Thank you very much for your participation in this "Text the Secretary" event during my recent trip to Qartar and Saudi Arabia. Several themes appeared throughout all of your questions. Listed below are my responses to questions that represent some of the important issues you raised.
John in California asks:
As part of a Foreign Policy class I am teaching, we are following your trip. What topics in term of current Foreign Policy did you discuss? What was the number one issue? Are those issues linked to the Palestinian issue? Thank you Madam Secretary, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Government 340, US Foreign Policy Class.
Thank you John. I am so pleased that you and your class are following my trip. I am traveling to the Middle East for many reasons, including showing that the United States is committed to redeeming the vision of renewed partnership, mutual respect, and shared responsibility that President Obama conveyed in Cairo eight months ago.
The U.S.-Islamic World Forum was an opportunity to explain the policies we’re pursuing and how they connect to the values and principles that guide our work, to convey some of the progress we’ve made on urgent issues over the past year, and to preview next steps. We’re asking our partners in Muslim-majority countries and Muslim communities worldwide to join us in doing their part to solve shared problems and make real the new beginning that the President described in Cairo, which we can only achieve together.
Our new approach rests on three core pillars: relations based on mutual respect, mutual interest, and mutual responsibility; a shared commitment to universal values; and broad engagement with governments and citizens alike. Many of my discussions on this trip have focused on this convergence of policies and principles.
The first and critical area is our ongoing efforts to advance a comprehensive peace in the Middle East—one that brings peace for Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians, and Lebanese, as well as the full normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab states. Central to these efforts is the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on a two-state solution. Our relations with people around the world is much broader than any one issue, even an issue as important as the future of the Palestinian people and the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel. I think it is a mistake to only look at the United States and our role in working with other countries through any single prism. But this is a critical issue.
One of the very first decisions that President Obama made was that the United States would not be on the sidelines, that we would actively participate in trying to bring the parties into negotiations that would lead to a final resolution, and that this would result in a state for the people of Palestine - that they would have a chance to have their own future, fulfill their own dreams and aspirations, but also that this would provide security for the people of Israel - that they too would be able to live side-by-side, in a two-state solution.
We have worked over this past year with both parties, as well as other interested countries to try to bring that about. And I am hopeful that this year we will see the commencement of serious negotiations that will cover every issue that is outstanding. Obviously, those are the ones that have to be decided between the parties; no one can dictate to either the Israelis or the Palestinians what the outcome should be. They must make those decisions themselves. But the United States is very focused on being a facilitator and a help in every way possible to achieve that outcome. And we are working hard on it, we are working hard on it every day. And we hope that we will see the kind of break-through this year that everyone is anticipating.
Joshua in Virginia asks:
Dear Madam Secretary: What can America do to create a more positive image of Islamic tradition & culture here at home, so the negative stigma that many young people have about Muslims will not continue?
Thank you for that important question. President Obama spoke about this issue in his speech in Cairo. He said that Islam has always been a part of America's story -- "Since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, they have served in our government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses, they have taught at our universities, they've excelled in our sports arenas, they've won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch" -- and that he considers it our responsibility to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. Like many nations, the United States cherishes the right to practice the religion of your choice freely; to have a say in your government and be treated fairly under the law; and the right to equality for women and girls, in part because we’ve had our own challenges in protecting and advancing them. And we seek to be a partner to people in other countries as they strive to obtain these rights for themselves.
Respect for different faiths is essential to the success of pluralistic societies, as is the right to speak freely. That is why the United States stands for the vigorous defense of both freedom of religion and expression. We believe that the best way to promote tolerance and respect for all religions is through legal protections against discrimination and hate crimes, along with outreach to minority religious groups, and public education campaigns.