THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT UPON LEAVING FOR CAMP DAVID TO OPEN THE MIDDLE EAST PEACE SUMMIT South Portico
10:38 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. As all of you know, I am now leaving for Camp David to join Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat in their effort to reach agreement on the core issues the have divided Israelis and Palestinians for half a century now.
The two leaders face profound and wrenching questions, and there can be no success without principled compromise. The road to peace, as always, is a two-way street. Both leaders feel the weight of history, but both, I believe, recognize this is a moment in history which they can seize. We have an opportunity to bring about a just and enduring end to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. That is the key to lasting peace in the entire Middle East. Of course, there is no guarantee of success, but not to try is to guarantee failure.
The path ahead builds on the journey already taken from the first Camp David Summit to Madrid to Oslo; to the first handshake on the lawn between Prime Minister Rabin and Chairman Arafat; to the peace between Israel and Jordan and the agreement at Wye River. The parties have proven that peace is possible when they are determined to make it.
In the process, they have passed the point of no return. The only way forward now is forward. Both sides must find a way to resolve competing claims, to give their children the gift of peace. It will take patience and creativity and courage. But Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat have those qualities, or they would not have come this far.
They will also have the unstinting and unequivocal support of the United States. I'll do everything I can over the coming days to see that this moment of promise is fulfilled. And I hope that those leaders will have the thoughts and prayers and support of all Americans.
Thank you very much.
Q Mr. President, having barely survived the no confidence vote, does Prime Minister Barak come here with a handicap? Can he negotiate with the full weight of the Knesset and the Israeli people behind him?
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I'll say what I said yesterday -- the polls show, in Israel, that well over half the people support his coming here and believe he ought to work for peace. Secondly, he has promised to put whatever agreement is reached here, if an agreement is reached, to a vote of the people.
So they have nothing to lose. They'll have final say anyway. There ought to be 100 percent support for his coming here, because the people will be the ultimate deciders on the question. So I think that that is fine. And, yes, he had an eight-vote margin yesterday; I would remind you that on most of the days when Yitzhak Rabin came here, he had a one-vote margin in the Knesset.
So I think we're in as good a shape as we're ever going to get, and we might as well just go to work. Thank you very much.
END 10:43 A.M. EDT