Interview With Ruba Mimi and Anees Barghouti of Ali Soutik Program

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Ramallah, West Bank
March 4, 2009

MS. MIMI: First of all, we’d like to welcome you on behalf of Ali Soutik, our youth TV program, which means “speak up” or raise your voice.

MR. BARGHOUTI: Mrs. Hillary Clinton, you have just finished meeting with Palestinian students in the Access Program. Can you tell us what do you think of such a program and such students involved?

SECRETARY CLINTON: First of all, I am delighted to be on your program, and I thank you for giving me this opportunity. I think it’s very important to have a program run by young people, aimed at young people about speaking out. And I just saw some very impressive young people. The students in this Access Program that I visited were incredibly smart, asked great questions. Their English was really good.

I was proud to announce that we’re going to expand the educational opportunities for Palestinian young people here in the West Bank and in Gaza so that we can not only have more students participating in a program like Access, but more going on to college who might otherwise not afford it.

MS. MIMI: Well, it’s an honor to have such opportunity to expand it. Well, about the Access Program, that is one of many exchange programs funded by the American Government. As we know, it has a very big role in making the – bridging the gaps between the cultures. We would like to know what could be done to make them a two-way exchange program, to make – to declare this, let’s say, the Palestinians’ image in front of the Americans’ audience and the American people?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m hoping to play a big role in helping to connect the Palestinian people and the American people more closely. As you know, we have many Palestinian Americans. We have very successful Palestinian Americans in every walk of life, in academia and in the professions, in business – and you name it – every walk of life.

I want to do more to connect up our two peoples, our people, having the Palestinian people feel that they have a better understanding of the United States, having the American people feel like they have a better understanding of the Palestinian people.

MR. BARGHOUTI: The Palestinian people wants to know – you and President Obama have spoken about your interest to bringing about a peace agreement between the Palestinian and the Israeli. What are the concrete steps that you are planning to take to bring about such an agreement?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We’ve already taken some. One of the very first recommendations that I made to President Obama was to appoint Senator Mitchell as our Middle East Envoy, to do it immediately, and to send him to the region to begin his work. The President and I were able to announce that appointment on the second day of the Obama Administration, and Senator Mitchell left in a few days.

We wanted to send a very clear message to the Palestinian people, to the Israeli people, to the region that this Administration was committed to working toward a two-state solution.

My appearance at Sharm el-Sheikh, at the Gaza Reconstruction Conference sponsored by the Egyptians, was intended to send another message that the United States will commit $900 million-plus to the people of Gaza, because we want to help alleviate the humanitarian suffering in Gaza. But some of that money will also go to the West Bank, because the work that is being done by President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad is very effective and successful, and we want to support it. And then, of course, once there’s an Israeli government, Senator Mitchell will be back and we will begin to talk with them.

MS. MIMI: Mrs. Clinton, before becoming Secretary of State, the world knew Hillary Clinton, the senator, the government – the governor – the First Lady and the first woman candidate for the presidency. What would be your added value as a woman in such a position?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that I’ve had an extraordinary experience. I’ve been so honored to hold these positions in my country, to work with my husband, Bill Clinton, who as you know was very committed to bringing about a two-state solution with the Palestinian and Israeli people, to be the senator from New York and continue the work that I’ve done on so many areas – from women’s rights and children’s rights, to economic opportunity and better understanding around the world.

And now as Secretary of State, I feel very privileged to represent President Obama who is reaching out to the world, making it clear that the United States wants to do everything we can to help people have a better life in the future.

MS. MIMI: Well, we’ve taken our cameras to the streets and asked the youth about their – about their question to Your Excellency. And one young girl from a village near Ramallah wants to ask you: What would you do if your daughter Chelsea was unfortunate to be born as Palestinian, to be born under occupation, and to be born deprived of freedom and liberty?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I would do what so many parents here in the West Bank and Gaza do. I would love her. I would take care of her. I would get the best education I could get for her.
And I would never lose hope.

I would never give up on the dream of a Palestinian state, no matter what happens, no matter what people try to do to derail that dream.

I would tell my daughter, and I would hope my daughter would believe with all of her heart, that she has the same opportunities for the best future that any child living anywhere does. And that’s what my goal will be.

MR. BARGHOUTI: More than one million viewers will be watching your interview with our program on Ali Soutik, the majority of whom are youth. What message would you deliver to young Palestinians, many of whom lost hope in the injustice and can no longer see the light at the end of the tunnel?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I understand the frustration and the sense of hopelessness that can sometimes affect people’s thinking and feeling. But I believe with all my heart that there is no excuse for hopelessness. It is always the possibility of the human spirit that can overcome any barrier – not violence, not rejectionism and despair, but constantly making it clear that human beings deserve the same rights no matter who you are and where you live.

That’s why getting an education is so important. That’s why meeting these young students in Access and talking to the two of you fills me with hope.

Now there have to be changes and the United States is committed to a two-state solution. I have met with Palestinian leaders. I have met with Israeli leaders. I have delivered the same message to everyone I’ve met with: We are committed to working toward a two-state solution.

I have to say that the work that President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad have done should give every young Palestinian not just hope, but conviction that it is possible. Because you should have seen the presentation that both President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad made in Sharm el-Sheikh, among the best I’ve ever seen from anyone – the written materials, the specifics. People came to Sharm el-Sheikh willing to give money to help the Gaza people, the people in Gaza. But after hearing that, they nearly doubled their commitment.

Because it’s not just a question of hope. You have to have a clear program. You can’t just say: “Here I am, help me.” You have to say, “Here’s what I’m doing to help myself. Here’s what I’ve accomplished. Now it’s your turn.”

You see, you shift the burden. That’s what President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad successfully did in Sharm el-Sheikh. That’s what the United States is committing to do so that we have the Israelis and the Palestinians both looking toward the day when Israel can live in security. Because obviously, that’s a very important legitimate concern and the Palestinian people can live in security in their own state and chart their own destiny.

MS. MIMI: Hopefully, we’ll get all of our rights through such negotiations and through having such a clear agenda of us as Palestinians. The 8th of March is the International Women’s Day. Your Excellency has become a role model for many women all over the world. Do you have any plans to ensure the empowerment of women on the level of particular participation, negotiations, and peacemaking?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, I do, on all of that. I am committed to the rights of girls and women to live up to their God-given potential. When I see a young woman like you sitting next to a very impressive young man, I see the future and I see that we are using the talents of everyone. Any country that does not utilize the talents of half the population will never be as successful as they could be, and that’s just, I think, an obvious fact.

I’m going to do, as Secretary of State, what I’ve done my entire life: stand up for women’s rights, stand up for the opportunities for girls to have the same chances as boys, for daughters to have the same support as sons, because we all have different talents. We’ve all been endowed with different talents, and society must recognize that. That’s my goal – to work very, very hard.

I want to thank you both so much for letting me come on your program. I look forward to coming on again some time in the future.

MS. MIMI: Hopefully, you’ll visit again. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on behalf of young Palestinians, we would like to thank you for this exclusive interview, and hope that as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict stays on in your agenda, you will always remember that there are always Palestinian youth who would look up at Hillary the mother who would always fight for their justice, peace, and equality for all the children all over the world. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you both.

PRN: 2009/T2-19