Remarks of the President to Jewish Community Celebration (8/13/00)
                                THE WHITE HOUSE

                         Office of the Press Secretary
                           (Los Angeles, California)

Immediate Release   August 13, 2000

                            REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

                              Sony Picture Studios
                            Los Angeles, California

6:20 P.M. PDT

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Let me begin by thanking Tim and
Joel Tauber (phonetic) and Tod Morgan and Bill Dotcher (phonetic) and all
the leaders of the organizations that brought you all here together.  Thank
you for giving Hillary such a good reception, I am grateful for that.

     I want to say, more than anything else, how profoundly grateful I am
for the support I have received from the American Jewish community since
1991, when I first began running for President.  (Applause.)

     When Hillary and I were discussing whether I should make this race,
way back in '91, well over eight years ago now, one of the things that I
hoped I could do was to bring whatever powers of persuasion and
understanding of history, as well as human psychology that I've acquired
over the years, to the process of peace in the world.

     It seemed to me that the end of the Cold War had imposed upon the
United States a very special responsibility to reach out and build bridges
to countries and regions that we had too often overlooked or seen through a
limited lens during the period of the Cold War; and to try to be a special
force for peace, from the Northern Ireland problem to the Balkans to Haiti
and our own region, but especially in the Middle East.

     And for nearly eight years now, we have worked to be faithful to the
commitment I made to the American people when I began, that we would make
the United States the world's leader for peace and freedom, for human
rights and security wherever we possibly could. (Applause.)  This has been
the most rewarding thing, I think, in many ways I've been able to do as
President.  But it's a work that is -- and by the very nature of the way we
human beings are -- it's a work that will always be, to some extent, in

     Hillary has done a lot, especially with her Vital Voices program in
Northern Ireland, going to Israel and working with Mrs. Barak on the
violence issue.  And, before that, working with others who were in the
Israeli government.

     I think I should tell you that the last person I talked to before my
plane landed in Los Angeles was Leah Rabin.  (Applause.)  She's back here
in the United States seeing her doctor, she said she got a reasonably good
report.  And I told her I was going to see you and she asked me to say
hello, so I'm doing it.  And I want to get my brownie points with her for
doing it.  (Applause.)

     Tim already mentioned the nomination of Joe Lieberman, but I want to
say just a few words about it.  I was at a dinner last night that a few of
you attended, which honored the last eight years of our administration.
And one of the people who performed was the comedian, Red Buttons, who must
be -- I don't know how old he is now, but he's not a kid.  (Laughter.)  And
he can say things the rest of us can't say.  And the first thing he got up
and said, do you know that in Los Angeles, the Democrats are changing their
theme songs from "Happy Days Are Here Again" to "Hava Nagila." (Laughter.)
He also gave me a lot of other jokes, but I don't think I should use any of
them.  (Laughter.)

     Hillary and I have known Joe Lieberman -- she may have said this --
but we met him in 1970, when I was a first year law student, she was a
second year law student and he was a 28-year-old candidate for the state
senate.  And I was especially impressed by the fact that he had been a
Freedom Rider in Mississippi, or somewhere in the south, and was down there
registering voters at a time when it wasn't easy to do and, frankly,
anybody who tried to do it was in some measure of physical danger.

     In all the years since, we've kept in touch.  And about 15 years ago
we were among those who started the Democratic Leadership Council.  He's a
brilliant man, a little bit of an iconoclast and always willing to think
new thoughts -- and I think we need more of that in politics.  The world is
changing very rapidly and we need people who can think.  (Applause.)

     And most important of all, he will be a living embodiment -- along
with Hadassah, who, as all of you know, is the child of Holocaust survivors
-- they will be a living embodiment of America's continuing commitment to
build one national community, to embrace people across all the lines that
divide us.  It's still the most important thing we can do.  (Applause.)

     I want to say just a few words, if I might, about the peace process in
the Middle East.  You'll hear enough of the election rhetoric elsewhere,
and maybe a little from me tomorrow night.  But I want to talk about that
for a moment.

     In the last seven years we've seen the signing of the Declaration of
Principles on the South Lawn, which reflected the direct engagement of the
parties at Oslo; the Israeli-Palestinian interim agreement, a treaty
leading to genuine peace between Israel and Jordan; the rallying of the
world's leaders, including the leaders of the Arab world at Sharm el-Sheik,
to condemn terrorist attacks against Israel; the Hebron and Wye accords,
which put the implementation of the interim agreement back on track.

     In these years, both sides have recognized that whether they like it
sometimes or don't like it sometimes, the Israelis and Palestinians are
bound to live side by side.  Throughout the process, however, the ultimate
question of how they would live side by side has been continually deferred.
I always thought that was part of the genius of the Oslo accord.

     Some people didn't like it; I thought it was a smart thing to do.
Everyone knew how hard these final status issues were, and everyone knew
there was absolutely no chance of resolving them unless the people --
particularly those in responsible positions -- lived together and worked
together over a period of years and gradually began to implement other
parts of the agreement so they could get a feel for each other.

     However, they agreed that they would resolve all this by September and
we were coming up on the deadline.  And they had never really had a formal,
face-to-face set of official conversations about these final status issues.
And I can understand why -- it's kind of like going to the dentist without
anybody to deaden your gums.  (Laughter.)  I mean, if this were easy,
somebody would have done it years ago.

     But that is the context in which I brought them together at Camp
David.  Not because I thought that there was a guarantee of success -- far
from it -- but because they needed a setting in which they could speak
openly, think freely, protected from the competing pressures and constant
scrutiny that is a part of political life in Israel and throughout the
Middle East, perhaps even more than it is in the United States.

     Now, I don't want to sugarcoat it.  I wanted an agreement; we didn't
get one.  But I can tell you, significant progress was made at Camp David.
One of the Palestinian negotiators said that these were truly revolutionary
talks because on their side they entertained publicly -- or, not publicly,
but in front of others -- positions they had never before considered.  It's
almost as if we cracked open a sealed container and took out a set of
problems that had been festering in a dark place for 52 years.  They're now
out on the table, the parties are talking about them, issues never before
confronted in an official setting.

     How would a new Palestinian state be defined, what would its borders
be?  What should be done about refugees from 1948, not just Palestinian
refugees but Jewish refugees, as well.  And you might be interested in
knowing that the Palestinians felt that their families should be entitled
to compensation as well.  How do you protect Israel's security if it
withdraws from the West Bank?  What in the world do you do about Jerusalem?
It is a holy city, but it has caused a hellish lot of problems.  And we
have to think it through in a very serious and sober way.

     The process is not over and, therefore, it is inappropriate for me to
discuss the specifics.  I don't want to make a hard problem more difficult.
But I can say one or two things.

     First of all, everybody affected by the peace process is faced with a
choice.  We are now at a crossroads because of the calendar to which the
parties themselves have agreed.  Down one path lies more confrontation and
conflict, more bloodshed and tears.  Down the other is an agreement,
however difficult.  By definition, agreements require compromise, which
means no one gets 100 percent and neither side can be in a position to say
that it has completely vanquished the other.

     That means that, given the positions taken -- and I talked about this
at the end of the Camp David process -- this is an excruciatingly difficult
negotiation.  The choices are painful and agonizing, but they have to be
made.     Otherwise, we will repeat the pattern of the past and then,
sometime in the future, another group of leaders will come back to the same
set of choices with the same history after more bloodshed and tears, more
grievances to redress, more bitterness to overcome.

     We may or may not be able to get an agreement, but we ought to keep
trying, and I will keep trying every single day.  (Applause.)

     I want to emphasize some things I have said for seven and a half years
now, and I haven't changed my mind.  We can come up with ideas, we can
offer alternatives, but we must not -- indeed, we will not -- attempt to
impose any of our ideas.  These choices must be freely made by people who
must live with them.

     In the meanwhile, we must continue to stand by Israel, as we have
during my entire tenure as President and for the last 52 years.
(Applause.)  We will help Israel to maintain its strength, we will minimize
the courageous risks the Prime Minister is taking for peace, we will
improve our security relationship, we will do everything we possibly can to
make this work.

     One of the things I think you should know that struck me most at Camp
David, and says something for the people who launched the Oslo process
seven years ago, is the difference in the way the negotiators relate to
each other even when they were fighting.  When I brought the parties
together at Dayton after we and our NATO allies ended the Bosnian war, they
could barely stand to be in the same room together.  When I went to Kosovo
to see our soldiers and to meet with all the parties there, the wounds of
ethnic cleansing and the battle we waged to reverse it were so fresh and
raw that people could hardly bear to come into the same room and came only
because I invited them and insisted that they come.

     When I went first to Northern Ireland and walked down the Shankel and
the Falls, the Catholic and the Protestant streets in Belfast, it was
difficult for the most controversial of the political leaders who had to be
involved in any resolution to even be seen talking to each other, much less
for anyone to know they had shaken hands.

     The Israelis and Palestinians, after these years, know each other by
their first names; they know their spouses names; they know how many
children they have; they know how many grandchildren they have; they tell
jokes to each other, sometimes about their own leaders; they laugh and they
talk and they have a feel for the humanity and the difficulty of the

     This is not to say that they are soft-headed.  Indeed, I never saw
anyone more resolute about the fundamental security interests of the State
of Israel than the Prime Minister was in these negotiations.  And for
whatever it's worth, the security questions were the ones on which we made
the most progress, which is something that should be encouraging to all of
you.  I don't know what's going to happen.

     But I know this:  the most heartbreaking moments of the last eight
years for me and for Hillary, for Al and for our whole team, have been
those moments when people were blinded by acts of hatred against others
because they fit in some sort of category or another -- that poor twisted
boy that blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City, his mind and soul
polluted by this anti-government venom that was out there at the time; the
school children who were killed by terrorist attack in Israel; the man who
belonged to a church that he said didn't believe in God, but did believe in
white supremacy, murdering an African American basketball coach in Chicago
and killing a Korean Christian as he walked out of his church; people who
shot the -- the man who shot the Jewish children here going to their school
and then killed a Filipino postal worker and thought he had had a double
success -- he killed an Asian and a federal employee.

     We see it within our country and beyond our borders.  I have seen
people who were literally ethnically indistinguishable in the Balkans
killing each other because history made them Orthodox Christians or Muslims
or Catholics.

     It is ironic that at a time when we celebrate the triumph of the human
genome and where the Internet is the fastest-growing communications vehicle
in human history -- and, by the way, Al Gore did sponsor the legislation --
(laughter and applause) --
part of my job since I'm not running, you know, is to correct the record
here.  (Laughter.)

     The Internet was, in the beginning, the private province of a few
physicists.  Al Gore saw -- virtually before anybody else, certainly in
Congress -- that it could be transformed into a medium of communication and
could hold information that could benefit all of human kind, that the whole
Library of Congress would one day be on the Internet.  That was the
metaphor he said well over a decade ago.

     Now the whole Encyclopedia Britanica is on the Internet.  Pretty soon,
my whole Presidential Library will be on the internet.  (Applause.)  There
were only 50 sites on the worldwide web when I became President -- 5-0.
Today there are -- I'm not sure how many -- but way, way over 10 million,
the fastest growing mechanism in human history.

     But, anyway, so you've got all this stuff happening, all this
wonderful, modern stuff, and here we are bedeviled by the oldest problems
of human society -- the fear of the other, people that are different from

     That's why it's a good thing that Al Gore put Joe Lieberman on the
ticket and other Americans will see that he is a brilliant person, that he
is a good person, that he has a contribution to make.  And I think more and
more people will respect the fact that he gives up his entire Sabbath away
from all work and politics on a day that coincidentally happens to be the
best politicking day in the American political system.  I think this will
be a good thing for America.  (Applause.)

     And what I would ask you to do as we see the events of the coming
weeks unfold, is to never lose your passion for peace and for
reconciliation; to remember that America cannot do good works abroad unless
we are a good country first here at home -- (applause); that we have to
purge ourselves of all traces of bigotry and hatred; and that we have to go
forward together as one community; and that we have to do it not just with
our words and our pictures, but with our deeds.

     It is one thing to say we want to build one America and another thing
to do it, whether it's passing hate crimes legislation, employment
nondiscrimination legislation, raising the minimum wage or doing the other
kinds of things that show that we really believe that we're all in this
together and we all do better when we help each other.

     The overwhelming fact of modern life is not the growth of the
Internet, the growth of the global economy, the explosion of biotechnology,
but what they all mean in a larger sense.  Which is that every single day,
in breathtaking ways, many of which we cannot see, we are growing more
interdependent.  We need each other more.  So we have to find a way not
just to tolerate one another, but to celebrate our diversity and take
comfort from the fact that what we have in common is even more fundamental
and more important.  (Applause.)  Yes, compassion is important, but
enlightened self-interest is even better.  We need to know we actually need
each other and we need to do the right thing by each other.  (Applause.)

     So for me it's a great comfort to know that the Vice President and Joe
Lieberman are running, that Hillary is running and that we're moving in the
right direction.  I just want to ask you this:  spend every day you can
between now and November reminding people that it matters and that there
are differences.  And if you do that, we'll all win and America will be

     Thank you and God bless you.  (Applause.)

                                     6:38 P.M. PDT

President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore
Record of Progress | The Briefing Room
Gateway to Government | Contacting the White House | White House for Kids
White House History | White House Tours | Help
Privacy Statement


Site Map

Graphic Version

T H E   W H I T E   H O U S E