View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 23, 1998
                         PRESS BRIEFING BY 

The Briefing Room

6:25 P.M. EDT

MR. BERGER: I would like to introduce the Secretary, who will conduct this briefing on the events of the past several days. Let me say just a few things. You've heard from the leaders in the signing ceremony descriptions of President Clinton's activities and contributions over the last nine days. I won't add to that except to say that having -- that watching it over this period, I can only describe it as dazzling.

But I think it is important to remember that the person who launched this initiative, this American initiative, for breaking the logjam was Secretary of State Madeleine Albright 18 months ago. She has been the engine that has kept this process going forward, not just in the ups and downs over the last nine days, but the up and downs of the last 18 months. And she has brought to this a steel backbone, a steel-trap mind, and a absolute determination that this will go forward. This is a very tough person to say no to.

And I'm very pleased to introduce Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you, Sandy. And having you as a partner in this has been really terrific. I think that we've been able to accomplish a lot, and there's a lot more to go. Thank you a lot.

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. It is based on the principle of reciprocity and meets the essential requirements of both the parties, including the further redeployment of Israeli troops and unprecedented measures on security. To terrorists, it sends an unmistakable signal that negotiations, not violence, produce results.

This agreement will help make tangible the benefits of peace for the Palestinian people through greater economic cooperation, opening of the Gaza airport, safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza, and other commitments.

The United States will lead a major donor effort to help develop the Palestinian economy, and in consultation with Congress will seek to increase our own economic assistance. We will also help Israel defray the security-related costs of implementing this agreement.

The agreement will permit the launching of permanent status negotiations, which President Clinton just made clear, and create an environment in which the parties can ensure, by refraining from unhelpful unilateral acts, that those negotiations succeed. And

it recognizes the urgency posed by the looming expiration of the interim period on the 4th of May next year.

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.

Now, the last days have been described as long and definitely sometimes difficult. I am pleased to report to you that the peace process is back on track, and we're here, but slightly diminished in mental capacity, and will do my best here and then, of course, Dennis, who is never diminished in mental capacity, indefatigable, will be able to do more Q's and A's with you.

Q Madam Secretary, this last day appeared to be the longest and most difficult of them all. Why was that, from the U.S. standpoint? What happened?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think as a student and professor of negotiations, I can tell you that it's kind of normal procedure that if you have negotiations about a very complex and passionate subject and you're trying to achieve something, there usually are, especially towards the end, certain kinds of issues that come up, and I think it's kind of normal, actually.

Q Well, let me be more explicit, then. Was the Jonathan Pollard matter on the table prior to early this morning, and if it was, what happened? And if it wasn't, why did the Israelis claim that it was?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I think for those of you that have followed this is that previous prime ministers, Prime Minister Rabin, for instance, had asked President Clinton about the Pollard case. Prime Minister Netanyahu had asked before. He came and he, again, said that this was an issue of some importance, and he asked the President to look at it, and the President said that he would review it. It had come up earlier, and it was -- that is the basis of what happened. And as to why it particularly -- you know, I think it kind of was, as I said towards the end, there were a bunch of issues.

Q Well, apparently, it took up the last five or six hours of negotiating, when everything else was already done.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that, again, as I said, it was an issue that had come up. The President had said that he would, as he said here, that he was committed to review it, and I think it was an issue that came up and it has been dealt with.

Q But what did that have to do with all these days of negotiations?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think what happens, again, in negotiations is that there are a variety of issues that come up, that become a part of the discussion. And truly, in terms of somebody who was there for the eight days, there were a number of times, there were lots of kind of ups and downs in negotiations, bumps in the road, and frankly, very much -- you expect a certain amount of things to be delayed or to have some discussion about them.

Q Madam Secretary, can you give us an idea of the size of the economic package that you're talking about for the Israelis and Palestinians? And as a second question, when do final status talks begin?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say this, is that on the economic package, what we are going to do is obviously consult with the parties -- the Israelis and the Palestinians. As I said, the Israelis are concerned about defraying some of the costs involved with the redeployment, and the Palestinians need help in terms of their economy.

I was interested in hearing Chairman Arafat's remarks where he talked about the various needs that they have -- in schools and clinics and businesses. And so it's that kind of thing that we're going to be looking at. And obviously, we're going to be consulting with Congress. I can't give you a dollar figure at this point.

Q Camp David was $5 billion a year forever. Can you indicate how much less this is going to be?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I don't have those figures. I'm not prepared to give those at this stage. I'm just telling you kind of where they are.

In terms of final status, the President said that we would begin them, and they will begin when this agreement comes into force, which is 10 days from signing.

Q Did President Clinton promise to free Jonathan Pollard and then renege on that promise in the face of domestic outrage?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Absolutely not. I said what happened, and I'll repeat it, which is that Prime Minister Netanyahu, as in previous -- previous Prime Ministers have asked -- this is a case of some importance -- asked the President to look at it. The President said he would review it. And that's --

Q The President didn't change his tune even in degree, he didn't say, I'll look at it, and then pull back in any degree at all?


Q In 10 days from now, was this the signing, or is there a --

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: That's the beginning -- yes.

Q Or is there another signing. Ten days from now?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Ten days from now, we are going to begin. Now, obviously, what I think we need to also focus on, this agreement has a number of very important aspects to it, but implementation of this agreement is important. So we are going to be moving on final status and focusing on implementing this agreement.

Q Could you give your interpretation of the timeout? What specifically are you expecting the parties not to do?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have a section in this on unilateral actions. And we basically -- and I'll read you the language, but then explain it to you -- "recognizing the necessity to create a positive environment for the negotiations, neither side shall initiate or take any steps that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in accordance with the interim agreement."

So what the whole purpose of unilateral action -- the section on unilateral action is that we hope very much that the momentum from this agreement and the launching of the permanent status talks will create a positive environment, and we hope that various actions, either actions or statements, would not undermine or detract from this positive environment.

Q But it sounds like the definition is a little bit elastic. I just wondered if you --

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, I think I'd like to leave it with the fact that we hope very much that -- I mean, basically, the permanent status talks are the ones that are dealing with some of the most difficult issues, those that have to do with boundaries and settlements and refugees and Jerusalem. And I think that it's very -- what we're saying is that actions or statements that undermine what I think is really a new spirit are not taken, so that we can move on to really do the serious business of implementing this agreement and moving along parallel with the --

Q Does this cover next May 4th?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we have -- Dennis, you might want to answer how this -- let me let Dennis answer some of the more specific questions on that. Let me just take one more here.

Q Do you see any enemy of this peace accord in the area? Do you have support from the rest of the Arabic world?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that what I have found is that peace often brings out those who don't have a stake in peace. And what we're trying to do is to broaden the circle of those that have a stake in the peace process and understand that they can do much better if they are a part of a developing economy and in relations between Israel and the Palestinian people. What we're trying to do is to make sure that those who do not want peace don't have oxygen, which will kind of initiate problems.

Q How much is the U.S. involved in this agreement? Unless there is something wrong -- how are you going to intervene?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, there are a series of committees that have been established, some bilateral, some trilateral. The security aspects of this are going to be handled by professionals who have already been cooperating and are going to be cooperating more. I hope you'll understand that I'm -- pardon?

Q What happens about changing the facts of land? Do you mean that Israel has agreed to stop building --

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I have said that basically we have said that we think that unilateral actions or statements are not helpful to this environment.

Q Just in general terms, could you give us a sense of the relationship among the three principal participants?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Actually, I'm glad I stayed for that question, because what I think was interesting is, one of the things that has troubled me during the last 18 months was that the interim accord was based on a premise that the parties would work together and get to know each other, and then be able to work with what clearly are the most complicated issues that have been left for permanent status talks.

And what happened, instead, was that while they were looking at issues like the airport and safe passage and various things, they, in fact, got so that they were working with each other less and less, and in fact, were not working with each other. What I think has changed -- and I think that it began to change, frankly, in September when we were in New York at the General Assembly session, was again, when I brought the leaders together for their first trilateral in over a year, that they began to work together again.

What I think really was quite remarkable at Wye -- and again, it's one of those things that happens in negotiations -- while there is very tough talk during the negotiating sessions, in the down time, or when people are in different committees, people ate together and did a lot of talking together. When there would be meetings of one group, then the others would get together. So it is my hope -- and I think you saw some of that feeling up on the stage today -- that those bonds are being rebuilt, because they are essential.

These people have to work together to try to get the permanent status and they have to work together to do the implementation of this. The implementation of this agreement is going to require working together, so I'm pleased with that.

I hope you will excuse me.

Q Wouldn't it be liberating to admit that the Israelis sandbagged you with the Pollard question?

Q Madam Secretary, what other countries can learn from --

Q Couldn't have done it without you. Give you the credit. You don't have white hair. What does he mean, white hair?

Q You look as good as you always have.

AMBASSADOR ROSS: Thank you. Not bad for someone who hasn't slept in 48 hours.

Q The Secretary, in the warm afterglow of this moment, seemed reticent to talk about this Pollard example. But I mean, you did have -- you had the President's spokesman coming out and saying that the Israelis were being false and inaccurate about what they were saying about what the American President had agreed to. So are we supposed to say now that we trust their pronouncements? I mean, how do you read this?

AMBASSADOR ROSS: Well, I think I would echo what the Secretary said before: In every negotiation, you're going to have ups and downs. And especially when you come to the end game of the negotiation and decisions are required. It's not surprising for the parties to begin to evaluate everything that they're about to decide, and they sort of weigh it in the context of what's required, and it's not surprising sometimes other issues get introduced.

Q So that's when they try to roll you, is that it?

Q It sounds like it was a form of blackmail, though. You know, you're negotiating these delicate things, and then all of a sudden, Pollard gets thrown in.

AMBASSADOR ROSS: Well, that was an issue that was raised, and in the end, we responded and you heard what the President's going to do. The President said there's going to be a review.

Q Are people supposed to be surprised if Mr. Pollard is, in fact, released in the next two or three, four months? People will say, "My goodness." What about that?

AMBASSADOR ROSS: Well, all I know is that there is a review.

Q Right.

AMBASSADOR ROSS: There will be a review. I don't know how long it will take, but there will be a review.

Q And he'll be released.

AMBASSADOR ROSS: I would not say that because I would be prejudging their review.

Q What are these extra prisoners being held in Israel for, then?

AMBASSADOR ROSS: I'm not aware of extra prisoners being withheld.

Q And you maintain that they're not trying to roll you, they weren't trying to roll you when they did that?

AMBASSADOR ROSS: I don't evaluate anybody's particular motives at a given time when we're negotiating, I'm focused on how we solve problems.

Q Dennis, can you talk a bit about the unilateral actions? Does this prohibit all settlement building? Does it prohibit new settlements? What does it do about next May 4th, that sort of thing?

AMBASSADOR ROSS: If you look at the language, you'll see the language on this section is really rather general, because we made a basic judgment that the best thing that we could do is focus on how to work with both sides in a vigilant way to try to prevent or at least avoid the kinds of steps that would undercut the climate and make negotiation permanent status far more difficult.

We are dealing, or about to deal with the most difficult issues in the process -- the issues that were reserved for the end of the process, but in fact, reserved for a three-year period, not for a period that we're now facing. So if you're going to have any chance of really breaking through, you've got to change the way business is done, you've got to change the climate in which it is done, there's got to be a transformation psychologically, and a whole lot more trust than we've seen. The kinds of steps that put one side or the other in the corner are exactly the kind of things you need to avoid. And that's what we're going to do.

Q I understand the rationale for it, but I was wondering what is it that it prohibits.

AMBASSADOR ROSS: I wouldn't say that if you look at it, we're focused on being able to prohibit actions. We didn't try to adopt a position that would prohibit actions, but we are trying to adopt the position creates a certain greater leverage against the kinds of actions that, in fact, would be detrimental to the kind of climate we need to build.

Q -- the text of the full agreement? Can we have the text of the full agreement soon?

AMBASSADOR ROSS: Yes, it will be issued.

Q What you said, does it mean that if there is any more building now, it could be a violation for the agreement signed today?

AMBASSADOR ROSS: I think that, again, what I've just said is that we are focused on actions that are going to undercut or spoil the kind of climate that one needs.

Q Given what you've just said, Dennis, about the rushed timetable you face, wouldn't you anticipate President Clinton traveling to the Middle East as he said he would do? And when do you anticipate this next summit taking place, which he alluded to as well?

AMBASSADOR ROSS: Well, there will be at least two periods in which he will go. One is related to what's in the text, and that relates to the whole sequence of moves on the Palestinian side with regard to ratifying the letter that was sent by the Chairman to the President in January.

Now, the Executive Committee will act within two weeks after entering into force. The Palestinian Central Council will act within four weeks. And then at six weeks, there will be a gathering that will involve an invitation to all the members of the PNC and other groups as well, such as the PCC and the Legislative Council. And President Clinton will go, and he will address that group. That's at six weeks. We start in 10 days. Go 10 days from today, and that's when you enter into force. That, in effect, is day one.

Q Got it.

AMBASSADOR ROSS: So six weeks from then, the President would make such a trip.

Q And what about the summit?

AMBASSADOR ROSS: That will come at an appropriate time. And what the President said is that, in fact, he would seek, in fact, to try to have such a summit to try to bring the permanent status negotiations to a close.

Q And when you said that he would travel twice, I take that to mean that the next summit would not be here, but rather would be someplace in the Middle East.

AMBASSADOR ROSS: Well, I may have misspoken by saying traveling twice. What I meant is that there will be -- he will travel once. I mean the fact that I haven't slept in 48 hours means that there's a chance that I might not have everything precisely right.

Q I'm confused. In 10 days, and then do two weeks go after that, and then do six weeks go after that?

Q No, 10 days plus six weeks.

AMBASSADOR ROSS: In 10 days, you start counting.

Q It would be December 14th --

Q December 14th, my birthday -- no, it's not my birthday. But is he actually going in December? I just said early next year

AMBASSADOR ROSS: Well, try back -- go back to December 14th, and you'll be on the mark. I guess. I mean, you can't --

Q Dennis, I still don't fully understand the Pollard case. Could you more fully characterize when it came up? Did it come up this morning as a last-minute sweetener to seal the deal, and is that what delayed this by four hours today? Or was it on the table earlier in the negotiations? Give us a better sense of how it all played out.

AMBASSADOR ROSS: As the Secretary said earlier, this Prime Minister and his predecessors have raised the Pollard case, and the Pollard case was raised by Prime Minister Netanyahu while we were at Wye, and it became, obviously, a snag today. In the end, the President agreed that -- in response to the Prime Minister's request -- to review the case, but that's all he did. He agreed only to review the case.

Q Was that before this morning?

AMBASSADOR ROSS: Yes, it had been raised before this morning.

Q Dennis, did Chairman Arafat commit himself not to declare a state by next May?

AMBASSADOR ROSS: He did not make such a commitment; and in fact, that wasn't our focus. Our focus was first to try to resolve all the interim committee issues and the other issues that were left over from the interim agreement, which, in fact, we did. We did better in this regard than we thought.

In addition to resolving the further redeployment and the first and second phase and setting up a committee on the third phase, we settled the airport, we are very close to an agreement on safe passage. In fact, in the agreement itself, it is expected that the agreement on safe passage will be achieved within a week of the entry into force.

There is a timetable for the port, which includes a committee starting next week; and within 60 days, achieving a protocol on the port which would allow construction to begin once that protocol had been achieved.

There are a whole series of other economic issues and civil affairs issues that are part of an ongoing process of committees. But in truth, what we really did is try to wrap up the interim period -- not so much the interim period, but the interim issues so that we could really get into permanent status in a way that would not be diverted to other issues.

Q Could you tell us, other than the Pollard case, what the turning point of these negotiations were? They dragged on a lot longer than they were supposed to. When did you know, when did you think, what was the thing that -- the catalyst that brought it together, other than the last-minute snag you were describing?

AMBASSADOR ROSS: Well, I think that when you get involved in a negotiation like this -- especially when you've had 18 months of stalemate -- and we've had countless trips to the region --in fact, this is not going to be a briefing that ends with announcing that I'm going to the area; this is going to be a briefing that ends with my announcing I'm going home to bed.

When you've had all that and you also have discussed all the issues -- and we had, in fact, gotten into a fair amount of drafting prior to going to Wye -- frequently, when you get in with the leaders in this kind of an environment, everybody wants to sort of see how everything fits together. So issues are no longer looked at in isolation, which is, in fact, one of the things we wanted; because we came to the conclusion that if we did not bring the leaders together in a concentrated way, we simply couldn't pull together the further redeployment, all the aspects of security, all the various interim issues.

There was simply no way to resolve everything because we were too bogged down in individual issues. The process of bringing everything together also began to produce rather different perspectives from the two sides about what kinds of packages could produce outcomes.

I think that -- it's hard to remember because the days really merge. I don't think I've been to bed since Wednesday. I think three days ago, the President in one meeting sat with the leaders and he did an inventory of all the issues and said, let's take a look and let's summarize exactly where we are on each issue so that we have a very good feel for what the nature of the gaps are; and instead of trying to put everything together in one package, let's see if in that summary we can see if there are groups of issues that we can settle now and then reserve the harder issues for later. I think that was probably a key point that really gave us a push.

I would also say two days ago, there was a three-on-three meeting between the two sides, actually without us. I think that was one of the better meetings that took place, principally because we had set up the agenda for the meeting. We had isolated the issues we felt that needed to be addressed. And they made a fair amount of headway in that meeting.

It is interesting that in those kinds of meetings, especially after having long periods of not having such intensive discussions, what you begin to see is not so much the issue of trust suddenly emerging, but the beginnings of relationships.

I think it's important to remember that many people tend to idealize the relationship that existed between the last Israeli GOvernment and the Palestinians; and they tend to forget that it took a while to build that kind of relationship.

These kinds of relationships are forged through crucibles of pretty hard times. When this government came in, it inherited a relationship; it didn't really develop a relationship. What has happened, I think, in the last month -- and especially now, with eight days of very concentrated work together -- is that we begin to see a very different kind of interaction.

I think the meeting two days ago after the President's meeting of three days ago really got us on a track that tended to move us towards a conclusion. I would say that 48 hours ago, I knew we would reach an agreement. Prior to that time, I wasn't certain.

Q Can you give us an example of what you just spoke about? I mean, what do you see in the interactions between Arafat and NEtanyahu that tells you that the general statement that you just made is true?

AMBASSADOR ROSS: Well, I think the main thing is the quality of the discussion and the depth of it. In the past when they would have discussions, if they would go over an issue, sometimes they would simply lay out positions that just bore no relationship to each other. And rather than engaging in a way, they would begin to find points of convergence or think about how you solve problems more effectively, they'd just kind of go on to the next issue.

What was different this time, even though I have been in almost all the previous meetings, and some of them had been good, what was different this time is, they went into meetings where they had very different positions, but they actually made efforts to respond to the other. And in fact, they tried out ideas on the other. That really was different, I think, than we'd seen before.

Q Does this include Foreign Minister Sharon in terms of --

AMBASSADOR ROSS: Well, he was in meetings with Chairman Arafat.

Q He was sleeping in the ceremony.


Q He was napping in the ceremony.

AMBASSADOR ROSS: Well, I think -- we've been through a pretty intense period.

Q Is there any plans now after you rest to start the process on the other two tracks -- the Syrian and the Lebanese?

AMBASSADOR ROSS: Well, I think we have for some time made it very clear that we want to be able to work on all the tracks. We did put a special emphasis on this track because our feeling is that if this track is moving, it creates a basis that affects a whole area. And also, we understood that when this track breaks down, it has a flip side, too, which we've also seen.

The consequences of stalemate between Israelis and Palestinians has pretty negative consequences for the pursuit of peace in the region as a whole.

So I think we will try to make a move on the others, even while at the same time we will be involved, as the Secretary said, in the process of implementing this agreement, as well as working with the parties on permanent status. Although, I think we would truly achieve one of our objectives, in terms of making it more likely that they will reach agreement, if our role doesn't have to be so consistently one of mediation.

Facilitation is a whole lot more productive in terms of reaching agreements where the parties themselves solve problems together. We've had to do a lot of mediation because they weren't doing any of that on their own. I think that's now changed, and one of the positive things that comes out of the last eight days is just how intensive their own discussions have been.

And I would even say one other thing. In the past there was a brittleness to some of the discussions, in the sense that if there was a disagreement, that was it, the talk really wouldn't go on much longer. But here, there were disagreements, and at times, we had --while I think there was a real constructive atmosphere in terms of how people dealt with each other, there were points of some friction in terms of disagreements. And, yet, that never became something that was a show-stopper; on the contrary, it tended to be a catalyst for efforts to continue discussions and try to find ways to solve problems. And that, I think, was qualitatively different than what I've seen before.

Q My understanding is that there's various side letters of understanding that supplement the written agreement. Are those going to be released, and can you describe what they're about?

AMBASSADOR ROSS: There are, in -- we have, with both sides, there's really only a very limited amount of that. And they're really geared more towards explanation or amplification of a particular point. I would downplay that, because there's not a lot of that. The thrust of this agreement, when you get it, when you see the text, it's there in the text.

Q I may have missed this, but how much is the financial aid, the additional financial aid to both parties?

AMBASSADOR ROSS: We have made no decisions on that. We have made it clear to both sides that we're prepared to talk with them about what would be -- packages of assistance that could be helpful to them. The Israelis will incur costs of implementation; the Palestinians clearly need help when it comes to economic development.

Q That's what it's for. In other words, this is not additional aid in any of the other areas in which we aid the groups -- it's for the implementation of this agreement.

AMBASSADOR ROSS: In the case of the Israelis, it's designed, clearly, to help meet the costs of implementation. In the case of the Palestinians, it would be an effort to increase the level of assistance; it goes to dealing with what are pretty profound needs of economic development.

Q Do you have a range on that?

Q -- solve the issue about the third withdrawal --

AMBASSADOR ROSS: As you'll see in the text, there is a committee that will deal with that issue.

Q Is this agreement now between the Israelis and Palestinians regarding changing the Palestinian government, is it the Central Council or the National Council? And President Clinton said members of the National Council, which means not all of them, right?

AMBASSADOR ROSS: There will be an invitation to all of them. There is a sequence. In deference to you, Sam, if you go 10 days from today, two weeks after that, the Executive Committee will ratify, the Executive Committee of the PLO, will ratify the letter that was sent to President Clinton that specified the provisions of the covenant that had been cancelled.

At week four, the Palestinian Central Council will also ratify that. At week six, there will be a gathering which President Clinton will speak to in which all the members of the PNC will be invited.

Q December 14th?

Q -- accused by Israel of being terrorists?

AMBASSADOR ROSS: All the members of the PNC will be invited, and the legislative council, the PCC, the Executive Committee and other leading officials will also be invited to that.

Q Have the Palestinians seen or offered any maps for the land that the Israelis are pulling back from, and why do you call it a memorandum instead of agreement or accord?

AMBASSADOR ROSS: Well, it is -- we were thinking about how we could come up with what would be an appropriate title, and since it's an American -- it was based on an American initiative, and it was pretty much reflective of an American draft, we decided to make it a memorandum that the parties would be agreeing to.

Q What role was the King helpful in?

AMBASSADOR ROSS: He was extremely helpful. There were two interventions by him during the course of the last several days, and, frankly, every time he came in, he really had a profound effect on both sides -- not just the leaders, but the parties. I mean, he came in one night around 10:00 p.m. when we were eating, and all I can tell you is that in the aftermath of that meeting, there was not only a kind of poignancy, there was also almost an inspiration. There was kind of renewed sense of dedication that we really had to overcome some of these problems.

Thank you very much.

END 7:00 P.M. EDT