Remarks With Israeli President Shimon Peres

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State, Secretary of State
March 3, 2009

PRESIDENT PERES: Madame Secretary of State, our very dear Hillary, and the people that came with you - for Israel, it's a very important day. You are not new in this country, but this is a compliment, because you really know -- and your views are known, and we feel that your judgment is responsible and penetrating and mature. I told you previously the situation right now is not as good as we would like to have it, but not as bad as it's being reported in the press. Not everything is lost, and I think that we can have a new beginning, as your Administration is a new beginning. And the President was elected by the Americans, but chosen by the rest of the world, and all of us look forward to it.

We have very serious security problems, particularly in Gaza, and further away, the threats that are coming from Tehran. But we're also experienced enough to understand that without peace, we cannot solve our security problems. I do not see profoundly any contradiction between the position taken by the United States and the position taken by us. Our aims are the same, our values are the same, and after 60 years of statehood, we have all the reasons and justification in the world to trust the ongoing friendship of the United States, even in times when we were alone and you didn't have the support of other people, and I think it goes deep in the roots of our perceptions and commitment and (inaudible) be continued.

To be more pragmatic, I do believe that once we shall have a government, and it may happen quite soon, we have not only to see what to do in Gaza; we don't like to repeat -- as we didn't want to attack the Hamas in Gaza before (inaudible) -- and even now, they continue to fire. We don't know the reasons why are they doing it. We don't know the goals they want to achieve. We know their intentions, which is basically negative -- to destroy peace. We know that we are not alone in criticizing the Hamas; the rest of the Arab world feels exactly like it.

But while doing what is necessary in Gaza -- I hope it won't be necessary to do more -- we want to renew right away the talks of peace. I believe whatever government will be elected will respect the existing commitments of Israel. I think there is nobody in this country, right or left, that wants to control the life of the Palestinians. I think -- also understand they have the right to have their own life and their own control. In fact, also, there is a realistic map that exists; not everything should be organized from the beginning. And also, I share the view of the Secretary as it was declared yesterday by her in Cairo, that time is of the essence. We shouldn't postpone, because any postponement will open other problems and other dangers. I believe that the United States, whatever her policies with Iran will be, will include a commitment not to permit -- to create a nuclear danger in the Middle East. It's not an Israeli problem, it's a world problem. I heard likewise from the Europeans and the Russians; it's a very serious situation.

So Hillary, I want to appreciate, first of all, your position until now; wherever you were, your responsibilities have shown understanding and sympathy and friendship. We don't take it lightly, the burden that is now lying on your shoulders, but I think they are strong, and you will find in us a real and sincere partner in the double purpose to prevent and stop terror and achieve peace for all of the people in the Middle East. It is in that spirit that I would like to welcome you to Jerusalem and the country. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, my dear and old friend for that warm welcome and for the extraordinary example that your life sets, as someone who has devoted yourself to the state of Israel, to its security, and to the cause of peace.

I always come away from my times with you both inspired and encouraged to think more deeply and more broadly. And I also am silently challenged by your ceaseless optimism about the future. This is a man for whom the expression "The glass is half full" was invented.

I have been coming to Israel for nearly 30 years. I actually relish the fact that my first visit was when I was as close to a private citizen as I have been in those 30 years. I was last here in 2005 and remember with great emotion the reception that Bill and Chelsea and I received. We have so many great memories over all of those visits. So this is truly a visit among friends, and it is my first visit as Secretary of State for my country and on behalf of our new President.

I'm looking forward to the meetings that I will have today. It is important that the United States always underscore our unshakable, durable, fundamental relationship and support for the State of Israel. I will be going from here to Yad Vashem to pay respects to the lost souls, to remember those who the Holocaust took, to lay a wreath, and to say a prayer. During today's visit, I want to emphasize the continuing strengths of the United States-Israeli relationship and our unrelenting commitment to Israel's security.

I will be sharing my impressions from the meeting I attended yesterday at Sharm el-Sheikh, and the individual exchanges that I had with many leaders from the region. During the conference, I emphasized President Obama's and my commitment to working to achieve a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and our support for the Palestinian Authority of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. As you know, our Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, Senator George Mitchell, is accompanying me. He's already been here, he's already had extensive conversations, and he will continue as a new government is created.

At the conference, I noted once again that the continued rocket attacks against Israel must cease. I don't, like Shimon, understand the provocation that Hamas is determined to present. But on behalf of the people who are in Gaza, these rocket attacks are cynical, and as I pointed out yesterday, there is no doubt that any nation, including Israel, cannot stand idly by while its territory and people are subjected to rocket attacks.

On behalf of the United States, I would like to congratulate Israel on your recent elections, showing once again the vibrancy of your democracy. I know this is a sensitive time in Israeli politics as the process of forming a new government unfolds. This is, of course, a matter for the Israeli people to decide under Israeli law, but we want you to know that we will work with the government of Israel that represents the democratic will of the people of Israel. The democratic process has its ups and downs, but the United States and Israel share a common bond that strengthens our relationship as fellow democracies to address the challenges that we each face.


Our relationship is more than just one of shared interests. It is of shared values. And President Obama and I look forward to working with Israel's new government.

We have a full day today, but I wanted to start off the day by catching up with an old friend, and listening to his extraordinary discussion of the range of concerns that confront Israel, but also the undying hope that Israel embodies, that there isn't any problem or any challenge that cannot be addressed by free people working together. Thank you so much for this warm welcome once again back to Israel.

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PRN: 2009/T2-3