader peace.

The United States hopes that the implementation of this agreement will spur forward movement on the other tracks of the peace process and lead to improved relations between Israel and all her Arab neighbors. Today's agreement is an important way station on the upward path towards peace. It proves again that progress is the product of negotiation, while the alternatives of extremism and violence yield only more stalemate, suffering, and grief.

If we're to continue forward, the parties must rise to the challenge of implementing their commitments. They must work together to resolve differences and prevent new misunderstandings. And they must act in the spirit of peace embodied so vividly at Wye this week by the courage of Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat, the persuasiveness of President Clinton, the wisdom of King Hussein, the good sense and good nature of Sandy Berger, and the patience and skill of Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk, Aaron Miller, Gamal Helal, Toni Verstandig and Jonathan Schwartz.

And now, I am pleased to introduce someone who has had a passion for Middle East peace and security for a long time, and will for a long time in the future. He has been a major contributor to today's success: the Vice President of the United States, Al Gore. (Applause.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you. Secretary Albright, thank you for your very generous introduction and for your tireless work in pursuit of peace, your constant travel to the region, your dedication to the result that is announced today. At Wye Plantation, everyone saw again how your earnest efforts have won you the trust and respect of the parties involved, and you relied on that trust to keep these peace talks on track through many a tense moment. Your country and the world are honored by your service.

I would also like to acknowledge the outstanding contributions of Sandy Berger, our courageous and rock-steady National Security Advisor, whose commitment and counsel have been so vital to the efforts in pursuit of peace. And also, a diplomat of endless endurance, Dennis Ross, who has served the cause of peace through several administrations and has defied fatigue in his constant shuttling to points and between points in the Middle East.

I want to join the Secretary in acknowledging the work of George Tenet, and others that deserve credit. To those who will be speaking and to those who have labored without sleep for nine days now, the world is extremely grateful. I would also like to acknowledge Her Majesty Queen Noor and Mrs. Sarah Netanyahu, the members of the Palestinian delegation and Israeli delegation, members of President Clinton's Cabinet, members of the House and Senate including Senator Kennedy and Senator Biden, Senator Lautenberg, Senator Robb and Congressman Wexler.

A great deal of credit for today's announcement belongs to still another man now in the room, a great statesman of the Middle East who you will also hear from, a man who himself made peace with Israel here at the White House four years ago -- a man long devoted to the cause of peace and whose personal stature as a peacemaker and dramatic appearance and presentation at a key moment inspired the progress and the success of these talks -- His Majesty King Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. We're grateful to you, Your Majesty, for your courage in being here. (Applause.)

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat are heroes today. What they have done has taken genuine courage. But it often happens that even the deepest commitment to peace cannot overcome all obstacles without the strong and active encouragement of an outside party, an honest broker, a peacemaker, who shares their passion for peace and can help both sides clarify their positions, understand their options, and overcome their doubts.

In Bosnia, in Haiti, in Northern Ireland, and now again in the Middle East, President Bill Clinton has demonstrated his uncompromising personal commitment to bringing peace to some of the world's most troubled regions -- regions that have had too much of war and are now seeking a path to peace.

In introducing the President, I would just like to say to any person who thinks for one moment that the outcome about to be signed here was somehow foreordained, somehow prearranged, expected, I assure you, this was not the case. Far, far from it. No one in the President's administration, in the Israeli delegation, in the Palestinian delegation had any idea of whether or not this might really succeed to the extent that it has. There is no question that the personal commitment and perseverance and stamina and determination and sheer will of President Clinton was the key ingredient in keeping these talks going beyond the point where it was time to go to bed and get some sleep, beyond the point where people were willing to give up, and up to the point where it was possible to make peace. (Applause.)

As a result of that commitment and the courageous decisions of Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat, there is greater hope today than yesterday that children born tomorrow will know only peace in the Middle East. We know that the road to permanent peace lies out long before us. But today, we are several steps closer to that goal.

And, ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pride that I present the individual who has been the person responsible for these forward steps today. On behalf of the American people and the world community, I would like to say thank you, Mr. President.

President Bill Clinton. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much. Mr. Vice President, Madam Secretary, Your Majesty, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Chairman Arafat. To the Israeli and Palestinian delegations, the members of Congress and the Cabinet, members of the diplomatic corps, my fellow Americans who are here. It's a great honor for me to welcome you here. I only wish the First Lady were here as well. She is in Chicago. We talked a few moments ago, and she sends her great happiness and best wishes, especially to Queen Noor and Mrs. Netanyahu.

After some very difficult negotiations, very long, dare I say, quite sleepless, the Israelis and Palestinians here have reached an agreement on issues over which they have been divided for more than 17 months. This agreement is designed to rebuild trust and renew hope for peace between the parties. Now both sides must build on that hope, carry out their commitments, begin the difficult, but urgent journey toward a permanent settlement.

Over the last nine days I have witnessed extraordinary efforts on behalf of peace. I thank our team, beginning with its head, the Secretary of State, who showed remarkable creativity, strength and patience. I thank the Vice President for his interventions. I thank my good friend, Sandy Berger; our Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, who had an unusual, almost unprecedented role to play because of the security considerations; our Special Middle East Coordinator, Dennis Ross, who was a young man with no gray hair when all this began. (Laughter.) I thank all the other outstanding members of our delegation.

I thank Prime Minister Netanyahu, who stood so firmly for the security of his citizens and of his country, and of the impressive members of his Cabinet and administration. I thank Chairman Arafat, who tenaciously defended the interests of his people, and the very impressive members of his team as well. In the end, after all the twists and turns and ups and downs, all their late and ultimately sleepless nights, both reaffirmed their commitment to the path of peace. And for that, the world can be grateful.

And finally, let me thank His Majesty King Hussein, whose courage, commitment, wisdom, and, frankly, stern instruction at appropriate times, were at the heart of this success. Your Majesty, we are all profoundly in your debt.

This agreement is good for Israel's security. The commitments made by the Palestinians were very strong, as strong as any we have ever seen. They include continuous security cooperation with Israel and a comprehensive plan against terrorism and its support infrastructure.

This agreement is good for the political and economic well-being of Palestinians. It significantly expands areas under Palestinian authority to some 40 percent of the West Bank. It also offers the Palestinian people new economic opportunities, with an airport and industrial zone, soon safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank, and in time a seaport. The Palestinian people will be able to breathe a little easier and benefit from the fruits of peace.

Most importantly, perhaps, this agreement is actually good for the peace process itself. For 18 months, it has been paralyzed, a victim of mistrust, misunderstanding and fear. Now, ordinary Israelis and Palestinians once again can become partners for peace.

To bolster this effort, Chairman Arafat will invite members of the Palestinian National Council and other important political entities to reaffirm his prior commitments and their support for the peace process. I have agreed to address that meeting, several weeks hence, and to underscore the values of reconciliation, tolerance and respect, and my support for those commitments and this process.

People around the world should be heartened by this achievement today. These leaders and those with whom they work have come a very long way. The Israeli and Palestinian peoples, whose bitter rivalry in this century has brought so much suffering to both sides, have moved yet another step closer toward fulfilling the promise of the Oslo Accords; closer to the day when they can live peacefully as true neighbors, with security, prosperity, self-governance, cooperation and eventually, God willing, genuine friendship.

No doubt, as peace gains momentum, forces of hate, no matter how isolated and disparate, will once again lash out. They know this, the leaders, and they are prepared to face it. Staying on the path of peace under these circumstances will demand even greater leadership and courage.

The work at Wye River shows what can happen when the will for peace is strong. But let me say once again to all the rest of you -- everyone who is tempted to handicap every little twist and turn over the last nine days, you need to know one overwhelming thing: The Prime Minister and the Chairman, and the members of their delegation who supported this process, even when there were things about it they did not agree with, are quite well aware that the enemies of peace will seek to extract a price from both sides. They are quite well aware that in the short run, they themselves may have put themselves at greater risk. But by pledging themselves to the peaceful course for the future, to the same values and, ultimately, to the same enemies, they have given both Israelis and Palestinians a chance to have the future we all want for our children and our children's children.

Every effort will have to be exerted to ensure the faithful implementation of this agreement -- not because the parties do not want to do so, but because the agreement covers many things, was developed over many days, involved many discussions and sleepless nights. It will test whether the Palestinian people are prepared to live in peace, recognizing Israel's permanence, legitimacy and a common interest in security. It will tell us whether Israelis want to help build a strong Palestinian entity that can fulfill the aspirations of its people and provide both real security and real partnership for Palestinians and Israelis.

The United States is determined to be of whatever help we can to both sides in their endeavors. I will consult with Congress to design a package of aid to help Israel meet the security costs of redeployment, and help the Palestinian Authority meet the economic costs of development. I hope we will have support from Republicans and Democrats in that endeavor.

With respect to Mr. Pollard, I have agreed to review this matter seriously, at the Prime Minister's request. I have made no commitment as to the outcome of the review. Ultimately, the parties will have to translate the gains of Wye River into renewed efforts to secure a just and lasting peace. For as big a step as today is - and after 17 months, it is a very large step, indeed -- it is just another step along the way. Therefore, perhaps as important as any other statement to be made today, let me say how grateful I am that the Prime Minister and the Chairman have agreed to begin permanent status talks upon ratification of this agreement.

I have agreed to convene the two leaders at an appropriate time to seek to complete these talks. We have all agreed to try to do it under circumstances which permit more sleep at night. (Laughter.)

Let me say that no agreement can wipe away decades of distrust. But I think these last several days have helped each side to get a better understanding of the other's hopes and fears, a better feel for all they have in common, including on occasion, thank the Lord, a good sense of humor.

The future can be bright for Israelis and Palestinians if they maintain the will for peace. If we continue to work together, the next generation will grow up without fear. Israel can have the genuine security and recognition it has sought for so long. The Palestinian people can, at long last, realize their aspirations to live free in safety, in charge of their own destiny.

So, on behalf of all the people of the United States, let me say to the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, salaam -- shalom -- peace be with you in the hard and hopeful days ahead. We value our friendship and we thank you for your trust, for giving us the opportunity to walk this road with you.

Now it is my privilege to introduce Prime Minister Netanyahu. Let me say, I was, once again, extraordinarily impressed by the energy, the drive, the determination, the will, the complete grasp of every detailed aspect of every issue that this Prime MInister brought to these talks. He showed himself willing to take political risks for peace, but not to risk the security of his people. And as a result, this agreement embodies an enormous increase in the security of the people of Israel.

Mr. Prime Minister, the microphone is yours. (Applause.)

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, Mr. Chairman, the Vice President, Your Majesty, Her Majesty Queen Noor, Madam Secretary, Sandy Berger, their staff and especially -- especially Dennis, of the white hair and Olympic endurance -- and all the delegations assembled here, and all the distinguished ministers of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the members of the Senate and Congress, and the many friends who are here today.

Today's a day when Israel and our entire region are more secure. Now, this has required sacrifice from both sides, and reaching into what Lincoln called, "the better nature of mankind." This is an important moment to give a secure and peaceful future for our children and the children of our neighbors, the Palestinians. We have seized this moment.

I'm asking all people of goodwill, of honesty and candor, I'm asking all of them to join us in support for this important step for a secure future, a future of peace.

We are more secure today because, for the first since the signing of the Oslo Accords, we will see concrete and verifiable commitments carried out. Our Palestinian partners will join us in fighting terrorism. They will follow a detailed and systematic plan to fight terrorists and their infrastructure; to jail killers that have so far roamed at large; to stop vitriolic incitement; and above all, finally, after 35 years, to cancel the articles in the Palestinian Charter which call for the destruction of Israel.

This means that our world today will be safer for our children and for our neighbors' children. But it has been said here, and it's true, that we are just at the beginning, or maybe at the middle, of the road to a permanent peace. We will soon embark on negotiations for a permanent peace settlement between our two peoples. Now, I guarantee you it will not be easy and it will not be simple and it will be, Mr. President, despite your best wishes, sleepless. I guarantee you. (Laughter.)

Mr. Chairman, I guarantee that to you, too. (Laughter.)

But I am today brimming with some confidence -- and not overconfidence -- simply because we have overcome tremendous challenges and achieved success for both sides -- not at the expense of one side and the benefit of the other, but success and advantage and progress for both sides. And that fills me with the confidence that we are able to tackle the larger challenges that still await us and that still await our two peoples.

There are so many people that I could thank in the American delegation. It's a wonderful one, headed by the Secretary of State and Sandy Berger and George Tenet and the team that was there -- Dennis and Gamal -- (laughter) -- a provider of cigars -- (laughter) -- and good humor -- and so many others.

But I want to especially thank President Clinton. He is -- if I can borrow a cliche -- he is a warrior for peace. I mean, he doesn't stop. He has this ability to maintain a tireless pace and to nudge and prod and suggest. and use a nimble and flexible mind to truly explore the possibilities of both sides, and never just of one side. That is a great gift, I think a precious and unique one. And it served us well.

So I thank you, Mr. President, for serving us and the cause of peace well. (Applause.) I thank you, too, for your boundless optimism, without which these qualities cannot come into effect. You needed a lot of optimism.

I want to thank Chairman Arafat. Mr. Chairman, you're cooperation was invaluable. And I want to thank you, personally, once again, for the kind wishes you extended me on a birthday that I shall never forget. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

I want to thank Minister Sharansky -- Mr. Sharansky is in Israel. He is celebrating now his daughter's Bat Mitzvah. I'm sure you all send him your best and excuse him for not being here. But he and Defense Minister Mordechai and Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon brought to Wye their patriotism and their commitment. They are great patriots. They are people who have put themselves in line for their country and their people. And they've brought all that experience, all that courage and all that perseverance, all that skill, and they assisted me and the state of Israel in ways that I think should be recounted, and probably will repeat themselves, I hope, in the new future in a successful bid for peace.

And I want, most especially, to thank two people at the close. I want to thank King Hussein, who visited us twice. And, Your Majesty, you gave us an unforgettable and inspiring example of courage and humanity, and it moved me deeply. It moved every one of our people and our delegates deeply, and I thank you for that. (Applause.)

And, lastly, I would like to thank my wife, Sarah, who joined me, who offered me support and a great deal of wisdom in some trying moments, and who constantly reminded me of our two children, of all the children for whom we toil and dream and pray.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Let me say, I wish that all of you who care about this could have seen at least a portion of what I saw in the last nine days in the interchanges between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat. It was very interesting. They were so different. I can't imagine Mr. Netanyahu in a khaffeyeh. (Laughter and applause.) But they were very much alike in their tenacity and their astonishing intelligence and knowledge.

Just as I was able to say a thank-you to Prime Minister Netanyahu, let me say to Chairman Arafat, I thank you. I thank you for turning away from violence toward peace. I thank you for embracing the idea that Palestinians and Israelis can actually share the land of our fathers together. I thank you for believing that the home of Islam and Judaism and Christianity can surely be the home of people who love one God and respect every life God has created. And I thank you for decades and decades and decades of tireless representation of the longing of the Palestinian people to be free, self-sufficient, and at home.

Mr. Chairman, the microphone is yours. (Applause.)

CHAIRMAN ARAFAT: Mr. William Clinton, the President; Mr. Al Gore; Mrs. Madeleine Albright; members of the U.S. delegation; friends; my co-partner -- the new co-partner in the peace process -- Mr. Netanyahu; and here I mention my late co-partner, Yitzhak Rabin; and my co-partner Shimon Peres -- members of the Israeli delegation with whom we worked together until we reached whatever we achieved; my brothers; members of the Palestinian delegation; ladies and gentlemen.

Here in this regard, I would like to give special tribute from my heart to His Majesty King Hussein, and Her Majesty, the Queen, for everything they presented us.

This is an important and a happy day, a day of achievement that we will always remember with optimism and hope. It is true that whatever we achieved is only temporary, that has been late. But our agreement in the Wye River underscores that the peace process is going ahead, and that whatever we agreed upon in Madrid, Oslo, and in Washington and Cairo is being implemented on the same bases that have been agreed to, and that we will never go back. We will never leave the peace process, and we will never go back to violence and confrontation. No return to confrontation and violence. (Applause.)

Please allow me to mention in this connection, first and foremost, to direct my talk to Mr. Bill Clinton for the long hours which he exerted during the past 10 days, particularly those 24 hours that he spent continuously, where he was always alert and understanding, creative in order to bring back history between the cousins -- this friendliness that had been separated through wars and destruction and violence for many years.

And please allow me to present my tribute and acknowledgement to Mr. Al Gore for whatever he did and whatever he does for pushing forward and protecting the peace process -- the peace process of courageous people.

My dear friend, we quite feel grateful to you and to the U.S. people and, indeed, I'm quite comfortable about the future of my people and that of the small peoples, having you as a great leader of the world at this great level of youth and sincerity and wisdom. This mixture of great things is a gift from God to you and to your American people, and for humanity as a whole. Your presence at the head of the international politics brings justice in the balance of peace and coexistence, which is just and well-balanced.

I would also like to send this tribute from my heart to His Majesty King Hussein, for his efforts, even though he has very special health concerns and in spite of the difficulty of the negotiations that we have gone through.

Please allow me, also, to talk to Mrs. Albright and to Mr. Sandy Berger, and Mr. George Tenet. You have worked a lot for long months, which was strenuous, indeed, during which, my dear Minister, you crossed for thousands of miles for peace and the future of our children and contributed through your understanding. We all appreciate your efforts.

I would also like to express my gratitude to Mr. Dennis Ross and the U.S. team working with them for their efforts with us, for long hours and long days, because they did believe in the importance of peace for us, for our children after us.

This reconciliation between the two peoples, the Palestinian and the Israeli people, will not divert this path and will go through negotiations on the table and go through tanks, grenades and barbed wires. We have achieved today a large step, but it is important -- my co-partner, Mr. Netanyahu -- it is important in establishing the peace process because this is the peace of courageous people.

The implementation of the Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and the principle of land for peace, achievement of political rights of the Palestinian people, and putting every effort possible in the service of achieving security for all, particularly for the Israeli people -- all this will bring us to begin at once and quickly in the negotiations of the final solution that will try to achieve just and peaceful permanent peace in order to complement what takes place also on the Syrian and the Lebanese paths very soon.

What we achieved together with the leading and effective role of President William Clinton and his U.S. team is something, if fully and sincerely implemented, will open the door before the Palestinian and Israeli people for more achievements, more hope, and more optimism not only for ourselves, but also for the Middle East regions as a whole.

Once again, I'm saying that it is a big step that came late, but it is, indeed, an important one because it will allow the return of 13 percent of the Palestinian land on the West Bank to the Palestinian people, to their sovereignty, and will allow to double the area where the Palestinian Authority will enjoy full-fledged authority and sovereignty. Yes, indeed, it is a step that will allow to the Palestinian airplanes to fly to and from the Gaza International Airport, carrying visitors and merchandise, carrying to the whole world the Palestinian flowers and fresh fruit.

It will also open the door to build the Gaza seaport and the realization of the Palestinian dream of geographic unification between the regions of the Palestinian land in the Bank and Gaza through a secured area. It will also allow the achievement of real happiness for hundreds of the prisoners of Palestinians in the Israeli jails, and also for the families everywhere, liberating them. And I will never forget this, in fact, for Mr. Netanyahu, with the assistance of King Hussein and President Clinton.

I say they will be liberated outside their cells, to where there is freedom and participation in the completion of what we started of a peace process and building their free land, with their heads held high and proud.

I led those children during our struggle for freedom, and they gave their freedom and their lives for the sake of the land. However, they adopted the peace process, adopted peace and stood by peace, while they were in the jails. And now, they are joining us in our peace process for the sake of peace. It is the peace of courageous people.

We have succeeded in the agreement to stop all the unilateral actions that would undermine the final solution and bring about a difficult climate for negotiations on peace. With this agreement, we begin the final solution negotiations, which we will take very seriously, and commitment in order to achieve it on its stipulated times in all the agreements we signed together, which is the 4th of May 1999. We will have understanding around this date between us and the Israeli partners, and between us and our friends in the U.S., and between us and our brothers, the Arabs, at the forefront of which is His Excellency, His Majesty King Hussein, and my brother, President Mubarak, who has been following with commitment what we are doing here in the U.S., and also our brothers, the Arab leaders who have been following our work minute by minute. And I will not forget the Federation of Russia, as well, and China and Japan, and the states of the non-alignment countries.

In particular I would like to mention, in this regard, the European role, who sent their delegation, Mr. Moratinos, in order to be here beside us during these negotiations.

We are quite certain that we will stand together here in this place which is at high level forum, and under the guardianship of President Clinton, in order to announce the achievement of permanent peace between the Palestinian and the Israeli peoples, that we have completed the solution of all issues -- the return of the land, the status of Jerusalem, the status of the settlements, the final frontiers, and the return of refugees, and the just distribution of order and security, and good relations with our neighbors, and that we have achieved freedom and independence and security for all.

We will begin a new era of new relations based on equality, mutual feelings and cooperation between two independent, neighboring countries enjoying security and openness with their neighbors, in a regional framework that would bring about peace, justice, and stability for all.

Mr. President -- President Clinton; Your Majesty King Hussein; my co-partner, Mr. Netanyahu; Mr. Al Gore; ladies and gentlemen, I talked in hope and optimism about the future, which I hope will be achieved together through sincere and accurate achievement of whatever we agreed upon. But I would like to, certain in honesty and sincerity, that we are fully committed to whatever is required from us in order to achieve real security and constant peace for every Israeli person and for the Israeli people. We will not forget our duties as we underline our rights.

I am quite confident that I'm talking in the name of all Palestinians when I assure you that we are all committed to the security of every child, woman and man in Israel. Here we have come to a detailed agreement, and we are committed to play our independent role to keep security. And we will achieve whatever we promise here.

I will do everything I can so that no Israeli mother will be worried if her son or daughter is late coming home, or any Israeli would be afraid when they heard an explosion. It is true that nobody can secure 100 percent results of security for all Palestinians and all Israelis. But I am proud that we were able to work together and we will be able to do more together, with assistance of all our friends all over the world, in America and in Europe, and with great commitment to achieve much more in the years ahead -- yes, indeed.

Ladies and gentlemen, we want achievement of the peace of courageous people to end this long suffering in order to build an independent nation having a lot of democracy and caring for his children. We want a school and education for every child and young man. We want a job for every man and woman, and a modern medical clinic and a hospital, and a small house as well, where everybody feels comfortable and where laughter is heard of happy, healthy kids. We want that and more for our neighbors and co-partners, the Israeli people, and the Arabs.

We want a factory, a lab, an airport and a seaport, a clean environment and an ability to grow and to develop. And on the occasion of the new millennium, which represents the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, where His light came out to the world , we would like to receive the whole world now, calling for peace and justice and freedom, for a world where there is stability, fraternity and cooperation. We would also like to pursue the joint work with our neighbors, the Arabs, as well as the regional work, which is cooperative and successful.

And even though I realize the difficulties that we face and my full knowledge of whatever we sign today will only trickle down to worthless ink on paper unless it is implemented accurately and quickly, so I call upon President Clinton to remain with us, alert and supportive, in order to make sure that we implement everything we agreed upon. However, I am also happy that I call upon my sons and children in Palestine in the diaspora and confinement, bringing to them the good news of a better future where they enjoy a better life with freedom, dignity and independent country. I want them to work with me, seriously and sincerely, in order to do everything we can, all the sacrifices to build our nation, Palestine.

So I also say something special for my children, that they our in our imagination and minds and conscience, and we will never forget their rights, their efforts and their tortures. And in particular, I call upon my brothers and sisters in the refugee camps in Lebanon that this long standing apart will not be long, and they will come back to Palestine in their dignity.

For those who sacrificed for Palestine, the martyrs, the wounded, the widows, the orphans and the prisoners, without whom we wouldn't have achieved this day for freedom, for them for all, I tell them that we are going to achieve peace. To all our brothers, the Arabs, who embrace us in our difficulties and supported us during war and peace, I told them that we will continue our effort and will be committed to our cause.

I am really honored with the presence of King Hussein with us -- to stand with us, supporting our efforts for peace, even though he needs rest and medical care -- to go back safe to his kingdom once again and to the Arab nation and Islamic nation.

Our daily contacts with President Mubarak and Minister Amre Moussa was important in giving us the sincere advice and support and expertise. And I say the same thing for all the Arab leaders who were in constant contact with us, supporting us, guiding us, and wishing us success in our effort.

Mr. President; members of the U.S. government; my co-partner, Mr. Netanyahu; and the delegation and Israeli people; the U.S. administration has done every possible and creative effort for the success of this work that took place on American land and in the hospitality of the U.S. administration. What President Clinton did, along with his colleagues, is rare to see or find anywhere. In spite of his full schedule, President Clinton gave us his full attention, with members of his government and the officials and scores of experts and assistants, for the success of these negotiations and bringing us to this result that has been achieved.

President Clinton and for assistants, I would like to say that you have a special place in our hearts and the peace process has witnessed under your directions all the success and with our presence here with him the White House. We are certain that he will be witnessing the signing of the final agreement here in the White House. So he will have achieved the two important things in the peace process -- Palestine and Ireland. And he will stay in the heart of every Palestinian person with every love.

In this regard, I would also like to thank the European Union for the continued support of the peace process. And from here, I will go to Vienna, where the European presidency -- in order to tell them and to thank them for their support of the peace process in the coming days.

I would also like to thank the Russian President, and I believe that my visit to President Yeltsin and Primakov and Blair, as a support to continue this peace process, and to support the same role played by the Russians and the Europeans. I would like to thank them all -- to thank China, in particular, and Japan and the Asian and African countries, and the non-aligned countries -- Islamic countries -- and the Latin American countries, all of them. All of them support the peace and the rights of our people, and know that they will celebrate the achievement of peace in our region because this peace will establish security and stability and growth all over the world.

And at last, I would like to direct my talk to Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues, to say today we have achieved a great positive agreement. We have to continue that together very soon and to implement it quite sincerely in reality.

Your security is our security. Your security is our security, and peace for your children and our children. And we will work together through the peace process and negotiations, even though they are difficult, in order to achieve a final solution. We will not retreat, we will not go back to violence or confrontation. And we, together, will be the leaders in order that peace would prevail on our land and the land of our neighbors. And peace be with you all. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Ladies and gentlemen, many kind things have been said about the efforts of the American delegation and the hours that I spent at Wye Plantation, every one of which I treasured. (Laughter.) Some more than others. But in truth, all that was required of us was a listening ear and a helpful suggestion now and then, and a kind of determination to keep us all moving forward.

It is a little too easy, I think, sometimes for people who are not directly, themselves, parties to a peace negotiation to believe they truly understand the judgments that the parties themselves must make, and how difficult they are, and what price they might carry. I think, as hard as we tried not to fall prey to that, from time to time we did. I know we did, because there are people on both sides smiling at me just now as I speak. So the lion's share of the credit belongs to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat and their close aides.

But His Majesty King Hussein provided an element quite different from what the United States brought to these negotiations, for he reminded us of what rises above the facts, the arguments, the legitimate interests, even the painful sacrifices involved. He was the living embodiment of the best of our past and the brightest of our hope for the future. And every time he was in the room, he made us all become a little closer to the people we all would like to see ourselves as being. For that, we and the world are immeasurably in his debt.

Your Majesty. (Applause.)

KING HUSSEIN: Mr. President; Mr. Vice President; Ms. Albright, Secretary of State; my friend, Sandy Berger; and, of course, all our friends here and all our friends who played such a vital part in the last few days in which I was privileged to be an observer and one who sought to give courage to the process that was ongoing -- George Tenet. And as the President said, Dennis has lost his black hair and replaced it to grey; I've lost all mine and even my eyebrows. (Laughter.) But this is part of the life in which we live. And I was privileged to be with you all. And no matter what, I would have been. If I had an ounce of strength, I would have done my utmost to be there, and to help in any way I can. (Applause.)

By the way, many in our part of the world and different parts of the world have written me off. But I have a lot of faith in God, and I believe that one lives one's destiny. And as far as I'm concerned, my morale is the highest it has ever been. And this has been a shot in the arm for me, what you have accomplished today, President Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu. (Applause.)

I recall in discovering past events over many years, and one thing that remained with me throughout those many years was a total commitment to the cause of peace. We quarrel, we agree; we are friendly, we are not friendly. But we have no right to dictate through irresponsible action or narrow-mindedness the future of our children and their children's children. There has been enough destruction. Enough death. Enough waste. And it's time that, together, we occupy a place beyond ourselves, our peoples, that is worthy of them under the sun, the descendants of the children of Abraham.

Palestinians and Israelis coming together. I have attended, sir, previous occasions here, and, of course, you, Mr. President, together with the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, were my partners four years ago in the Washington Declaration, and later on when the state of peace was finalized in our weekend in Jordan and in Aqaba. I don't think we might have given you as much hard work, or less sleep than you have been subjected to of late. But what I found this time, and what really gives me hope and confidence, is that that same chemistry, after the first meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Arafat, is there.

I think that we passed a crossroad. We have made our commitment to the welfare and happiness and security and future of our peoples in all the times to come. And now our partners are numerous, and we wish them every success in their endeavors and we'll do everything we can to help them.

I think such a step as is concluded today will inevitably trigger those who want to destroy life, destroy hope, create fear in the hearts and minds of people, trigger in them their worst instincts. They will be skeptical on the surface, but if they can, they will cause damage, wherever they are and wherever they belong. Let's hope that the overwhelming majority of us -- those who are committed to the future, those who know what responsibilities they hold now -- will be able, through steady progress and a determined combined joint effort, be able to thwart their aims and their objectives and move -- and maybe, God willing, witness the dawn that we are always seeking of a comprehensive peace in our entire region.

Mr. President, I have had the privilege of being a friend of the United States and Presidents since late President Eisenhower. Throughout all the years that have passed, I have kept in touch. But on the subject of peace, the peace we are seeking, I have never -- with all due respect and all the affection that I held for your predecessors -- have known someone with your dedication, clear-headedness, focus and determination to help resolve this issue in the best possible way. (Applause.)

Mr. President, permit me to say what I feel -- I was mentioning it more than once in the last few days. You have the tolerance and the patience of Job, and you are the subject of our admiration and respect. And we hope that you will be with us as we see greater successes and as we help our brethren and our friends move ahead towards a better tomorrow.

On behalf of Noor and for those colleagues of mine from Jordan, thank you all for your great kindness. And thank you, our Israeli friends and this very fine delegation, for all your contributions and efforts. And, obviously, my pride is limitless in the efforts and in the commitment of President Arafat and his colleagues.

I think we are moving. We are not marking time, but we are moving in the right direction. I believe that very sincerely. And may God bless our efforts. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Let me say -- everyone sit down. We have to hurry because the hour is growing late and it's almost Shabbat. I have to say one thing, very quickly. We have three men of peace here who have extraordinary military backgrounds. We have many others here -- I want to mention two who came with Prime Minister Netanyahu: General Sharon and General Mordechai; we're glad to have you here. (Applause.) And I say that because I want you to understand a piece of history.

This table was brought to this house in 1869 by one of America's greatest military leaders, Ulysses Grant, who revolutionized infantry warfare in our Civil War. One hundred years ago, this table was used to sign the peace treaty between the United States and Spain. And for 100 years this table, brought here by one of our greatest warriors, has been the exclusive repository of our peace agreements -- the one we signed with Your Majesty King Hussein on this table; President Kennedy's test ban treaty, signed on this table.

So I think it is fitting that these three great leaders -- two signers, one, His Majesty, observing -- who know a great deal about war have come to make peace on this table, which, for our country, has come to embody it. And we thank them.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

(The agreement is signed.)


END 5:50 P.M. EDT