Clinton's Last Plea for Peace
(January 19, 2001)
As Bill Clinton prepared to step down as president, he sent the following
open letters to the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, exhorting them not to give
up on the efforts for peace. Extracts:
To the people of Israel:
Of all [my presidential missions], none has meant more to me than the future of
your region and of your country...
You live in a dangerous world, and every day brings reminders of that reality. I
have expanded our special strategic relationship and helped protect and enhance
your security. As part of that continuing effort, I am recommending that when
our most advanced fighter aircraft, the F-22, becomes available for sale,
Israel, if it so chooses, will be among the first, if not the first, foreign
customers. And we have just concluded a memorandum of understanding regarding
bilateral security assistance to give practical expression to our long-term
commitment to modernize the IDF...
I know that the violence of the past three months has brought you great pain,
that it has shattered your confidence in the peace process and raised questions
about whether you and the Palestinians ever could coexist peacefully
side-by-side. But do not draw the wrong lessons from this tragic chapter. The
violence does not demonstrate that the quest for peace has gone too far - but
that it has not gone far enough. And it points not to the failure of
negotiations - but to the futility of violence and force. The alternative to a
peaceful settlement never has been clearer; it is being played out before our
Whenever you and your Arab neighbors seek to resolve your remaining differences
- today or several years hence; before or after more heartbreak and bloodshed -
the fundamental issues will be the same. You will face the same history, the
same geography, the same demography, the same passions and hatreds, and the same
decisions that are required for a comprehensive peace...
To you who have returned to an ancient homeland after 2,000 years, whose hopes
and dreams almost vanished in the Holocaust, who have hardly had one day of
peace and quiet since the State of Israel was created, allow me this parting
thought: You are closer today than ever before to ending your 100-year-long
struggle for peace and normalcy. Don't give up on the pursuit of peace...
Shalom al Yisrael.
To the Palestinian people:
As I look back on my eight years in office, the experiences I have had and the
lessons I have learned, one will stand out: my visit to Gaza, the first ever by
a US president. I will never forget what it taught me about your suffering, your
history of dispossession and dispersal, but also about your resilience and
courage. I said at the time that the Palestinian people should be able to
determine their own future on their own land and I believe that as strongly now
as I did then.
These past eight years have not been easy ones for you. You face daily
humiliations; you must struggle simply to find a job; worst of all, you continue
to see too many children grow up in poverty. Peace, it is true, has not yet
borne its fruits. And so I understand the disillusionment, the frustration, even
But, do not lose sight of what you have achieved: the ability to govern
yourselves, to elect your leaders, to build your institutions. As one who has
seen you and Chairman Arafat work so hard to achieve your goals, allow me to say
this: Now is not the time to heed the voices of revenge and desperation, for
they produce only bloodshed and death. Nothing you have accomplished has been
accomplished through violence, and nothing will be.
It will only be accomplished through peace and negotiations...
Never have you been as close to achieving your goals - regaining your land,
establishing a state, building a prosperous future for your children. There will
always be those sitting comfortably on the outside urging you to hold out for
the impossible more. But they are not the ones whose refugees will continue to
languish in crowded camps. You are. They are not the ones whose children will
grow up in poverty. You are. They are not the ones who will pay the price of
missing an historic opportunity. You are...
I remain convinced that despite these difficult and often tragic days, both you
and your Israeli partners will find a way to move from the logic of war and
confrontation to the logic of peace and cooperation. And that, together, you
will bring peace to this Holy Land, sacred to Moslems, Jews, and Christians