Lieberman-Cheney Vice Presidential Debate

(October 5, 2000)

MODERATOR: Senator Lieberman, this question to you. Once again in the Middle East, peace talks on the one hand, deadly confrontations on the other, and the flashpoint, Jerusalem, and then there's Syria. Is United States policy what it should be? LIEBERMAN Yes, it is. It has truly pained me in the last week to watch the unrest and the death occurring in the Middle East between the Israelis and the Palestinians. So much work has been done by the people there with the support of this administration. So much progress has been made in the original Oslo agreements between the Israelis, the Palestinians, adopted in 1993, and the peace between Israel and Jordan thereafter. And America has a national strategic interest and principal interest in peace in the Middle East, and Al Gore has played a critical role in advancing that process over the last eight years. What pains me is I watched the unrest in recent days between the Israelis and the Palestinians. That these two peoples have come in some senses, generations forward, centuries forward, in the last seven years. They are so close to a final peace agreement, I hope and pray that the death and unrest in the last week will not create the kinds of scars that make it hard for them to go back to the peace table with American assistance and achieve what I'm convinced the great majority of the Israeli and Palestinian people want, and these people throughout the Middle East, which is peace. Secretary Albright has been in Paris meeting with the prime minister. I hope and pray her mission is successful, that there is a cease fire, and the parties return to the peace table. We've been on a very constructive course in the Middle East, played an unusual, unique role. And I'm convinced that Al Gore and I will continue to do that. I hope I might, through my friendships in Israel and throughout the Arab world, play a unique role in bringing peace to this -- this sacred region of the world.

CHENEY: It has been a difficult area to work in for a long time. Numerous administrations going back to World War II have had to wrestle with the problem of what should happen to the Middle East. We made significant breakthroughs at the end of the Bush administration because of the Gulf War. We had joined together with Arab allies and done enormous damage to the Iraqi armed forces. Iraq was the biggest military threat to Israel. By virtue of the end of the Cold War, the Soviets were no longer a factor. They used to fish in troubled waters whenever they had the opportunity in the Middle East. With the end of the Soviet Union, the implosion of the empire, that created a vacuum and made it easier for us to operate there. We were able to, I think, reassure both Arabs and Israelis would play a major role there. We would deploy forces if we had to to engage in military operations to help our friends. We were able to convene them in a conference. The first time Arab and Israelis sat down face-to-face and began this process of trying to move the peace process forward. I think also a lot of credit goes to some great men like Yitzak Rabin. His tragic passing was a great tragedy for everybody who cares about peace in the Middle East. He was a man who had the military stature to be able to confidently persuade the Israelis to take risks for peace. I think Barak has tried to same thing. I hope that we can get this resolved as soon as possible. My guess is the next administration is going to be the one that is going to have to come to grips with the current state of affairs there. I think it's very important that we have an administration where we have a president with firm leadership who has the kind of track record of dealing straight with people, of keeping his word so friends and allies both respect us and our adversaries fear us.

Source: Public Papers of the President