Press Briefing by Joe Lockhart from Camp David (7/20/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
                          (Camp David, Maryland)

For Immediate Release                             July 20, 2000

                             PRESS BRIEFING BY
                               JOE LOCKHART

                        Thurmont Elementary School
                            Thurmont, Maryland

12:48 A.M. EDT

          MR. LOCKHART:  Let me give you a sense of what unfolded since the
last time I was here, which I think was about 5:30 this afternoon.
Starting just before I was here, we set off a round of intensive
consultations between the President and the two leaders.  I think he went
and spoke to Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat, I think at least
three times each, talked to them on the telephone.  There were a series of
discussions between the delegations, a series of meetings that went on
within the delegations.

          But I would say roughly 10 or 15 minutes before I called down to
the filing center to make the announcement that the President was going
back to Washington, the President made the judgement that it was time to
leave, that we would be leaving, as the statement said, without an
agreement and he would travel to Japan.  That sentiment was passed to the
two parties and we prepared to leave.

          Now, while this was going on, the discussions that had been
taking place among the negotiators had never stopped, and this was going on
in a variety of places around Camp David, both involving the negotiators
and their leaders.  And as we were getting ready to leave, as I think the
President indicated, it became clear that there was a willingness of the
parties to stay in the President's absence and an unwillingness to let this
break down.

          So I can't give you a precise dissection of how this came about
except for there was discussions going on at a variety of levels and a
variety of places, and just before we left there was a sense that this
could be put together in this sense and the way that will move forward over
the next few days.  And another round of discussions that involved the
parties, the leaders, ensued, and we are here now announcing that they have
agreed to stay.


          Q     You put that almost in a passive sense.  I mean, somebody
had to say first let's stay or why don't we keep going.  If it wasn't the
President's idea -- I realize you're saying it was a general feeling they
ought to keep going, but someone had to speak up first.  Without saying he
initiated it, who began the discussion of a notion of staying?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I think the discussion or the notion of staying
had been kicked around throughout the evening, but when we made the
judgement that it was time to leave and there was no point in staying on,
that had never come together as a real idea.  I don't know that this is one
person's idea.  I think there just was a sense -- and I think what made
this happen, it was a willingness on all sides.  Once this started floating
around in a real sense among the teams and then with the leaders -- and
this was something that I think as the President indicated he thought was a
good idea -- if the parties were serious and they were serious about
staying to do this.

          Q     Just a logistical follow-up.  As we move into this next
phase, can you tell us for instance what tomorrow looks like?  In other
words, will you be at this pace with the Secretary simply standing in for
the President, or will it be a chance for maybe a half a day, a day, of
rest and then jump in?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I think the one thing they will look at is there
are a number of people up there who have had very little sleep over the
last three days.  They are going to let some people get a little bit of
sleep.  And then the Secretary will sit down in the morning and try to work
out a schedule with the leaders of both how she and the leaders will work
over the next two or three days and how the delegations will work.

          Q     When do you think the President will return?  Will he
fulfill his full schedule in Okinawa, and what will he say to the leaders
there to try and engender further support for what's going on here?

          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, I think it's fairly obvious given the
President's statements over the last two weeks how important he believes
this is, and I think he'll remind the leaders of the G-8 both what's at
stake and discuss in some format how countries within the G-8 can help this
process eventually.

          As far as his schedule, I know we've been doing some juggling
based on the fact that we stayed here at Camp David longer than we
expected, so I don't know precisely the decisions that have been made.

          Q     Did you get the sense that the President's decision to
leave and to -- the final decision to leave jolted the two delegations into
-- the two parties in realizing that this was kind of a now-or-never deal?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I think it certainly was as concrete of an
indication as possible to everyone, and made front and center what the
costs of shutting down at this point are.  I can't speak for everyone in
the delegation or all the leaders to how we worked exactly to this point,
but I can say that the President worked very intensively from around 4
o'clock till over the next three or four hours, maybe even five hours, to
try to do anything he could to try to bring some life to this process and
find a way to reach an agreement.

          And it was only then that he began the process of coming to the
conclusion that we would have to shut down, that we would have to leave for
Japan.  And I think on a different level this process sort of took on its
own life and only became firm probably -- it was probably an hour and a
half after I had called down to the press center saying we were leaving.  I
said, all of you know from your watches that we didn't move.  That was
because a series of conversations in different places around Camp David
which had occurred in a -- I don't want to say less than serious, but
certainly not in a concrete way earlier in the day became very real and
very concrete.

          Q     (Inaudible) -- together to discuss this before he finally
decided to resume?

          MR. LOCKHART:  No.  I think the President -- no, the President
has been going back and forth.

          Q     I'm sure you're -- you sound as though you're not sure of
the schedule, obviously.  But when the President said he will assess the
progress of the talks on his return, does that mean or suggest he'll come
right here?  What do you assume the format will be?

          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, I don't know that we'll come right here, but
I think the President is committed to playing a personal role upon
returning from the G-8 meeting as he has played over the last nine days.

          Q     You just said that both leaders are willing to come up with
something but, really, what made them stay?  Is it because he said that
there might be some concessions somewhere?

          MR. LOCKHART:  That's a good question, and it gives me an
opportunity to say that there is nothing that's happened this evening, I
think in a concrete way, that would make us believe that they are closer to
resolving their differences.  The differences are still real.  This is
still very, very hard; very, very tough.

          What they have done is looked at the prospect of this breaking
down and saying, let's take a different look, let's continue doing this
while the President is gone in the hope that we can find a way to get to an

          Q     (Inaudible) articulated to each other?  Did they say, let's
take a look at what lies ahead if we don't do this?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I think the negotiating teams had a lot of
interaction with each other this evening but, as far as the leaders, the
President was the conduit.

          Q     Did they approach -- or representatives of the two
delegations approach the President or the President's delegation together
or separately to say that they weren't leaving?

          MR. LOCKHART:  There was no -- the delegations didn't come
together.  They didn't march in a room and say, here, we've got an idea,
let's try this.  I think there's more of a sense -- and, again, I don't
know exactly the genesis of this beyond there was a sense in discussions.
You know, it's one of those things where we made our decision that it was
time to get in the cars to go get on a plane but, having made that
decision, there were a series of conversations going on that didn't
magically stop.  People didn't say, okay, they're leaving; let's go, get in
the car, we're leaving too.  Conversations continued.

          And in the period in which we were preparing to leave I think
there, in the President's mind, was an opportunity and an opportunity to be

          Q     It doesn't sound like there was any progress in the last 24
hours since President Clinton decided to stay.  Did they narrow any gaps,
or is the only progress really that they're going to --

          MR. LOCKHART:  I think I'll stick with where the President was;
that we have made some progress, but not get into the specifics of that.

          Q     Would you characterize the reaction when you heard that
they were going to stay as relief, as satisfaction, as delight?

          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, I think we look at this and there is
obviously hope as they stay here to work through these issues as a
demonstration of their commitment.  But as I said, there is nothing about
what's gone on this evening that makes it any easier to resolve these
differences.  So I think we view this with mixed feelings.

          Q     I have two things that I wanted to ask you.  First, you
know, it's extraordinary to get this close and many of us already started
reporting that the talks had failed, and then to be able to come back and
say actually it looks like they're going to continue.  Just how close did
it get?  How many -- was luggage loaded into the car?

          MR. LOCKHART:  Luggage was loaded.  The motorcade was assembled
in front of the President's cabin.  People changed into more formal
clothing, except for me, to go back to the White House.  We were ready to

     And you know I didn't put out the information that I put out lightly.
This was a decision we had taken and it was a decision that took four or
five hours to make based on the one last push, which we thought was the
last push, to try to keep this going and keep it going in a positive way.

          I think it's something probably that is not that unusual in
difficult negotiations and not that unusual when you have these sorts of
difficult issues in the Middle East peace process at stake.  But it
certainly was somewhat surprising to get to the point of almost walking out
of the cabin to get into the cars and realize that there was a reason to
stay and a reason to stay at it.

          Q     I just wanted to follow up on that, and you started to get
to that, saying the one last push.  How would you characterize what forces
the President brought to bear?  Would you call it pressure?  Would you call
it cajoling?  How would you describe it?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I would say the President used every ounce of his
power of persuasion that he had available to him, and then some that he
didn't know he had.  But having done all that, we were at the point where
we thought and had made a decision to leave.  So I think, again, this is a
potentially positive step that they will stay here and discuss but, again,
there is nothing in the fact that they're staying here that magically makes
this easier.  It's not easy and there is nothing that can make it easy.

          Q     Would it make any difference -- I mean, after nine days of
working hard, why if you expect some few days would make a difference in
issues like Jerusalem, first?  And, second, has President Clinton made any
more calls to Arab leaders that helped in that persuasion?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I don't think he's made any more calls I know of.
I think I've reported all of them.

          Secondly, I don't know that a few more days will help this
process, but I certainly know that we did have a sense of what the
prospects were for forging a peace should these talks break down and should
the parties return home.  So, again, I can't quantify the upside for you as
far as its potential, but I think it shouldn't be hard for you all to have
some sense of the downside of the talks breaking down.

          Q     Can we go back to powers of persuasion?  Did the President
ever get angry?

          MR. LOCKHART:  A few times.

          Q     (Inaudible)?

          MR. LOCKHART:  Almost everybody who was at the camp over the last
nine days.

          Q     What about including the principals?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I think these are difficult issues and it's
frustrating to work around the clock in close quarters, and it would be
inhuman to think that from the leaders down to all the negotiators that
there haven't been moments where your frustration shows through.  And I
think that's the same for the President, the Prime Minister, the Chairman,
and all a lot of other people.

          Q     You and the President keep talking about the costs of
failure or the cost of shutting the operation down.  Can you be more
specific about what you were afraid those costs were?  And also talk about
-- was the President explaining these costs and what the US view of them

     MR. LOCKHART:  Well, when I talked about it, what I specifically meant
was the -- you come to a negotiation, you get into a discussion, and
leaving -- just by nature of leaving, you negate anything that you've done
and, in fact, in some respects even take the process a step backwards.  And
I think that's typical of any intense negotiation.

          I mean, as far as the potential downside or costs of not being to
reach an agreement, I think the President laid that out at the beginning of
this process and that hasn't changed.

          Q     When do you think the President will be back at Camp David?

          MR. LOCKHART:  The earliest would be upon return from Japan.

          Q     What is the schedule for next week?  Is there any sense of
a deadline for next week or some plan the President might have for these

          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, given the fact that this is news, that this
development is news to us as well as it is to you, we're working through
those issues now.

          Q     So what do you expect will happen when the President will

          MR. LOCKHART:  I don't know.  I don't know that we have an
expectation, but I know that the President will be keenly interested in the
reports from the Secretary of State over what progress is made when he's
not here.

          Q     Do you anticipate any progress in these efforts?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I certainly think that the fact that they want to
stay here demonstrates a commitment to work through these issues, and it's
certainly our hope that they can make progress.

          Q     Are all of the members of both delegations staying except
for the member of the Palestinian delegation who already had to leave for
his son's wedding?  Can we expect everybody else to stay?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I'm not aware that anybody left.  I know that Abu
Mazen left and I don't know what the schedule is, whether he'll return or
not.  We just haven't gotten to that point.  But I'm not aware that anybody
from the delegation left.

          Q     Does Secretary Albright staying means that she's going to
cancel her travel plans next week to Asia?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I know that she does have travel plans and, at
this point, I think that her schedule remains the same and as we get closer
to the day I'm sure Richard can give you some help on that.

          Q     Are you staying here, Joe?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I'm going to the airport right now.

          Q     (Inaudible) together?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I think so.  I'm not really sure.

               Q     Is this going to be the press center (inaudible)?

          MR. LOCKHART:  Yes.  We will stay here.  I have to talk to
Richard at some point about what we want to do as far as a briefing
schedule, but this will remain up and all of the nice people who have been
helping us who thought we were out of their hair have another thing coming
to them.

          Let me take one more, then I've got to go.

          Q     When is the earliest the President can be back here?

          MR. LOCKHART:  The earliest he could be back here is when he
finishes in Okinawa.

          Q     Did the three leaders meet today together -- Chairman
Arafat, President Clinton and the Prime Minister?

          MR. LOCKHART:  No, they did not.  Thank you.

                         END               1:15 A.M. EDT

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