THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
| For Immediate Release || || December 13, 1998 |
REMARKS OF THE PRESIDENT AND PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU IN JOINT STATEMENT
Office of the Prime Minister
1:50 P.M. (L)
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Mr. President, I want to welcome you andyour entire delegation -- the Secretary of State, the National SecurityAdvisor and your exceptional team -- for coming here on this mission ofpeace, and for your understanding of our concerns.
We spent many hours in Wye River, and there and in our conversationsthis morning, I've come to appreciate and admire your extraordinary abilityto empathize and the seriousness with which you examine every issue. Yourvisit here is part of the implementation of the Wye River Accords.
Now, this was not an easy agreement for us, but we did our part. Andwe are prepared to do our part based on Palestinian compliance. When I saythat we did our part, you know that within two weeks we withdrew fromterritory, released prisoners and opened the Gaza Airport, precisely as weundertook to do.
The Palestinians, in turn, were to live up to a series of obligationsin the sphere of security and ending incitement and violence, and therepeal of the Palestinian Charter, and in commitments to negotiate a finalsettlement in order to achieve permanent peace between us. I regret to saythat none of these conditions have been met.
Palestinians proceeded to unilaterally declare what the finalsettlement would be. Comingout of Wye, they said again and again that regardless of what happens inthe negotiations, on May4th of 1999, they will unilaterally declare a state, divide Jerusalem andmake its eastern half thePalestinian capital. This is a gross violation of the Oslo and Wye Accords, which commit the partiesto negotiate a mutually agreed final settlement.
Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian Authority must officially andunequivocally renounce thisattempt. I think no one can seriously expect Israel to hand over anotherinch of territory unless anduntil such an unambiguous correction is made.
I said that there are other violations. The Palestinians, I'm afraid, began a campaign ofincitement. At Wye, as those who are here well know, we agreed to releasePalestinian prisoners --but not terrorists with blood on their hands or members of Hamas who arewaging war against us.No sooner did we release the agreed number of prisoners in the firstinstallment that the PalestinianAuthority refused to acknowledge what they agreed to at Wye. Falselycharging Israel with violatingthe prisoner release clause, Palestinian leaders openly incited forviolence and riots, whichculminated in a savage, near-lynching of an Israeli soldier. And thePalestinian Authority organizedother violent demonstrations. Therefore, the Palestinian Authority muststop incitement and violenceat once, and they must do so fully and permanently.
There has also been some downgrading on parts of the securitycooperation between us,and the Palestinian Authority must restore this cooperation, again, fullyand permanently. They mustlive up to their other obligations in the Wye Agreement in the fields ofweapons collections, illegalweapons collections, reducing the size of their armed forces and the like.
Now, I stress that none of these are new conditions. All are integral parts of the Wye andOslo Agreements to which we are committed. We hope that tomorrow thePalestinian Authority willonce and for all live up to at least one of their obligations. And if thePNC members will vote insufficient numbers to annul the infamous Palestinian Charter, that will bea welcome development.And it's important -- five years after the promise to do so at Oslo, to see this happen would be awelcome and positive development.
I think this is -- it's just as important to see strict adherence tothe other obligations in orderto reinject confidence into the peace process and to get this processmoving again where Israelwill also do its part.
Mr. President, I'm sure that we can achieve peace between Palestinians and Israelis if westand firm on Palestinian compliance. I very much hope that you will beable to persuade thePalestinians what I know you deeply believe and I believe, that violenceand peace are simplyincompatible. Because, ultimately, what is required is not merely achecklist of correctingPalestinian violations, but I think a real change of conduct by thePalestinian leadership. And theymust demonstrate that they have abandoned the path of violence and adoptedthe path of peace.
For us to move forward, they must scrupulously adhere to theircommitments under the WyeAgreement, on which we have all worked so hard.
And may I say, on a personal and national note, and internationalnote, that if there's anyonewho can help bring the peace process to a satisfactory conclusion, it isyou, President Clinton. Yourdevotion to this cause, your perseverance, your tireless energy, yourcommitment have been aninspiration to us all. May it help us restore peace and hope to our landand to our peoples.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Prime Minister. I thank you foryour statementand for your warm welcome. I would say to the people of Israel, I was told before I came here thatno previous Presidents had ever visited Israel more than once, and this ismy fourth trip here -- I maybe subject to tax assessment if I come again in the next two years, but Iam always pleased to behere.
I want to thank you, also, and the members of your team, for theexhausting effort which wasmade at Wye over those nine days; the time we spent together, the sleepless nights and theextraordinary effort to put together a very difficult, but I think soundagreement.
Let me begin by talking about some of the things that we havediscussed today. We've hadtwo brief private meetings -- one, a breakfast meeting with our wives thismorning, and then --a briefprivate meeting -- and then our extended meeting with our two teams. Iwant to begin where I alwaysdo: America has an unshakable commitment to the security of the State andthe people of Israel.We also have an unshakable commitment to be a partner in the pursuit of alasting, comprehensivepeace.
I have told the Prime Minister that I will soon submit to the Congress a supplemental requestfor $1.2 billion to meet Israel's security needs related to implementingthe Wye River Agreement.Only if those needs are met can the peace process move forward.
At the same time I am convinced, as I think we all our, everyone whohas dealt with thisproblem over a period of time, that a lasting peace properly achieved isthe best way to safeguardIsrael's security over the long run.
Last month, at the conclusion of the Wye talks, Prime Minister andChairman Arafat and Iagreed that it would be useful for me to come to the region to help tomaintain the momentum and toappear tomorrow before the PNC and the other Palestinian groups that willbe assembled. I also want to commend the Prime Minister for the steps hehas taken to implement the Wye Agreement which he just outlined.
He has secured his government support for significant troop withdrawal from the West Bankand begun the implementation of that withdrawal, reached an agreement thatallowed for the openingof the Gaza Airport, and he began the difficult process of prisonerreleases.
The Palestinian Authority has taken some important steps with itscommitments -- adeepening security cooperation with Israel, acting against terrorism,issuing decrees for theconfiscation of illegal weapons and dealing with incitement, takingconcrete steps to reaffirmthe decision to amend the PLO Charter, which will occur tomorrow.
Have the Palestinians fulfilled all their commitments? They certainly could be doing betterto preempt violent demonstrations in the street. This is a terriblyimportant matter. I also agree thatmatters that have been referred consistent with the Oslo Agreement forfinal status talks should beleft there and should be the subject to negotiations. But in other areasthere has been a forwardprogress on the meeting of the commitments.
Now, I know that each step forward can be excruciatingly difficult,and that now real effortshave to be made on both sides to regain the momentum. We just had a gooddiscussion about thespecific things that the Israelis believe are necessary for thePalestinians to do to regain themomentum. And we talked a little bit about how we might get genuinecommunication goingso that the necessary steps can be taken to resume the structuredimplementation of the Wye RiverAgreement, which is, I think, part of what makes it work -- at least, itmade it work in the minds of thepeople who negotiated it, and it can work in the lives of the people whowill be effected by it if bothsides meet all their commitments -- and only if they do.
Each side has serious political constraints; I think we all understand that. Provocativepronouncements, unilateral actions can be counterproductive, given theconstraints that each sidehas. But in the end, there has been a fundamental decision made to dealwith this through honestdiscussion and negotiation. That is the only way it can be done. Itcannot be done by resorting toother means when times get difficult. And again I say the promise of Wyecannot be fulfilled byviolence or by statements or actions which are inconsistent with the wholepeace process. Bothsides should adhere to that.
Let me also just say one other word about regional security. I thinkIsraelis are properlyconcerned with the threat of weapons of mass destruction development, withthe threat of missiledelivery systems. We are working with Israel to help to defend itselfagainst such threats, inparticular, through the Arrow antiballistic missile program. We've alsojust established a jointstrategic planning committee as a forum to discuss how we can continue towork together onsecurity matters.
We're going to take a couple of questions, I know, but again I wouldlike to say in closing,Mr. Prime Minister, I appreciate the courage you showed at Wye, yourfarsightedness in seekingpeace and in taking personal and political risks for it, which should nowbe readily apparent toanyone who has followed the events of the last six weeks. Yourdetermination, your tenacity to buildan Israel that is both secure and at peace is something that I admire andsupport. And I think if we keep working at it we can keep making progress.
Thank you very much.
Q Mr. President, what is your reaction to the decision of theJudiciary Committee of theHouse yesterday? Do you intend to resign, as did President Nixon? Andwith your permission, onequestion to Prime Minister Netanyahu in Hebrew.
Mr. Prime Minister, you have, to some extent, appointed Mr. Clinton to act as a refereebetween the Israelis and the Palestinians. He will appear tomorrow in Gaza where the decision ofthe committee will be to revoke its objection to the existence of Israel.What will you do if thisdecision is taken and how will you react to issues facing you with theCabinet regarding ano-confidence vote?
THE PRESIDENT: My reaction to the committee vote is that I wasn'tsurprised. I think it'sbeen obvious to anyone who is following it for weeks that that vote wasforeordained. And now it isup to the members of the House of Representatives to vote their conscienceon the Constitution andthe law -- which I believe are clear. And I have no intention ofresigning. It's never crossed my mind.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: -- (as translated) -- In essence, we expect to see thePalestinian side revoke the Palestinian Charter. We also expect thePalestinians to meet their commitment to stop incitement. If, in fact, tomorrow the PalestinianCharter is revoked, we will viewit as a success of our policy.
What we merely expect is the Palestinians honor their commitments.And that's ourexpectation.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: I would say that's a pretty goodabbreviation of whatI said. (Laughter.) You have a great future as an editor. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: We all need one. (Laughter.)
Q Mr. President, how confident are you that you can avoidimpeachment in the fullHouse next week, and are you planning any particular kind of outreachadditional -- to lawmakersor the public?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it's up to -- it's a question of whether each member willsimply vote his or her conscience based on the Constitution and the law.And I don't know what'sgoing to happen. That's up to them. It's out of my hands. If any memberwishes to talk to me orsomeone on my staff, we would make ourselves available to them. But,otherwise, I think it'simportant that they be free to make this decision and that they not be putunder any undue pressurefrom any quarter.
Many of them have said they feel such pressure, but I can't comment on that because Ihaven't talked directly to many members of the House caucus, the Republican caucus, and Ihave talked to those -- a few -- who said they wanted to talk to me.Otherwise I have not. I don'tthink it's appropriate for me to be personally calling people; unless theysend word to me thatthere is some question they want to ask or something they want to say, Idon't think it's appropriate.
Q Mr. President, you said that now it's up to the members of theHouse to decide --
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: May I ask a favor. You are free to ask any one of yourquestions, but I think the President has come here on a very clear message, on a very clear voyageof peace, and I believe that it would be appropriate also to ask one or two questions on the peaceprocess. I would like to know the answers, too.
Q This would be exactly my second question. The first one is about what will happenThursday if the members of the House will decide about impeachment, if inthis case, whether youwill consider resignation. And second question, about the peace process,after all what you seenow, after you hear the Prime Minister, don't you think you were wrong inthe Wye memorandum,that you figured you get an agreement which both sides cannot comply?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the answer to both questions is, no. And let me amplify on yoursecond question. No, I don't think it was wrong. Look, if this were easyit would have been done along time ago. And we knew that in the Wye Agreement it would be difficult for both sides to comply.Actually, the first two weeks were quite hopeful. In the first phase Ithink there was quite goodcompliance on both sides. And I think the Prime Minister feels that way as well.
A number of things happened with which you are very familiar whichmade the atmospheremore tense in the ensuing weeks. And one of the things that I hope to dowhile I'm here, in addition togoing and meeting with the Palestinian groups, including the PNC, is to dowhat I did this morning, tolisten very carefully to the Prime Minister and to his government aboutwhat specific concerns theyhave in terms of the agreement and compliance with it, and then try toresolve those, and listen tothe Palestinians, as I will, so that we can get this process going again.
I find that when the parties are talking to each other and establishan atmosphere ofunderstanding of the difficulty of each other's positions and deal witheach other in good faith, wemake pretty good progress. But there is a long history here. And ninedays at Wye, or two weeksof implementing -- you know, it can't overcome all that history, pluswhich, there are politicalconstraints and imperatives in each position which make it more likely that tensions will arise.
But the fact that this has been hard to implement doesn't mean it wasa mistake. It meansit was real. Look, if we had made an agreement that was easy to implement, it would have dealtwith no difficult circumstances and so we'd be just where we are now,except worse off.
We have seen in the first phase of implementation that good things can happen on thesecurity side from the point of view of the Israelis, and on thedevelopment of the territory from thepoint of view of the Palestinians and the airport, if there is genuinetrust and actual compliance. Andso what we have to do is to get more actual compliance and in the processrebuild some of that trust.
Q Mr. President, some Republicans want you to go further than astatement ofcontrition. They say that they want an admission of perjury. Are youwilling to do that? And what doyou think about Chairman Hyde and the Republican leadership opposing a vote in the full House oncensure?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, on the second question, I think you ought to ask them whetherthey're opposed to it because they think that it might pass, since,apparently, somewhere aroundthree-quarters of the American people think that's the right thing to do.
On the first question, the answer is, no, I can't do that because Idid not commit perjury.If you go back to the hearing, we had four prosecutors -- two Republicans,two Democrats, one thehead of President Reagan's criminal justice division -- who went throughthe law in great detail andexplained that, that this is not a perjury case. And there was no credible argument on the other side.So I have no intention of doing that.
Now, was the testimony in the deposition difficult and ambiguous andunhelpful? Yes, itwas. That's exactly what I said in the grand jury testimony, myself, and I agree with what Mr. Ruffsaid about it. Mr. Ruff answered questions, you know, for hours and hoursand hours and tried todeal with some of the concerns the committee had on that. And I thought he did an admirable jobin acknowledging the difficulty of the testimony.
But I could not admit to doing something that I am quite sure I didnot do. And I think if youlook at the law, if you look at the legal decisions, and if you look atwhat the Republican, as well asthe Democratic prosecutor said, I think that's entitled to great weight.And I have read or seennothing that really overcomes the testimony that they gave on thatquestion.
Q What about Jonathan Pollard, Mr. President, what about JonathanPollard? Canyou --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I can. I have instituted the review that Ipledged to the PrimeMinister. We've never done this on a case before, but I told him I woulddo it and we did it. Andmy counsel, Mr. Ruff, has invited the Justice Department and all the lawenforcement agenciesunder it, and all the other security, intelligence and law enforcementagencies in the governmentand interested parties to say what they think about the Pollard case, to do so by sometime inJanuary. And I will review all that, plus whatever arguments are presented to me on the otherside for the reduction of the sentence. And I will make a decision in aprompt way.
But we have instituted this review, which as I said is unprecedented. We are givingeveryone time to present their comments and I will get comments on bothsides of the issue,evaluate it and make a decision.
Q I would like to ask --
THE PRESIDENT: What did you say? They're demanding equal time, three and three?
Q I just want to ask the Prime Minister --
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, he wants to ask you a question. That's good.
Q Prime Minister, can you explain, perhaps to the American people,why you thinkMr. Pollard is worthy of release at this point?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Jonathan Pollard did something bad andinexcusable;he spied in the United States; he collected information on behalf of theIsrael government. I was thefirst Prime Minister and this is the first government to openly admit it.We think that he should haveserved his time, and he did. He served for close to 13 years. And allthat I appealed to PresidentClinton for is merely a humanitarian appeal. It is not based onexonerating Mr. Pollard. There is noexoneration for it. It is merely that he has been virtually in solitaryconfinement for 13 years. It's avery, very heavy sentence.
And since he was sent by us on a mistaken mission -- not to workagainst the United States,but, nevertheless, to break the laws of the United States -- we hope that,on a purely humanitarianappeal, a way will be found to release him.
That is all I can tell you. It is not political. It is not toexonerate him. It is merely to end a very,very sorry case that has afflicted him and the people of Israel.
Q Thank you.