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U.S. Department of State
96/06/25 Press Conference with Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release June 25, 1996
JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE
WITH ISRAEL'S PRIME MINISTER BINYAMIN NETANYAHU
U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
AFTER THEIR MEETING AT THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE
June 25, 1996
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Shalom Mr. Secretary: Welcome. It is a
great pleasure for us to welcome you here again. We all have the
highest respect for your dedication and your devotion to bringing peace
with security to our region. I am certain that the relationship between
Israel and the United States is, as I described it to President Clinton,
solid as a rock. It will continue to be one of trust and friendship.
You just contributed, I think, to the continuation of that tradition.
We had a very productive discussion -- working discussion -- which will
continue tonight, and I look forward for my talks on these matters in
greater detail with President Clinton in Washington D.C. in the
Since Madrid, there have been important achievements made to cementing a
broader peace in our area between Israel and its neighbors. We are
seeking to preserve these achievements and to broaden them as well. We
intend to resume negotiations with Syria, with Lebanon, and with other
Arab states. We believe that the principle that should guide these
negotiations is "no prior conditions." I think this is the only way to
achieve productive and successful negotiations. It is something that
has guided us throughout the quest for peace under successive
Equally, we intend to resume negotiations with the Palestinian
I want to make it clear that we want to see the advancement towards
peace and, as well, that the achievement of such progress towards peace
be contingent on security. We received a clear mandate from the people
-- the people want peace with security. We have to underline that the
people told us that terrorism is incompatible with the advancement
towards peace. Therefore, there is a strategic choice for all the
parties in the Middle East: It is either terrorism or peace, but you
cannot have both. We are committed to continue the search and the
achievement of a safe peace for Israel and all its neighbors, and we
intend to act on it.
I will continue the negotiations towards this end -- I should say the
talks towards this end -- with the Secretary tonight, and as I said
before, I look forward to continuing them in greater detail with
President Clinton in Washington.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister. I am
very pleased to be back here in Israel and especially in Jerusalem and
to have had an opportunity to have these conversations with the Prime
Minister and his new colleagues.
In this, our first meeting since he assumed office, we reaffirmed the
central importance of the strategic relationship between the United
States and Israel, and our commitment to maintain the special friendship
between our two nations. In the context of this special relationship,
as the Prime Minister said, we've just had a very useful discussion on a
wide range of issues. Of course, we focused much attention on the Arab-
Israeli peace process. The Prime Minister made it clear to me -- as he
has just said -- that he is personally committed to the pursuit of peace
with security, that a secure peace is a fundamental Israeli interest,
and that this commitment reflects the deep hopes and desires of the
people of Israel.
Tomorrow I will go to Cairo to meet with President Mubarak, as well as
with Chairman Arafat. In the near future -- indeed I can announce today
-- on the 9th of July, Prime Minister Netanyahu will be coming to
Washington to meet with President Clinton. They will, of course,
continue the discussions that we began today and indeed, perhaps the
principle purpose of my meeting today is to try to help insure that
meeting will be as effective and productive as it possibly can be.
During the last several years, we have seen considerable progress toward
peace in this region and the beginning of a transformation of the
landscape of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but much more remains to be
done. The enemies of peace are still avound. The Prime Minister and I
resolved today in our discussion that those enemies of peace must not
succeed. Instead we must build for a future -- a better future -- to
preserve and implement the agreements that have been reached with the
Palestinians and with the Jordanians, and to try to achieve future
agreements with Lebanon and Syria. We also must work to create an
economic basis for prosperity in the region, so that we can demonstrate
that peace is not just an abstraction but has a concrete meaning in the
lives of the people.
We all have an enormous stake in seeing this process continue and
achieving a real peace between Israel and the Arabs. That peace must be
lasting and secure. Real peace without security is not possible and
real security without peace is also impossible.
Our long, enduring relationship with Israel is based upon shared values,
shared interests, and deeply rooted friendship. We share -- we have an
unshakable commitment to Israel's security and well-being. As the
President has said, we will do everything within our power to help
Israel minimize the risks it is taking for peace. With the trust and
confidence that have long been the hallmarks of our relationship with
Israel, we will work to move forward toward the kind of peace that the
people in this region have long deserved and have long been denied.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION (in Hebrew*): Secretary Christopher said on the plane on the
way here that he will pressure you to open a direct channel with the
Head of the Palestinian Authority Arafat, and that there is a need to
fulfill the agreement for the redeployment in Hebron. What is your
response to Christopher's statements?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU (in Hebrew*): Those are the things that are
attributed to him. Those are two different things.
QUESTION (in Hebrew*): I mean the statements that were released from
Secretary Christopher's plane.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU (in Hebrew*): First of all, we intend and are
proceeding to open channels with the Palestinian Authority. We did this
already on the first day after the election results were verified,
actually in the first hour, in a conversation that took place between
Dore Gold, my political advisor and Abu Mazen. And we are opening other
channels. I said that there are many problems in the search for peace
between the Palestinians -- the Palestinian Authority -- and Israel.
However, the absence of communication channels, will not be one of them.
We are communicating, and we will expand these channels and there will
To your second question regarding Hebron. Hebron is a very complex
problem. We are, as you know, promoting the principle of all sides
honoring agreements. We are also aware that agreements and progress
towards peace, depend, as I have said, on the subject of security. The
security problem in Hebron is cardinal; it is very serious; it is very
complex; it is very complicated. And I don't have to remind you that we
faced slaughter of the Jews in 1929, when the Jewish entity in Hebron
was wiped out. In the same way there was a terrible outbreak of
violence in the Machpala Cave murders. Therefore, on the subject of
Hebron one must proceed very carefully while learning the facts, and I
think we have to act here with care, with great responsibility, and not
to act hastily. And therefore we are learning the problem.
QUESTION (in Hebrew*): Mr. Prime Minister, to follow-up the question on
a possible meeting between you and Arafat, not just the things that are
coming from the Christopher's plane, but also the opinion of many
professionals that the time has come for a direct connection between you
and Arafat, not between your advisors and Arafat's advisors. I want to
understand what has to happen for such a meeting, or such a direct
contact, will come about. And again, on the subject of Hebron, we
remember that before the elections you expressed your opinion that the
redeployment should be postponed until the final agreement. Is your
current opinion on this different?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU (in Hebrew*): I will repeat what I said to
your colleague from Kol Israel, we are opening channels of communication
with the Palestinian Authority at different levels, and that dialogue is
already taking place and it will be expanded in the coming days. I
repeat on the subject of Hebron, we are learning the problem in all its
aspects. I have already invested -- less than a week, since the
government was established and I am not stinting study hours on the
subject of Hebron. I intend to complete the understanding of the
subject so we can establish a clear position on the subject.
QUESTION: Mr. Prime Minister, could you...we haven't heard that catch-
phrase 'land for peace' so far today, unless it's been said in Hebrew
and I didn't catch it. Are you still hearing the American strategy as
one of 'land for peace,' and, since it doesn't seem to be your campaign
strategy does it make you uncomfortable the Administration is promoting
an approach that, maybe, is no longer consistent with Israel's?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: First of all, I am very comfortable with the
American position as an ally of Israel and as a genuine engine for
peace. We seek the participation of the United States in moving this
region and, specifically, Israel's relations with our Arab neighbors
towards peace. I think the United States has been a stalwart champion
of the idea of direct negotiations and of the idea of no prior
conditions. We have our position, some of the parties have different
positions. The important thing is not to force, in advance of
negotiations, anything -- in fact, not to force, during the
negotiations, anything, but to have negotiations in which the different
views can be exchanged and, one would hope, be resolved. But this is
something that I believe both the government of Israel and the
government of the United States believe as a common principle, that we
should have no prior conditions.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, did you deliver a strong message to the Prime
Minister against any expansion of the settlements and, with your
permission, one question in Hebrew to the Prime Minister?
(in Hebrew*) Mr. Prime Minister, do you intend to stand by your promise
to the voter from before the election to build new settlements and to
expand existing settlements?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Let me tell you in answer to your first question
that the primary purposes of my trip here were essentially three.
First, to underscore the important strategic relationship between the
United States and Israel and to make it absolutely plain that that is an
unshakable commitment of the United States. Second, I emphasized that
the United States was committed to assist the parties in pursuing peace.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that he wants to do that without
prior conditions, without preconditions. That is certainly a position
that we strongly support. And finally, the purpose of the trip here was
to help prepare for an effective, valuable meeting between President
Clinton and Prime Minister Netanyahu, and I am sure that will be a most
I have not in the past gotten into specific issues when I have been
asked about positions of the United States and I don't intend to start
doing so today. I think if I begin to talk about particular issues I
will devalue my role in this peace process. I will only emphasize what
the underlying importance of the visit was: Our strategic relationship,
the commitment of both parties to pursue peace without preconditions
and, finally, in the hopes of establishing a working relationship
between the Prime Minister and the United States which, of course, will
be reflected in the conversations in Washington.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU (in Hebrew*): To your question, Udi Segal.
You know my positions and my government's positions regarding the
unquestionable right of the Jewish people to settle in Eretz Yisrael, in
all parts of Eretz Yisrael. A detailed position, how exactly that
settlement will be accomplished, has not yet been taken. It will be
taken in the future. Regarding the basic right of settlement, the
position is known and permanent.
QUESTION (in Hebrew*): Mr. Prime Minister, you are quoted in Newsweek
as saying that you compliment Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian
Authority on their fight against terror. My colleagues and I are trying
to understand whether you are conditioning Arafat's fight against
Islamic terror or Islamic Jihad terror, will this success lead in the
end to your meeting personally with Yasser Arafat?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU (in Hebrew*): First of all you are not exact
regarding the quotation. I was not quoted as complimenting the
Palestinian Authority. I said that the last few months have proven that
the Palestinian Authority has the capacity to work to prevent and wipe
out terror, and they have partially proven it. I don't want to say that
we are completely satisfied with what has been done, and I must say that
there are a lot of things that have not been done. But certainly a
capability has been proven clearly to anyone who doubted that. I said
that we expect that the Palestinian side will honor its obligations also
in this area. Honoring agreements is essential to establish security --
not just physical security -- but also security regarding the
continuance of the process between the sides.
QUESTION (in Hebrew*): After you are satisfied on that point, is there
a chance you will meet with Yasser Arafat?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU (in Hebrew*): I have said that if I think that
it is essential for the security of the State of Israel and the future
of peace, I will consider it.
QUESTION: Mr. Prime Minister, you have said many times that you want
peace talks without preconditions and yet you seem to have some. On the
Golan, for instance, that Israel will retain sovereignty on the Golan.
Why is this not a precondition? Why isn't this an assumption of how a
negotiation will end if there is any negotiation?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Look, I can tell you that we went to Madrid
with our position that was well known. The Syrians went to Madrid with
their position that is well known. No one said, "We are not coming
because the other side has a contrary position." We went and began
negotiations and we intend to continue those negotiations. I think the
Madrid framework was a very useful one because it allowed us, in fact,
to engage, despite conflicting positions, in what could be a productive
process and, I think, no side is forced to change its positions and yet,
there are many, many areas of potential common interests below the
question, or beyond, or before the question of territorial disputes on
which we disagree.
QUESTION: Mr. Prime Minister, are you going to complete the partial
withdrawal from Hebron and did you tell the Secretary of State that?
And Mr. Secretary, what did you hear from the Prime Minister about
Hebron and what would you like the Israeli government to do about
withdrawal from Hebron?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: (addresses Secretary Christopher) It sounds
like a cross-examination! First he asks me and then he asks you what he
I told Secretary Christopher exactly what I told you here. You will
hear, rapidly, confirmation about that. Namely that we are studying the
question of Hebron in all its complexities -- historical complexity,
religious complexity, security complexity of the highest order -- and
that is exactly what I told him.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: You won't be surprised that I confirm that the
Prime Minister told me exactly what he has said here, in our private
QUESTION: Well, actually what I wanted to know was what would you like
to hear from the Prime Minister about Hebron? For example, yesterday
you said that the Prime Minister had said that he intends to adhere to
the international agreements and that the pullout of Hebron was an
international agreement. Do you think Israel should announce its
intention to complete the redeployment of troops from Hebron?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I don't want to go beyond where I have been and
the Prime Minister indicated that he will respect agreements and he is
studying the matter with great intensity, and certainly it is a very
complex issue, as he says.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, in an interview that Mr. Netanyahu gave before
his election, he said that if the Syrians didn't agree to the sorts of
peace agreements that he had in mind and they kept the Palestinian
rejectionists in Damascus, he believes the United States -- which should
be joined by Europe -- should apply the same sort of sanctions, he said,
that it applies to countries like Iran and Libya. People in his circle
have talked about the notion of triple containment. I want to ask you
what you think about this idea and, also, Sharm el Sheikh -- we had a
conference there in March, there was supposed to be a follow-up meeting
in Luxembourg, the meeting never happened. Can you give us a little up-
date of what plans to be done on the anti-terrorism front? Thank you,
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, as you know, the position in the United
States against terrorism is a very strong one. Syria is on the United
States terrorism list and subject to the circumstances that result from
being on that list. We continue to take a very strong position against
terrorism and will not stop doing so. The Prime Minister has indicated
that he wishes to go forward with negotiations without preconditions.
We are strongly in favor of direct negotiations between the parties to
resolve these issues, wanting to be helpful in whatever way we can.
With respect to Sharm el Sheikh, I think that was an extremely important
meeting. It reflected the fact that fourteen or fifteen Arab countries
declared their antagonism to terrorism, their support for Israel in its
fight against terrorism. We intend to follow up that meeting in
bilateral channels for the time being, because we think that will be the
most productive way to follow up on that. But I think that meeting was
a very strong indication of the condemnation throughout this region of
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Let me make one final comment: Mr.
Secretary, you know that this is a government of reforms, of structural
reforms inside Israel. I want to promise you that the next time you are
here I will make a structural reform in this room and give us some air
conditioning. The press also deserves it. Thank you very much.
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