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Bill Clinton Administration: Statement Following Talks With Israeli PM Netanyahu & Yasser Arafat

(October 15, 1998)

Middle East Peace Process

The President. Good morning. I am pleased to welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu, Chairman Arafat, and their delegations.

For 17 months, the Middle East peace process has been stalled, placing in jeopardy all that Israelis and Palestinians have achieved together since the Oslo accords. This week's talk at Wye River offer the chance for the parties to break the logjam and finally take the next essential steps for peace in the Middle East. We must remember as we come together again that in the end, peace is more than a process. It is, in the end, a destination. These two leaders have the power to lead their people to peace.

As I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat only a few moments ago, I believe there are certain realities that underlie these negotiations. First, Israelis and Palestinians are neighbors, and what they must do, they must do together, or it will not be done at all. Second, mutual respect and understanding is required for any meaningful and enduring agreement. Otherwise, there can be no honorable, principled compromise.

As in any difficult problem, neither side can expect to win a hundred percent of every point. But concessions that seem hard now will seem far less important in the light of an accord that moves Israelis and Palestinians closer to lasting peace, closer to a day when the people of Israel can have the safety and security they have been denied for too long, closer to the day when Palestinian people can realize their aspirations to be free and secure and able to shape their own political and economic destiny.

There remain enemies of this peace, extremists on both sides who feel threatened by the peace and will be tempted once again to kill it with violence. We can defeat that kind of threat by building a genuine Israeli-Palestinian partnership that will stand the test of time.

Too much time has already been lost. The issues on the table at Wye River are very important, and more difficult issues lie ahead in the implementation of any agreement the parties may reach and in the permanent status talks for a just and lasting peace in the region.

Secretary Albright and the Vice President and I and our entire team will do everything we can to make peace possible, at Wye River and beyond. But in the end, it is up to the leaders standing with me today, to their courage, their vision, their determination, and a shared understanding that the future has to be a shared in peace.

I hope you and my fellow Americans and the world will wish them, and all of us, well in these next few days.

Thank you very much.

Q. Mr. President, can a Palestinian state be achieved by 1999?

The President. Let me say—I know there are many questions—we have discussed this. There is so much work to be done, and all three of us have determined that we should not at this moment take questions but that we should get about the business at hand. And as we make progress and if we've got something really good to say to you, then there'll be plenty of time for a lot of questions and answers. But for right now, we think it's time to go to work.

Thank you very much.

Sources: Public Papers of the President