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U.S. Department of State
96/10/02 Press Briefing on Middle East Summit at White House
Office of the Spokesman



                            THE WHITE HOUSE

                     Office of the Press Secretary

________________________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release                                    October 2, 1996


                          PRESS BRIEFING BY
                   SECRETARY OF STATE CHRISTOPHER


SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Well, you've all just hear the 
President reporting on the results of the summit.  I want to do 
something a little bit different, try to give you a broader 
perspective on the reasons why the President called for this summit 
and the significance of what occurred, as well as where we go from 
here.  

     The peace process has made tremendous progress in the 
last three years, but after last week's confrontation between the 
Israelis and the Palestinians, the peace process was plunged into 
what I feel was the most serious crisis since it began.  The events 
so eroded the trust and confidence of the parties that the whole 
structure of the peace process was indeed threatened.

     The United States has long been recognized as having a 
fundamental national interest in seeing that this Middle East peace 
process succeed.  We've been indispensable to the achievements of 
that process up to this point.  The President and I felt we simply 
couldn't sit by and see this process threatened, put to such a test, 
without doing everything we could to try to salvage it.  The 
extraordinary circumstances required, in our judgment, an 
extraordinary effort.  That's why the President called the summit, 
and why we've been here for the last about 30 hours.

     We began with three objectives.  The first was to bring 
the leaders into direct contact.  Last week's confrontation and the 
very raw feelings that it engendered made the contact between the 
parties very difficult in itself.  Nevertheless, without direct 
engagement it was clear that the issues could not be addressed, and 
hence, President Clinton succeeded in bringing Prime Minister 
Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat to Washington, together with King 
Hussein, in order to meet face to face.  

     Given the intensity of last week's violence and the 
estrangement between the parties, getting them together was itself a 
breakthrough.

     Second, we needed to try to restore some measure of 
mutual trust and confidence between the parties.  We all know that 
this could not and cannot happen overnight.  But this week, in the 
last 30 hours, with tremendous encouragement from King Hussein, Prime 
Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat began the process of 
rebuilding trust under the leadership of President Clinton.

     Third, we needed to find a way to get the parties to 
intensify their negotiations on a range of issues relating to the 
Interim Agreement, to make possible the implementation that is so 
badly needed.

     We have done that.  The parties have committed to do 
precisely that, to go back to the negotiations on a continuous and 
intensive basis for the first time in this new Israeli government.  
Dennis Ross and his peace team will join the parties in the region to 
help achieve that process -- progress.

     It's certainly true that no single summit can entirely 
change an atmosphere or resolve all the substantive issues that lay 
on the table.  But we did make a significant and important beginning.  
We'll continue to be involved, as our administration has made the 
pursuit of peace in the Middle East a top priority.  We'll continue 
to do everything we can to try to make the peace process succeed.

     Yes, Helen.

     Q  Mr. Secretary, can you confirm the authenticity of 
an Israeli television report quoting American sources as saying that 
we have a five-point plan, one for cessation of violence; 
establishing a hotline between Arafat and Netanyahu; release of all 
the Palestinian prisoners, some 3,500; immediate canceling of the 
internal closure inside the West Bank, which would permit the Arab 
population to move from one city to another; and also, immediate 
timetable -- setting a timetable for the redeployment around Hebron?

     SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Helen, I should have interrupted 
you at the beginning of that.  There is no American plan.  We're 
trying to help the parties to work through these difficult problems.  
I think the President made a tremendous step forward today in getting 
the parties back, talking with each other, agreeing to intensify the 
negotiations and renewing their commitment to a nonviolent future.

     I've been through a lot in the last week or so on this 
problem.  I remember in New York trying very hard to get these two 
parties to talk on the telephone, and then to try to get them to meet 
together, and was unsuccessful in the second way; that is, try to get 
them to meet together bilaterally.  And then we sought to arrange a 
summit in the Middle East, in Cairo, and we were unsuccessful in 
doing that.  

     Then, because we just couldn't let this matter drift, we 
couldn't let it go back into the abyss of violence, the President 
took the unusual step of inviting them here.  So those are the things 
we've been trying to do.  And I think it was really quite 
extraordinary that, after the estrangement and rawness of their 
feelings, that yesterday we watched Prime Minister Netanyahu and 
Chairman Arafat meet for, first, an hour, and then another hour, and 
reports came back that they were still meeting after three hours.  
Their talk was general, but nevertheless, they were back together 
discussing these issues.

     Q  Mr. Secretary, what does President Arafat tell his 
people?  What did he come away from Washington with?

     SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  I think he tells his people that 
we're back into discussions with the Israelis, that he's been able to 
talk to the Prime Minister, he knows him in a different way than he 
did before, and that he's going to make as much progress as rapidly 
as he can.  He also tells them that for the first time this new 
Israeli government has been willing to sit down at a rather remote 
site, a place where there will not be a lot of interruptions, and 
work continuously on addressing these issues.

     Q  But if the new Israeli government attaches a 
priority to this, why will the talks take place at a sub-ministerial 
level?

     SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Well, these are implementation 
talks, you understand, and they're fairly technical.  And it's proved 
very effective in the past to have talks like this just below the 
ministerial level.  Perhaps more important than that, though, on your 
question is the number of times that I heard both of the leaders say 
that if these talks reach an impasse, if we couldn't make progress, 
for example, on Hebron, then the leaders themselves would reengage.  
And that's a very good sign.

     There was a sign of that today.  Over the lunch table, 
we were talking about when the talks would begin again.  The first 
proposal was that they would begin on Tuesday.  The leaders went out 
and sat by themselves -- that is, Prime Minister Netanyahu and 
Chairman Arafat -- and decided they wanted to get started sooner than 
that, or just as soon as they can get back there and get through the 
weekend.  They're starting on Sunday.  I think that's the kind of 
thing that reflects the relationship that has been engendered here. 

     Q  Mr. Secretary, could you tell us how soon you would 
expect more concrete results?  Do you think we're talking weeks or 
months? 

     SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Oh, I think we're talking weeks.  
I think we're talking about a determination on the part of the 
parties to address some of these difficult issues and get them behind 
them.  We're just coming out of the Jewish holidays in the early part 
of October, and I think the parties will be in a position to work on 
this with a great deal of concentrated attention.  And I would say, 
without carrying this too far, that the discussions over the last 
couple of days, the last 36 hours, have given them a foundation for 
making progress that they didn't have when they came here. 

     Q  Mr. Secretary, the House Speaker Newt Gingrich has 
just said, after watching the news conference on television, that he 
thinks that there has been a lack of thought, a lack of structure, a 
lack of systematic leadership and a lack of planning.  And as a 
result, he is very critical of the decision to bring President 
Clinton in at this high level without an orchestrated or 
choreographed result.  Wouldn't you normally have done this instead 
of the President when there is no guaranteed outcome? 

     SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  The President did take an 
extraordinary step, there is no doubt about it.  But these are 
extraordinary circumstances.  The alternative was to watch the matter 
cycle down into further violence, with more killings, more woundings.  
And in those circumstances the President did something extraordinary, 
and that is to bring the parties here together.  

     There were proposals -- this was a proposal made in the 
region that we have discussions before there be a summit meeting.  
Those discussions could have gone on for weeks.  And in that period I 
think there is no assurance at all that there would not have been a 
resumption of violence.  So, yes, the President took an extraordinary 
step, but he achieved what he intended to achieve; that is, to bring 
the parties together, to get them to recommit to nonviolence, and to 
get the intensified talks restarted. 

     Q  Mr. Secretary, did anything happen during these two 
days that gives you a confidence that the cycle of violence you're 
seeking to avoid is now over? 

     SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  I have some confidence that 
we're in a better situation now than we were four days ago.  Not all 
the problems have been resolved by any means, but when we looked at 
this matter last Wednesday and Thursday, the parties weren't talking 
to each other, they were estranged and raw.  It took us 12 hours to 
even arrange a telephone call between them.  We couldn't get them to 
meet bilaterally.  And this is quite a different mood that they leave 
here in -- after the lunch today, if you could have seen them sitting 
down outside the luncheon room, talking about how soon they could get 
back into negotiations.  So there is some real improvement there, but 
there are very tough problems ahead. 

     Q  If there were no five points by the United States 
administration that Helen mentioned, would you like very much to see 
-- because three points out of these five points that she mentioned 
are the things, the goals that the President has summoned this 
conference for.  Would you like to see the end of these things and 
the hostilities -- besides hostilities, the release of the prisoners, 
and then the closure?  And this goes back to my question to the 
President about the economic conditions that the Palestinians are 
living under.  They are really living under -- below poverty level, 
Mr Secretary. 

     SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  We'd like to see all the 
problems resolved, and we would certainly like to see an improvement 
in the economic conditions.  That's why we've worked so hard to try 
to engage other countries around the world in supporting the 
Palestinians in providing investment in that area.  Yes, that's a key 
factor.  And we hope that the circumstances will enable the closure 
to be -- to limit it.  That was one of the important parts of the 
discussion here, yes.

     Q  Mr. Secretary, are you concerned that the tool of 
the summit, which has been used sparingly in the past, frequently 
with a pre-arranged result, with the American President's prestige on 
the line, may have been damaged here by its use for these far more 
limited goals? 

     SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  No, that was certainly a matter 
that was carefully considered, but we thought the situation was 
sufficiently urgent, sufficiently grave, that the risk of violence 
and chaos was sufficiently great, that it justified the President's 
intervention.  Given the time that the leaders could spend here in 
Washington, given the time that was devoted to this matter, I think 
the results have been very good, very promising.  

     Neither one of the leaders wanted to leave the region 
for a long period of time.  This is not -- this didn't lend itself to 
a Camp David situation where they would meet for two weeks.  Clearly, 
the leaders wanted to get back to the region because of the tensions 
there.  

     But I think that summits should be used sparingly.  But, 
you know, this is something in which we have had a good bit of 
experience here in Washington.  And I think the fact that the 
President has called these Middle Eastern summits has propelled the 
matter forward.  Now, with the stake that we have in the summit, I 
think he was entirely justified in bringing back these leaders who 
have been here before to try to reenergize this process and, frankly, 
to salvage it, to rescue it. 

     Q  Mr. Secretary, Mr. Netanyahu arrived in Washington 
basically proposing the deal that seemed to have been agreed upon 
today.  There seems to be no guarantee of a positive conclusion or a 
deadline to the implementation talks on Hebron.  The President begged 
for days of patience.  You've talked about a matter of weeks.  If 
these talks do not end with the implementation of Hebron, will that 
throw American-Israeli relations into a severe crisis? 

     SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  American relations with -- 
America's relations with Israel are really very deep-seated, they're 
very fundamental.  They're not based upon any single episode.  I 
think our support for the Israeli people, our support for their 
sovereignty and their security is an enduring concept for the United 
States.  So we want to keep on working with the Israeli government on 
these problems and many others.  I hope we can make good progress.  I 
hope good progress will be made in those discussions. 

     The United States will do its part.  But, after all, it 
is up to the parties; it rests with them to make the fundamental 
decisions that have to be made.  We're going to be standing there 
beside them, as the President said, helping the countries that were 
willing to take the risks for peace.  But when you come down to it, 
the parties themselves will have to make the hard decisions.

     Thanks very much.  

     THE PRESS:  Thank you.

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