Powell Lays Out U.S. Middle East Policy

(November 19, 2001)


Billed as his first major address on the Middle East, Secretary of State Colin Powell broke no new ground in this speech at the McConnell Center for Political Leadership, University of Louisville, Kentucky. The speech did not mark any change in policy or reveal any new initiatives; rather, it was primarily a restatement of existing policy and reaffirmation of the Bush Administration's commitment to the Mitchell Plan. Both Israel and the Palestinians found enough positive elements in the speech to view it as backing their positions. Excerpts follow:


To begin with, Palestinians must accept that, if there is to be real peace, Israelis must be able to live their lives free from terror as well as war. The Palestinian leadership must make a 100 percent effort to end violence and to end terror. There must be real results, not just words and declarations. Terrorists must be stopped before they act. The Palestinian leadership must arrest, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of terrorist acts. The Palestinians must live up to the agreements they have made to do so. They must be held to account when they do not.

Whatever the sources of Palestinian frustration and anger under occupation, the Intifada is now mired in the quicksand of self-defeating violence and terror directed against Israel. Palestinians need to understand that however legitimate their claims, they cannot be heard, let alone be addressed, through violence. And as President Bush has made clear, no national aspiration, no remembered wrong can ever justify the deliberate murder of the innocent. Terror and violence must stop and stop now. (Applause.)

Palestinians must realize that the violence has had a terrible impact on Israel. The lynching of Israeli soldiers in Ramallah, the assassination of the cabinet minister and the killing of Israeli children feed Israelis' deepest doubts about whether Palestinians really want peace. The endless messages of incitement and hatred of Israelis and Jews that pour out of the media in so much of the Palestinian and Arab worlds only reinforce these fears. No one can claim a commitment to peace while feeding a culture of hatred that can only produce a culture of violence. The incitement must stop.

Palestinians must accept that they can only achieve their goals through negotiation. That was the essence of the agreements made between Israelis and Palestinians in Madrid, and again in Oslo in 1993. There is no other way but direct negotiation in an atmosphere of stability and non-violence.

At the same time, Palestinians must also be secure and in control of their individual lives and collective security. In the absence of peace, Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza has been the defining reality of Palestinians' lives there for over three decades, longer than most of the Palestinians living there have been alive.

The overwhelming majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have grown up with checkpoints and raids and indignities. Too often they have seen their schools shuttered and their parents humiliated. Palestinians need security as well. Too many innocent Palestinians, including children, have been killed and wounded. This, too, must stop. (Applause.)

The occupation hurts Palestinians, but it also affects Israelis. The sad truth is that it is the young people who serve on the front lines of conflict who are at risk. Embittered young Palestinians throw stones, and young Israeli soldiers on the other side learn only that Palestinians are to be feared, seen as enemies. One thing I've learned in my life is that treating individuals with respect and dignity was the surest path to understanding. Both sides need to treat the other with respect. Humiliation and lack of respect are just another path to confrontation.

Israeli settlement activity has severely undermined Palestinian trust and hope. It preempts and prejudges the outcome of negotiations and, in doing so, cripples chances for real peace and security. The United States has long opposed settlement activity. Consistent with the report of the committee headed by Senator George Mitchell, settlement activity must stop.

For the sake of Palestinians and Israelis alike, the occupation must end. And it can only end with negotiations. Israelis and Palestinians must create a relationship based on mutual tolerance and respect so negotiations can go forward.

My friends, it should be clear from these realities that the way back through a political process will be neither quick nor easy. That's the bad news. The good news is that a framework for a solution exists. It is based on the core principles of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which are rooted in the concept of land for peace. Madrid also calls for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, including agreements with Syria and Lebanon.

Rejectionists say that there has been no progress over the years trying to achieve those objectives. They are wrong. Over the past decade, Arabs and Israelis have proven that negotiations can work and can achieve results. At Madrid in October of 1991, through the Oslo process beginning in 1993, and in the 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty. And, last year, there was hope as Israelis and Palestinians negotiated on permanent status issues. The questions proved excruciatingly difficult, but issues long avoided were finally addressed.

After a year of violence and trauma, finding a way forward will not be easy. It will take time, it will take trust. But the tools to rebuild confidence and revive a political process are available and they are available now. They are found in the security work plan negotiated by CIA Director George Tenet, and the Mitchell Committee report, which both the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority have accepted, and which the entire international community has strongly endorsed.

The steps they outline offer Israelis and Palestinians a roadmap to a cease-fire and an end to the violence. Such steps must include an end to closures in order to bring tangible improvement in the daily lives of Palestinians and the rapid restoration of economic hope into every Palestinian home. Implementation of the Mitchell report shows the way to restoring trust and confidence and moving rapidly to the resumption of negotiations.

We will do all we can to help the process along. We will push, we will prod. We will present ideas. For example, there are a number of economic and political steps in existing agreements --they are there now -- which, if we implemented, could contribute to momentum toward peace. But notwithstanding everything we do, at the end of the day, it is the people in the region taking the risks and making the hard choices who must find the way ahead. The only lasting peace will be the peace the parties make themselves.

Both sides will need to face up to some plain truths about where this process is heading as they turn to the challenges of negotiating permanent status issues. Palestinians must eliminate any doubt, once and for all, that they accept the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state. They must make clear that their objective is a Palestinian state alongside Israel, not in place of Israel, and which takes full account of Israel's security needs.

The Palestinian leadership must end violence, stop incitement and prepare their people for the hard compromises ahead. All in the Arab world must make unmistakably clear, through their own actions, their acceptance of Israel and their commitment to a negotiated settlement.

Israel must be willing to end its occupation, consistent with the principles embodied in Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, and accept a viable Palestinian State in which Palestinians can determine their own future on their own land and live in dignity and security. They, too, will have to make hard compromises.

Ultimately, both sides will have to address the very, very difficult permanent status issues. The future of Jerusalem is a challenge which the two parties can only resolve together through negotiations, taking into account the religious and political concerns that both will bring to the table. Any solution will also have to protect the religious interests of Jews, Christians and Muslims the world over.

On Palestinian refugees, the two parties must strive for a just solution that is both fair and realistic. Again, if there is to be a lasting peace, both sides will have to embrace negotiations on these and the other tough issues before them. The goal can be nothing less than an end to their conflict and a resolution of outstanding claims....


Source: U.S. State Department